New Delhi:Presenting the wet blankets, the party poopers, the bank balance wreckers, the Ringos of the Beatles.
He was in such good form in Tests and ODIs this season, it made fans smack their lips in anticipation of what Tendulkar could have done in the T20s. Instead, he warmed the bench while Mumbai Indians slumped to four straight defeats. There's time for him to get fit before he revisits his rivalry with Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, in the first week of May. But is it too late for Mumbai?
What Spirit of Cricket?
Signed by all IPL captains, the Spirit of Cricket Declaration was reduced to a farce by a stand-in captain. There could be some reason, but absolutely no justification, for Harbhajan Singh hitting a colleague on the field.
Worse, Mumbai coach Lalchand Rajput stood and watched the incident, doing nothing to restrain Harbhajan or console Sreesanth.
And if the allegations made by Mumbai's players were true, then Sreesanth too should have been booked for use of abusive language. All in all, it is an episode the IPL could have done without.
TV coverage that makes you cringe
Sony's coverage of the tournament has had us cringing, when not frowning upon their intrusive advertisements. The anchors keep fluffing their lines, often looking stiff and nervous. One of their interviewers once excitedly asked Anil Kapoor about where his loyalties lay --- when the actor was dressed in a jersey that screamed 'Mumbai Indians'.
The commentary is unimaginative. Ravi Shastri can't think beyond "Tracer bullet" and "clean as a whistle" to describe a big hit. If we're lucky, he treats us to both cliches in the same sentence. His partner L Sivaramkrishnan often sounds like he's on the verge of a cardiac arrest. The idea of wiring players flops too, with poor audibility posing problems.
Besides, each six is a "DLF Maximum Sixes Candidate", each good bit of play is a "Citi Moment of Success". No, it's not the commercialisation that is crass. It's the constant repetition of these phrases, which assaults the viewer's senses and kills all respectability in the commentary.
Also mention-worthy is the regular scoping of cameras up the skirts of cheerleaders. It is not only ill-mannered, it is unfit for family viewing.
VVS Laxman and the Deccan Chargers
This team has four of the most ferocious hitters ever (Symonds, Gilchrist, Gibbs and Afridi), the finest left arm seamer since Wasim Akram (Vaas), a promising jump-starter (Rohit) and a cool-headed captain (Laxman). Hence, it's a surprise that the Deccan Chargers played four times before winning a game.
Before Sunday's win, they had looked listless and there were reports that the team wasn't getting along so well. They started the IPL as perhaps the best side on display. Let's hope Sunday's win isn't a flash in the pan.
Competition and balanced cricket
What would have saved the IPL from the constant bickering from Test match lovers was some keenly contested cricket. Instead, only two of the first 14 games were stretched to the final over. In most of the other games, the results became too obvious after the completion of the first innings.
In this sense, the IPL brand of cricket has failed to be different from the predictable fifty-over format. Worse, when there's no national pride at stake, a dead contest would further take away a viewer's interests in a club-vs-club game.
Honourable mention: Two Test match specialists with no T20 credentials, Rahul Dravid and Wasim Jaffer opened the innings for Bangalore in the first IPL match. Their run rate never got going and the home side folded up for 80 all out in a 140-run loss.