The IPL Timeshare

The first week of IPL 10 was like visiting your timeshare for an yearly vacation.  There is an element of the familiar and an aversion to try anything new. So the Maximums, Strategic Timeouts, cheerleaders and the loud commentary are back.

More worrying is the timeshare mentality of some of the franchises.The teams seem to be playing true to the stereotype built around them without any attempt to evolve.

Delhi Daredevils and their fetish for bowlers in general and pacers in particular. This is a team that had failed in the past with a line up of medium pace trundlers but refuses to learn. They lost two of their most reliable overseas batsmen in De Kock and Duminy. Who do they bring in as replacement ? Ben Hilfenhaus. This in a lineup that already includes Cummins, Morris, Brathwaite, Shami, Khan, Khaleel Ahmed, Milind, Saini and Mishra, Yadav and Nadeem in spinners. Its probably TA Shekhar’s influence but you can’t help but question the reasoning behind these decisions. At the moment the “Double Ds” look real short on batting and hopefully it does not come back to haunt them. If it does it would just reinforce the timeshare feel of this edition of IPL.

Credit where its due though. Rishabh Pant looks like the real deal. The courage and single mindedness he displayed in the first game was beyond description. How he could compartmentalize after cremating his father earlier in the day is beyond me. As someone who has gone through the experience I could not help a lump in my throat forming overtime he laid bat on ball.

While on him – can’t help but question the decision making of the more senior Amit Mishra. He would have been a contender for the infamous “Match Ka Mujrim” if that still was a preferred TV channel format. Why one would think of outdoing Pant on this day is beyond comprehension.

Samson flattered to deceive again – true to stereotype. As I write, the match on Tuesday is underway and Samson is blazing away but Pant still seems more assured on the crease especially against the slower bowlers.  If Samson does come good this season it would be long overdue.

The Pune team, RPSG (I didn’t realize they had dropped the s from Supergiants to become one Supergiant – why bother? ) looks to continue the stereotype from last year. It looks in shambles on and off the field with the owners a trigger happy with their tweets. There seems to be a curse of the most expensive purchase in the auction. Seldom have the players lived up to the hype – Stokes seem to be headed in that direction. Still his bustling energy, Tahir’s unalloyed exuberance and Steve Smith’s endless run hunger seem to be the few bright spots in this team. Beyond that any team that relies on Ashok Dinda as a pace spearhead is headed for trouble and so it proved last week.

Gujarat Lions is another team to bring about a sense of deja vu – pick a bunch of quality overseas openers and then try to fit them in the playing XI. Without Bravo around and relying solely on a lineup of Indian military medium pacers this team has struggled.  Praveen Kumar and Kulkarni are honest triers but seems to me that the attack lacks a potency, an X factor if you will.  The “frog in the blender” Kaushik seems to be able to land the ball on the line most of the time – which is a biological wonder if ever there was. Based on limited evidence I cannot fathom how someone can control the ball without getting the whole body lined up at the point of delivery. There have been more unusual bowlers who have defied conventional wisdom and gone on to achieve unparalleled success so there may be a case for him. At the moment thought its hard to imagine Kaushik becoming the game changer the Lions so desperately need.

Punjab could surprise and that could be a new update in the resort town. The team does not seem to have changed a whole lot but Maxwell as captain seems to have revitalized the apprach.  Punjab have placed faith in Manan Vohra more than anyone else, sticking with him through various changes. I would think its high time for Vohra to fire – his previous IPL outings have been underwhelming.

The old feeling of IPL being an old boys’ club returned when the team mentor Sehwag got the franchise to recruit Ishaant after he remained unsold at the main auction. Sehwag’s statement after the acquisition seemed to imply that Ishaant was recruited more due to closeness with the mentor than on any real quality bowling ability.

KKR and Sunrisers Hyderabad seem to be well balanced. Typically the first match of the season sets the tone with McCullum kicking off the IPL 10 years ago with the memorable hundred. This time there was no McCullum like feat but Yuvraj still managed to revive old memories.  I have been skeptical in the past about Yuvraj’s continued utility in T20 but I suppose I have the entire duration of the timeshare to adjust my views on this.  Rashid Khan seems to be the talk of the town right now but I have to watch highlights of his bowling to experience the hype.  Hyderabad was innovative in their team choices with Mustafizur earlier and Rashid currently. It would be no surprise if this team goes on to the playoffs.

Still a lot of action to come and hopefully there are moments that stand out. Moments that rise above the repetitive shots of the big screen on the stadium and the multitude of loud tropes and cliches that the commentators dish out.  But then again as has been proved over the past 9 years, this is a package that blends the rough with the smooth, the sublime with the ordinary, ability with the hype.