From a cricketing point of view, despite all the talk and controversies related to the Indian Premier League, it has once again been a huge success. The entire team that organised it deserves special praise for the way they conducted the tournament.
There was an increase in the number of matches this year yet it was very well organised. The IPL will always be hectic because of the amount of travelling it requires, more so for teams like Kings XI Punjab and Pune Warriors, who often don't have direct flights to other venues.
When it started in year one, it was a huge craze, both in terms of TV viewership and people thronging the stands. The fifth year felt no different. There was a lot of talk about this being a testing year, especially after the IPL received a lot of flak from players and people attached with the game, who didn't consider it the ultimate test of a cricketer.
I was amazed to see the stands full for almost every game. It was great to see the support that Pune had. The Subrata Roy Sahara stadium is one of the most beautiful in the country and I am very happy that it has already been given an international game to host in the coming season. The surface needs massive improvement, which I am sure will happen. It's a new pitch and will require time to settle down.
It was my first full year with Pune, a new franchise that needs a little more time to settle down in terms of cricketing logistics. That will happen in due course, and the ground and the city will generate a huge fan base in the years to come.
The IPL is a very difficult format in the sense that you have two-and-half months to work with what you have. International cricket is much tougher in terms of quality but the IPL poses an enormous challenge to teams and players. Every now and then, when India have a poor series, you'll get another one that allows both individuals and the team to recover form. In the IPL, if form dips and you don't recover quickly to redeem confidence, you may have to look down the barrel.
Most successful sides have tried and kept their teams together over a period of time despite wins and losses. The Chennai Super Kings are a prime example. Even at the auction, they picked the same players who had served them over the years. This not only creates an attachment with the fans, but also a platform for players to come and play freely.
Much has been said about the IPL's usefulness. We spend a lot of time thinking of how it's going to influence a player's career, and help in producing those that can play for the country. For me, every format will produce its own players, with their own ways of being successful.
Just as a Test player should not be judged on his Twenty20 form, so an IPL specialist should not be judged over five days. I agree though that the possibility of a Test player succeeding in Twenty20 is greater.
I would say that we need to enjoy the IPL for what it is. It not only has cricket, but a dose of entertainment. To find a Test or 50-over player, we should judge them on the basis of first-class performances, because the skills required are often different from what's needed in the IPL.
At the same time, the IPL has given cricket a huge lift and looked after first-class players. It's also allowed them to learn a lot from the greats. It has been a good year for Ajinkya Rahane, Mandeep Singh, Steven Smith, Manoj Tiwary, Ashok Dinda and Rohit Sharma, but only time will tell whether they can translate their potential at the Test level.
Accolades are also due for Kolkata Knight Riders, the new IPL champions. Gautam Gambhir has to be congratulated for leading the side from the front. A new name on the trophy augurs well for the future, as it will produce an environment for more competitive cricket in the days ahead.
Story first published on: Monday, 18 June 2012 10:44 IST