Thursday, May 07, 2009

Closeness of the competition has added to its charm | Column by Sanath Jayasuriya



THE half-way point of the second IPL has passed with seven out of eight teams still in contention for the semifinals. Unlike in international cricket where the divide between the top eight teams in the world can be quite wide, the
closeness of this competition and the resulting tension and excitement has helped make this IPL a huge success.

When the IPL was relocated there were understandable concerns. Playing in front of Indian crowds is a thrill for the players and a great spectacle. If this event was played out in front of empty stands it would have been a real blow. But South Africa’s love of sport has saved the IPL. Not all matches have been sellouts, but the crowds have been large and the atmosphere brilliant.

In short, the IPL has spread itself beyond India and that raises the obvious question: should more IPL matches be played overseas in the future too? I am sure Lalit Modi has begun thinking about the future already. The problem, though, is how much the tournament can be internationalised without it becoming a logistical nightmare.

It would be nice to play a couple of games at Lord’s, for example, but the long-haul flights and jetlag would create problems. We might see match
es in Dubai and Colombo too. It’s also interesting to see some different trends. The most important one is the impact of the spinners.

While there are only three spinners among the top 10 wicket-takers, of the four most economical bowlers, three are M Muralitharan, Pragyan Ohja and Anil Kumble! Another trend is the domination of overseas batsmen. In 2008, five out of the top 10 batters were Indians.

This year only Suresh Raina, Sachin Tendulkar and
Yuvraj Singh are there. There are two possible reasons; either conditions are favouring non-Indian players, or franchises are packing their top-order with more overseas players. The latter explanation is backed up by another interesting stats: Indian bowlers have been among wickets. Seven out of the top 10 wicket-takers are Indians.

The likes of R P Singh, Ohja, Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma and Balaji have had an excellent run, a great sign for India as they look towards the World Twenty20.

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