Bowlers Are No Longer Lambs for the Slaughter in IPL
There is little doubt that the 13th edition of the IPL has already been a resounding success from every angle.
The viewership figures as well as the fare provided at the three venues in the UAE have confirmed this. It matters little that the matches are being played before empty stands – that is now the new normal - or that it is being held outside India. Cricket-starved fans have seen very little action since the pandemic started and as such have embraced the IPL. They are following it with the same fervor and enthusiasm and in larger numbers than ever before.
The long wait appears to have whetted the appetite of anyone and everyone associated with the game and summing up the euphoria best was King’s XI Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia who exuded confidence on the eve of the tournament that the event was set to be ''the best ever.’’ And we have had former England captain Michael Vaughan gushing ''I don’t know any other T20 tournament that has had half the drama of IPL 2020. Without doubt it’s the best cricketing spectacle year after year.’’
As only to be expected a combo of the T-20 game and in its most popular avatar, the IPL, is bound to generate tremendous excitement and this year has been no different particularly as for long it appeared that the tournament would not be held at all. But despite such major events as the Olympics and Wimbledon being postponed due to Covid-19 the BCCI never gave up hope and kept looking for windows when it was clear that the tournament could not be held in India with the pandemic being particularly severe.
After all it is not the first time that the IPL is being held outside India. In 2009 the second edition was shifted to South Africa while five years later a portion of it was held in the UAE, the reason on both occasions being the general elections in this country.
This time the UAE also had to prove that it was ready to host the IPL complete with security measures in place with the pandemic in mind with reports stating that there were thousands of active cases in that country too.
All the precautionary procedures were carried out and the tournament has gone on without a hitch as far as Covid-19 is concerned overcoming some early jitters when on the eve of the competition some members of the Chennai Super Kings were tested positive.
As to the tournament proper besides serving up matches that have gone down to the last ball and even several into the Super Over there are things to savour even for the cricket connoisseur. And after 15 years since the first T-20 international was held and 12 years since the inaugural edition of the IPL it is clear that the format is no longer only about slam bang cricket.
The bat still dominates but not to the extent it did in the past. Over the years bowlers too have shown that they are not prepared to be just lambs for the slaughter. Gradually they have developed skills and adopted tactics to keep the batsmen in check which is why despite the bat continuing to dominate bowlers too are not very far behind.
In this year’s competition for example there have been four instances of bowlers taking four wickets in the innings which given the fact that bowlers are allowed only four overs is a pretty impactful feat. And topping them all is Kolkata Knight Riders leg spinner Varun Chakravarthy who notched up the unbelievable figures of five for 20 against Delhi Capitals. There have also been numerous instances of bowlers in the tournament keeping the run rate down to below seven and eight an over which is par for the course.
Mohammed Siraj perhaps symbolized the upper hand that the bowlers are gradually obtaining in the match against Kolkata Knight Riders. The 26-year-old Hyderabad born medium pacer representing Royal Challengers Bangalore had a double wicket maiden in his first over and followed it with a wicket maiden in his next to have the mind boggling and eye rubbing figures of 2-2-0-3 something that has never happened in the IPL. Thanks mainly to him, KKR were restricted to 84 for eight in 20 overs – the lowest total in the IPl. Siraj was the first to bowl two maiden overs in the IPL and the innings saw four maiden overs being sent down – another record. Yes, it is nice to see bowlers set records for a change!
There certainly is greater variety in the bowling which has succeeded in keeping the batsmen guessing. Fully aware that the batsmen has keep the scoreboard ticking every ball the bowlers too have come up with their own bag of tricks and are not afraid to experiment. Sometimes the batsmen find this strategy unfathomable and this could lead to two or three dot balls in succession resulting in heavy pressure on the batting side. Under the circumstances the batsman then essays an ill advised swipe which more often than not results in his dismissal.
Even when it comes to defending sub-par totals the current IPL has been an eye opener. Totals of 169, 167, 164, 163, 162, 161 and even 126 have been successfully defended. Teams have been restricted more than a dozen times to totals ranging from 112 to 148 in 20 overs while on one occasion Royal Challengers Bangalore reckoned to be one of the strongest batting sides have been shot out for 109 in just 17 overs.
Yes, there is nothing more fulfilling than an even contest between bat and ball and T-20 cricket and the IPL is slowly becoming just that.