The IPL has been in progress for almost 4 weeks now. All viewership data shows healthy numbers. But somehow, the Dubai IPL does not seem to be generating enough buzz, enough conversations, enough excitement. Fans are watching, but they are not talking. Or talking enough. Sure, all newspapers faithfully carry the mandatory full page on the T20 extravaganza, reporting every match, but it is a mere recounting of the match highlights, little else. The league itself seems to have little to offer beyond some hi-scoring matches and many more sixes. Few controversies. Very little spice. No masala. IPL was always part cricket, part showmanship. This time around it is just cricket. And sans the bells & whistles, somehow, the cricket too has started to become repetitive and boring.
Virat Kohli had said before the start of the tournament that the empty stadiums did give him a “strange feeling”. He of course had added, “ … As long as we're playing for the right reasons, all external factors become irrelevant. Crowds are an amazing part of the game but this time, that is not what we're playing for. We are playing for a bigger reason - to bring back smiles on people's faces, on the faces of those who have faced tough times due to the Covid 19 pandemic …”. Despite all those lofty statements, this IPL has remained somewhat listless and insipid.
I don’t know about the smiles on people’s faces, but thankfully, Virat Kohli has found his rhythm with the bat with two big knocks and he has visible reasons to smile: otherwise, it would’ve been difficult to justify the Rs. 17 crores he pockets every IPL from his franchise. Yes, Kohli has been paid Rs. 17 crores each year in 2018/19/20 by RCB; he earned Rs. 12.5 crores for every IPL in 2014/15/16/17. From 2011 to 2013, his player earnings were Rs. 8.28 crores a year. It wasn’t like this always: Kohli was only paid Rs. 12 lacs in each of 2008/09/10. But if you put all the numbers together, Virat Kohli has grossed Rs. 126.2 crores as player fees alone from IPLs 1 to 13! With 5412 runs in the 177 matches he has played so far in the IPL, that works out to Rs. 2.33 lacs per run for RCB! Don’t ask me if that is good or bad.
One noteworthy highlight of the last week of play was the record for the fastest ball ever bowled in the IPL. Delhi Capitals’ Anrich Nortje did just that on Wednesday, creating history with a speed of 156.22 kmph. The South African pacer delivered the fastest ball in Delhi Capitals’ clash against Rajasthan Royals. He also went on to bowl the second-fastest and third-fastest deliveries of the IPL at 155.21 kmph and 154.74 kmph, respectively. The record was previously held by South African speedster Dale Steyn, who had bowled the fastest ball at 154.40 kmph. After bowling the fastest delivery at 156.22 kmph, Nortje dismissed RR opener Jos Buttler on the very next ball. For the record, the fifth-fastest delivery ever in the IPL was also by a South African: Kagiso Rabada (154.23 kmph).
The only whiff of real controversy this past week was the Dhoni consternation at on-field umpire Paul Reiffel on a wide that should have been called but wasn’t. In the CSK versus Sunrisers match, the second ball of the 19th over, was going outside line outside off, and even though batsman Rashid Khan had stepped out of his crease a bit, it looked like as if the decision was going against the bowler Shardul Thakur. However, just when umpire Reiffel was beginning to stretch his arms out to signal a wide, CSK captain Dhoni looked miffed with the decision. Dhoni angrily gesticulated at Reiffel and began protesting even before the call was made. Eventually, Reiffel went against what he felt initially and decided to not give it a wide. Reiffel put his arms down looking at Dhoni’s reaction and decided that it was a fair delivery. Rival captain David Warner fumed in the dugout but Dhoni’s anger was perhaps more scary for the umpire! Does the anger behoove Captain Cool? Well, he has done it before too: In a match against Rajasthan Royals last year, Dhoni lost his cool at umpire Ulhas Gandhe, who tried to rule a waist-high full toss as no-ball by Ben Stokes, but reversed his decision when square-leg umpire Bruce Oxenford did not signal for it! So Dhoni ko bhi gussa aata hai!
On Thursday night I wasn’t sure if Universe Boss, Chris Gayle (Jersey 333) was going to fire for the Kings XI. After scratching around for just 7 from 15 balls, he smashed Washington Sundar for a straight six and then heaved the off-spinner's last delivery for another six over square leg, in the 13th over. The match was delicately poised with Kings XI on 126/1 in 15 overs, and another 46 needed from five overs for victory. Gayle then lofted pacer Mohammed Siraj back over his head for a four and then crashed a wide delivery over long-off for a six. The West Indian run-machine then launched Sundar for another couple of sixes in the 17th over. What a delightful display … who says age is a number? Gayle is 41 years old, but can put any player half his age to the sword!
Fame has its obvious benefits. Almost an unknown also-ran till a couple of weeks ago, Rahul Tewatia has social media drooling over him. Netizens can't stop cracking jokes after his heroics with the incredible sixes we talked about last week. But you know that a new hero is born when the likes of Tinder come looking for you. Taking to Twitter, Tinder India asked if Rahul Tewatia is single, adding that they're ‘asking for a friend’!!! Well, if Tewatia continues the momentum with the mighty maximums, he could well be the next Virat Kohli in the making … find money and find love … though of course Shubman Gill and Devdutt Padikkal are not far behind Rahul Tewatia.