Cricket league looking to close ranks

Adam Gilchrist, the wicketkeeper-batsman, is not concerned about the amount of cricket or the absence of Lalit Modi, the ousted commissioner, when the fourth season of the IPL gets underway.

Chennai Super Kings, the defending champions, will play Kolkata Knight Riders in the season’s first game today.
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Mired in controversy, litigations and investigations since the end of season three, the Indian Premier League (IPL) returns to the screens today to test the endurance of cricketers and the indulgence of their fans.

MS Dhoni will lead out Chennai Super Kings, the defending champions, today against Kolkata Knight Riders to launch the fourth season of the Twenty20 tournament, less than a week after ending India's 28-year wait for a second World Cup title.

Some fear that the IPL could be coming a bit too soon after the 49-match World Cup, but Adam Gilchrist, who will be leading Kings XI Punjab this year after spending the last three seasons at the helm of Deccan Chargers, is confident the entertainment quotient of the IPL will keep cricket fatigue at bay.

"Nothing changes," said the Australia wicketkeeper batsman. "It's a busy cricketing calendar. It's difficult for the administrators to schedule it in any different manner.

"Every country wants their home series and every country has an iconic series that they want to make sure happens, like the Ashes. Everyone wants to play India. Obviously there is no hiding from the commercial side of it and India is the driving force in world cricket in that regard, as well as being one of the top teams in all forms of the game.

"It's a hectic schedule and everyone is aware of that. I guess the players, if they want a break, they have got the option to pull out of the IPL. There is no one telling them they have to play, but most are choosing to. Obviously there is the financial benefit, and also it is a wonderful tournament to be a part of. It's a great challenge."

The busy calendar, however, seems to be telling on the IPL. Gilchrist has already lost two teammates - Stuart Broad and Dimitri Mascarenhas - to injuries. Their England counterpart, Paul Collingwood, of Rajasthan Royals, has also been ruled out.

Angelo Mathews (Pune Warriors), Clint McKay (Mumbai Indians), Kevin Pietersen (Deccan Chargers) and Moises Henriques (Mumbai Indians) are the other prominent injury-caused casualties.

"Well, every team after the World Cup will take stock and see what the injury list is like after such a long campaign," Gilchrist said.

Shaun Marsh, his Kings XI teammate and fellow Australian, agreed and said: "It's going to be tough for the players who have pretty much played the whole World Cup and get straight into the IPL.

"But at the end of the day, we are all professional cricketers and if you don't want to play in the IPL, you don't have to. You knew what was going to happen and you just have got to deal with it. I am sure everyone is looking forward to it.

"It's a fantastic competition and for me personally, it's a privilege and honour to be a part of it again."

There have been plenty of changes in the IPL since the third season, notably the addition of two new franchisees, Kochi and Pune. The additions have led to the disbanding of the earlier eight teams and a fresh auction for players, and a new format. "The fact that it has gone to 10 teams shows you how strong IPL has become; it's gone from strength to strength," said Dinesh Karthik, who will be playing alongside Gilchrist and Marsh at Kings XI this season.

"From a player's perspective, it's getting even more interesting because you are going to play two other teams, more matches. So it's going to be very, very exciting."

There have been changes on the administrative side of the IPL as well, with Lalit Modi, the face of the competition, being ousted following allegations of financial irregularities. These allegations have sullied the image of the IPL and Gilchrist hopes the new administration will set the house in order.

"I still don't know what the final accusations were and the final outcome was," he said. "It's a terrific tournament, it's an exciting tournament that has captured the cricketing world's imagination.

"If there have been any irregularities, hopefully the focus from last year will see it being tightened up and run in a professional manner. Because you are getting the world's best professionals turning up and being exactly that - being professional about it. It's not just a money-grab exercise, but everyone gets there and wants to win it.

"So, the players are treating it with the utmost respect. Hopefully, the administrators are doing that. I am not accusing them of not, but let's hope that everyone's on the same page."