When you splash a bit of colour on cricket

At the completion of the first phase of the IPL, which was staged here, Paul Radley makes a list of the best and worst the event saw – predictably Gayle does make the cut.
All eight IPL teams have representation from nearly all the Test cricket-playing nations. Ravindranath K / The National
All eight IPL teams have representation from nearly all the Test cricket-playing nations. Ravindranath K / The National

Best nod to progress – the players

When Pakistan played Sri Lanka in Dubai earlier this year, the prime seats in the ground were cordoned off so that it did not impair the players’ view. If that sounds entirely ridiculous, that is because it is.

People had been milling around behind the bowler’s arm the day before, so the ground authorities acceded to the complaints of the players and barred entry to the comfy seats. In an almost entirely empty ground.

It was beyond parody. Safe to say, the live experience for the cricket spectator had reached its nadir.

A few months later, the contrast could not have been more stark. The players of the IPL know they must acquiesce to the whims of the viewer.

If the spidercam is in their face, disturbing their concentration, tough luck. If there is a bit of a racket going on when they are trying to focus, so what.

There would not be so many zeroes on their bank cheques if it was not for those viewers, so they are happy to go along with it.

Worst attention span – Gayle

Chris Gayle is a prolific tweeter, but sometimes you wonder if he can concentrate all the way to the end of the 140 characters. Twenty20 may be cricket’s fastest format, but even that often seems like too much hassle for the sport’s coolest man.

He spent the majority of the IPL’s jaunt to the UAE sidelined with a back strain.

When he did take the field, he played his own game of One1 instead, hitting two fours, two sixes, and nearly getting himself out a variety of times. He fell to the first ball of the second over, with his score on 20.

And everyone loves him for it. After his one-over cameo, he was given a cheque for the most sixes in the match, and earned a hug from the opposition owner, Preity Zinta.

As if a cuddle with the Bollywood princess is not precious enough, he is getting paid a king’s ransom for being here, too. He must be wondering where it all went so wrong for him in life.

Best bridge-builder – IPL

One of the IPL’s great triumphs is usually said to be the way it throws together players from disparate nations, all for a common good.

Given that Pakistani players are always excluded, English players rarely feature, and the rest beyond the Test nations never do, it is not exactly the UN mission it is touted to be. However, the temporary relocation to the UAE had appreciable effect at building bridges that drastically needed mending.

Sunil Gavaskar, the interim chairman of the IPL, said when the tournament arrived on these shores that a successful competition would encourage India to return here for international matches in future.

Indian matches are the biggest sellers in cricket – as the extraordinary ticket sales here for what is still essentially a domestic tournament showed.

The fact they have been rarely spotted here for the past 14 years, since the 2000 fixing controversy hit cricket, has had a major detrimental effect on the sport in the UAE.

The fact this leg was controversy-free means the UAE were really the biggest winners from having the IPL here.

“Integrity is an individual thing,” said Sunil Gavaskar, the interim chairman of the IPL.

“If you have a tournament like this without anything happening, surely UAE’s name will be free of the taint it has had in the past.

“The UAE authorities are well aware of the fact that everything should be absolutely clean.”

Worst absence – Hales

Given the packed grounds and lavish wages, it is only natural that the players on the outside looking in would be envious of those who do get to play in the IPL.

Few of the absentees will have been hurting quite so much as Alex Hales. The England opener is third in the world rating for 20-over batsmen, and made a century in the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.

Yet, with a prohibitively high base price and the prospect of having to pay compensation to his county side, he went unsold at the IPL auction. Missing out on a trip here was not the worst of it, though.

In the intervening time, Hales has been dropped from his county side for first-class cricket. He has not even been able to secure a loan switch to another side, either. So, instead of earning a hefty pay deal to play high-profile matches in front of frenzied crowds in the UAE sunshine, he has been playing second XI cricket in the UK cold. Miserable.

Best transfer – Chahal

It is fair to say that the Mumbai Indians had a shocker in the recruitment merry-go-round between the end of the last campaign and the start of this season.

The champions let go Glenn Maxwell and Dwayne Smith – the top two run-scorers in the 2014 IPL so far – as well as the world’s leading fast bowler, Mitchell Johnson.

In their place, they recruited a retired Australian batsman, Mike Hussey, who has yet to even hint at being the player who was so successful with the Chennai Super Kings. Also, the burly New Zealander, Corey Anderson’s achievements in the game to date are in no way commensurate with his salary.

It is not just the headliners who have thrived elsewhere, either. Yuzvendra Chahal, an uncapped India leg-spinner of little renown who spent three season carrying drinks for more-celebrated colleagues, slipped out of Mumbai unnoticed this winter.

At least until he started taking a load of cheap wickets for his new employers, Royal Challengers Bangalore. Now everyone has sat up and taken notice.

pradley@thenational.ae

Follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: May 1, 2014 04:00 AM

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