In amongst the wretched allegations and suspensions that are arising from spot-fixing charges levied at three Rajasthan Royals players, the Indian Premier League has some cricket to get on with.
Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians face off on Tuesday in Qualifier 1, the winner will advance to Sunday’s final at Eden Gardens. The loser will take on the winner of the Eliminator, to be played between third and fourth placed sides the Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad for the other final berth.
Our predictions have been proved to be very, very wrong; not the best cricket bet in town! Of our suggested top four, only Mumbai have made it in. Our prediction that this would be the year for Royal Challengers Bangalore has fallen well short of the mark, even if Chris Gayle, top scorer this year with 708 runs, did provide the most explosive moments of this year’s tournament. So far…
The less said about Kolkata Knight Rider’s defence of the crown they won in 2012, the better, too.
Given the strength of the two sides it is easy to suggest that Chennai and Mumbai will be facing off once more on Sunday. It would be hasty to rule out Rajasthan and Hyderabad though, since neither would seriously have expected to be involved at this stage. Indeed, for Rajasthan, this is the franchise’s first appearance in the knock out stages since that unexpected win in the IPL’s inaugural tournament.
The Royals are also beset by off field problems with three of their players – Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan – spending time in prison having been arrested on suspicion of spot-fixing. It’s hardly a surprise that a tournament such as this has fallen victim to the bookmakers greed, but the show drags on.
The problems may well have a galvanising effect on the Royals players, since they will have spent the last week largely out of the media spotlight as press coverage of the aforementioned trio reached fever pitch. It will certainly add to the element of nothing to lose which could free the players to deliver an almighty shock at this tournament. In James Faulkner they have the top wicket taker at IPL 6 and in Shane Watson they have a man fast rediscovering his mojo after a woeful visit to India in Australia’s colours.
Whatever the outcome of the Hyderabad Vs Rajasthan fixture, both sides have done themselves proud and highlighted the unpredictability of this tournament.
From here, though, I think this could now, finally, be Mumbai’s year. I fancy that they will face Chennai in Sunday’s final and I fancy that they will win.
A lot of the magic of this marathon of a tournament has been taken away by corruption. What’s real here? There are insane amounts of money flying around and there is little romance left, if there was any in the first place. The sight of young players being given their chance in the spotlight was encouraging, but it appears some have been too keen to cash in their chips.
It is difficult to escape the feeling that the IPL is at a crossroads. The commercial ransacking of cricket is almost unbearable, born out by the miserable looking spectators sat in those odd cricket ball-shaped domes pitch side at the behest of one of the sponsors.
And it just drags on and on. It has become an interminable string of record breaking exploits that seem to stretch back to the start of time. Where did this tournament begin and the last one end? The only thing gluing players like Gayle to this jamboree is money. And that’s a shame.
It could – and indeed should – be a whole lot more than that. The game, once again, has been made unpalatable by the act of fixing. It’s time for the BCCI to make a stand and take some decisive action. This will be to the benefit of not just cricket in India, but globally.
What price them actually taking any serious action, though? I’ll happily take this back if proved wrong, but the incompetence in Indian cricket flows from the top of the game. And by virtue of the standing of Indian cricket in the world game, there is a real danger of this incompetence over flowing and contaminating the rest of the world.
I’m not suggesting that India is the only place affected by the cancer of fixing – far from it. But cricket in India is in the rare position where it can make a very public statement of intent. I sincerely hope that it does. The demonstrable cleansing of the IPL would be a huge victory for cricket, for everyone.
By Miles Reucroft