Kerala is confused at this moment. No, not about the political shenanigans that are being played out in the state as it heads into another election, but on the strange case of the Kochi Tuskers or Indi Commandos or whatever next they decide to call the team supposedly representing Kochi and Kerala.
For long, football was firmly entrenched as the number one sport in Kerala. For a state which has produced many great athletes and sportsmen alike, it was almost sacrilegious to follow any other sport with equal zeal and passion.
Things have evolved since and cricket is now followed avidly from Mallapuram to Munnar and from Trivandrum to Sultan Battery. Some of the most picturesque cricket grounds are found in Kerala and though a late entrant, the game has chipped away and managed to carve a small yet significant niche in the hearts and minds of Keralites.
The trials and tribulations of both the Kochi team and Shashi Tharoor, the erudite spokesman for the Kerala team, were followed with great interest in the state. In fact some of us were pretty jubilant that we would have our own team to cheer rather than make-do with the likes of CSK and RCB. A fair number of Mallu jokes - all in good humour - also did the rounds once the successful bid for the Kerala team was announced, a good indication that we in Kerala had got the goat of others by upstaging some and getting a team for the state.
The consequent imbroglio the franchise landed itself into, however, turned many a cricket-loving-fan in Kerala away from the concept of a local team. Honestly, even today many of us who had looked forward to being part of the IPL carnival are a bit reluctant to throw our mite behind the Kochi team.
The team lead by Mahela Jayawardane, who is coming off an excellent World Cup, wears a fairly rounded look. It does lack the firepower of the likes of the Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians but could spring a few surprises for all that.
In its ranks it has the likes of Brendan Macullum, Brad Hodge and Murali, who, along with Mahela, should be the overseas players who would play. The very classy VVS Laxman would be the top Indian star to play. Parthiv Patel, Sreesanth, RP Singh, Ramesh Powar, Ravindra Jadeja and Vinay Kumar should make the side.
On paper they have a fairly settled look but they would have to play on the field to get the paying public to warm up to them. It is with considerable trepidation that one has decided to go and watch their first match, not being sure if all the hype that surrounds the IPL would translate to performance on the field. The next 30 odd days will be interesting and how this team performs will dictate in a big way how cricket will be perceived by Keralites.
To the Kochi IPL team and the owners (whoever they are!), you have fans who are still a bit confused (the owners and BCCI to be blamed in this case) and the onus is on you to whip up a bit of magic and in return be blessed with steadfast fans who would ensure that you don’t have to play any home games in Ahmedabad.
After the heady affair that World Cup cricket was, the transition to the IPL type of slam-bang cricket will be a bit of a slide. The whipping up of passion like Dhoni’s boys did in Mumbai is just not going to happen.
What IPL 4 would possibly do, would be to gradually warm down the cricket loving public to manageable limits and slowly move on from the World Cup victory that we are all still so hung over on. It has been a great journey in the last month and a half. Something that can never be espoused in words - an act of bringing together of the nation; but we need to move on too.
It would be foolish to imagine that Dhoni’s men wouldn’t falter or they would not face defeats in the near future and the sooner we, the fans, recognize that truth, the better for us. The IPL 4 carnival would play its part in taking that pressure off the Indian team for a bit.
So let the fun and games begin!