With amazing power hitting, IPL 2024 off to a flying start | Cricket

Just one week into the IPL, and already this year’s annual cricket kumbh is different. Following precedent, the opening ceremony showcased Bollywood song and dance but, departing from routine, teams sought blessings from the Gods before getting down to business.

Sunrisers Hyderabad's Heinrich Klaasen plays a shot during the match against Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024, at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Wednesday(IPL-X) PREMIUM
Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Heinrich Klaasen plays a shot during the match against Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024, at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Wednesday(IPL-X)

This is not entirely unusual because most teams hold some private ceremony every year. But this time the pre-season ritual was public, performed in full media glare. All teams want the almighty on their side, it’s always nice to have a direct line to the heavens, that’s why the prayers and fervent appeals. These ceremonies are also brand building events that help teams to connect with fans and drive social media engagement.

In Kolkata, the Knight Riders huddled in the middle for puja at Eden Gardens and Rinku Singh placed a coconut on the pitch and garlanded the stumps. KL Rahul , returning from injury, made a quick dash to Ujjain for darshan at the Mahakaleshwar mandir. LSG coaches Justin Langar and Jonty Rhodes went to Ayodhya and described the visit as spiritually uplifting as they experienced the positive energy of the place.

Interestingly, the tone for the IPL was set by the hugely successful WPL which had tremendous fan support, good television numbers and flashes of great cricket. Sajana Sajeevan hit the first ball she faced- the final ball of the 20th over- for a six to win a game, a feat finishers Pollard/Russell / Tewatia/ Rinku Singh would be proud of. RCB WPL women’s triumph brought into focus the current drought , of water and silverware, in Bangalore.

In a way, though only indirectly, Smriti Mandhana put pressure on Kohli as fans demanded it was time the King gets the IPL crown that has eluded the franchise for 16 years. This IPL there was some chatter about Kohli’s place in the Indian T 20 team. To this, after a crisp 77 from 49 against Punjab Kings, his response was so typically front foot.I still have it, he said. Which basically meant: I am King and am not going anywhere.

It seems the same holds for Dhoni, IPL’s permanent superstar who maintains his aura and authority effortlessly, almost without uttering a word. Last IPL was a grand farewell for the much loved Thala, fans thronged every game to catch a final glimpse and every CSK match was sold out. But Thala is still around, looking fit and fresh, with long hair, still very central to CSK. The elder statesman is in the middle but not as captain – Dhoni abdicated in favour of Ruturaj in trademark Dhoni fashion. No fuss, no drama. Not even a brief statement.

While MSD is IPL’s all time box office, Rohit Sharma is this year’s runaway favourite with fans and critics. There is a strong sympathy wave in his favour after losing the MI captaincy. Popular opinion suggests he got an awful deal , and handed a bad decision which he couldn’t review. The question that has no satisfactory answer: Why sack India’s successful T 20 captain, a winner of 5 IPL titles, who is batting like a dream?

Fans love his calm, no tension personality. Rohit is likeable, relatable, a straightforward bloke without a trace of arrogance. After Dravid, he is Indian cricket’s current bhai, not the protein shake carrying gym crafted athlete but a caring elder who laughs and jokes and does not create tension.

The IPL, however, is about teams more than players and it’s always difficult to call which ones will make the cut. CSK continue to rediscover players ( Shivam Dube this time) who put their hand up in crunch situations, they are a team that knows how to win. GT is showing shows signs of vulnerability with dodgy Indian batting.MI , overloaded with quality Indian talent , received a spectacular thrashing after conceding 277, IPL’s highest ever total.RR look good, their squad neatly balanced, and with two from two they have seized early momentum that is so useful in a long 14 game tournament.

IPL’s first week was marked by amazing power hitting, batting is as if on steroids resulting in high totals. RCB made 207 and almost lost to SRH who, stung by defeat, directed their anger towards MI. Riyan Parag took down Nortje, hitting 25 in the final over. Abhishek Sharma smashed 10 balls to the boundary from the 23 he faced. Russell continues to do what he has been doing all these years. Rachin Ravindran can hit a long ball and Klassen has taken power hitting to a different level.

One standout feature is the maturity of young Indian talent— Abhishek Porel, Anuj Rawat , Shashank Singh, Sameer Rizvi, Harpreet Bhatia, Yash Dayal, Harshit Rana.

These players, products of the domestic circuit, are good enough to come through tough situations .

In previous seasons, quite often the 7th Indian player in the playing eleven was a weak link. Now, quite often, he is the match winner.


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