The year 2008 in review, continuing from where we left off last.
Continuing from the previous colum here here on A to Z of cricket in 2008
we continue with the year in review...
G goes to Gautam Gambhir, the other half in arguably the best ever opening pair in all three forms of the game today. Partnering Virender Sehwag - his Delhi team-mate and friend - at the top, this unorthodox and sometimes overtly aggressive and temperamental, left-handed batman walked through - both, figuratively and literally - most pace bowling line-ups of the world and could very well be given the credit for most of the Indian wins. Not afraid to rub the wrong side of the law, he was even banned by the match referee for butting his elbow into the Shane Watson midrib, but his answer to that was reminiscent of Sehwag's nonchalant, 'I-regret-nothing' as he continued plundering the runs after coming back as well. Small matter then, that he averaged almost 65 in tests, 47 in ODIs and was one of the top run-getters in the IPL, this year.
H is for the hordes of flowing cash for not only the cricketers, but also for anyone and everyone remotely, directly or indirectly associated with the periphery of cricket this year. This list includes - but is not restricted to - the players, the bowling and the fielding coaches, the managers, the physios, the masseur, the analyst, the IPL team owners, the cricket associations, the stadium owners, the television channels, the cricket websites, the writers, the…the list is almost abyss-like. And yes, one of the chief reasons for that was that this was the IPL-year, and it had left everyone richer!
I stands for the Indian Premier League and the Indian Cricket League. And while the organisers of the 'official' cricket league, the IPL, may not warm up to me too much for using both the names in one breath, it is impossible to mention one without the other. Because, whatever Lalit Modi's claims to have thought such a league before one Mr. Subhash Chandra, it was the latter's ICL that propelled the BCCI into action. And so, one saw an almost speckless organization of one of the jazziest cricket tournaments one would have ever seen. The quality was good enough for it to be classified as an international tournament, and apart from a controversy here and there, the tournament was an unqualified success. For more than a month, the Indian women had to give up on their daily soaps to accommodate the IPL itinerary on the telly, and while the dancing girls did not go down too well with some sections of the society, most were baying for more.
J would be for Jumbo and Jammy, both long serving servants of Indian cricket, but both of whom saw major blips in their forms and fortunes this year. A shoulder injury saw Kumble bowl reduced number of overs - even as a skipper - give away almost twice the number of runs per wicket that he had throughout his career, and amidst increasing pressure announced his retirement from international cricket. Dravid, on the other hand, saw a surprising slump in batting form, something that was punctuated with a sporadic big score. A half-century at Perth, a ton against the touring South Africans and another fifty in the series against the Aussies were the only innings of note for this great Indian number three batsman, as he continued to nick the away-going deliveries to the eagerly waiting fielders behind the wickets. For now, Dravid's still in the fray, but only just. Another series akin to the last couple of ones could just see an early - and a sad - obituary for arguably the best ever test batsman India has ever produced.
K is for King Khan, who had a roller-coaster of a 2008, and that is, even, by his standards. After buying his Kolkata Knight Riders for a sum of more than $75 million, it was his magnetic presence and charisma that managed to rope in enough audiences to the Eden Gardens for his team's home matches and in turn, become the first team to break even the costs. Controversies, as has always been the case, were never behind. Issues with the Cricket Association of Bengal over tickets, apparent arguments with the skipper Sourav Ganguly, and then, a run-in with the organisers over being disallowed to sit with his team in the dug-out left SRK disillusioned at the very least. And then there was a small matter of sending back some of the extra team members in order to 'cut costs' that had the likes of Ranadeb Bose fuming. Amidst all this, the crowds cheered and egged the Bollywood star every time he - and his entourage - celebrated the loss of an opponent wicket or his team's success. Sadly, the Kolkata Knight Riders failed to make it to the knock-out stages of the tournament.
L has to go stand for Lalit Modi, who would have probably made the marketing guru, Philip Kotler proud. BCCI may have come second to the ICL in terms of getting the event off the board, but once it took off, there was no looking back. And the credit needs to go to this marketing man of BCCI for making the cricket board a body as rich as it is today. Despite claims of being a cricket-killer, the IPL catered to that segment of Indian audiences who had been bored to death with the primetime soaps, and this 'cricketainment' proved to be a worthy replacement. For more than 40 days, fans enjoyed, danced, cheered, criticised, revelled, and yet couldn't have enough of this latest sensation called the Indian Premier League. And, the bottomline...how much did BCCI gain from all this? For starters, the television rights were sold for a whopping amount of a billion dollars to a consortium of Sony and WSG. Then there was a small matter of the teams being bought over by the franchises for more than $600 million, and the other tidbits like website rights and all. It would be fair to say that the BCCI coffers were brimming with more money than most of the rest of the cricket boards put together
Modi was the man behind it all.
...to be continued...