'The show must go on' was what one had hoped would have been the way forward. Unfortunately, the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic struck the progress of the second half of cricket's most popular entertainment, the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021.
The safety net of the bio-secured bubble burst and was broken into, making it impossible for the tournament to continue. This was always an area of concern and this is the thought that lingers in the minds of every sport administrator involved in hosting any event at present. One is aware that just one mistake or blemish could jeopardise the sports event completely and the IPL became a victim of it.
In retrospect, one can dwell on the fact that the six months earlier the IPL tournament that took place in the UAE without a blemish would have been the ideal venue. However, in order for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to prove that India could conduct a major tournament, it was imperative for them to do so in India. The IPL was just a precursor to the T20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in India at the end of the year.
The second wave of the pandemic has blown the lid off and exposed the weak and disorganised healthcare and welfare system prevalent in India. The dire situation that the country is going through became the corner stone for the IPL as well.
India has failed on both accounts. One in safeguarding its millions of people from being infected by the virus as well as being able to conduct a fool proof, safe and secure environment to host a major sporting event. The reality one perceives is the lack of infrastructure, planning, and understanding of the situation that was prevalent as one faced the dreaded virus.
The BCCI, one thought, had mastered the situation well, having successfully conducted and controlled an IPL in the UAE, a full cricket series against England and two domestic cricket tournaments without adverse issues.
One does regret the failure of the BCCI to complete what looked to be a well-run and structured IPL 2021 until the first phase of the tournament. It all crumbled so quickly, like a gush of wind that blew ones bails away, calling it a 'dead ball'. The IPL 2021 is still at an uncertain situation of whether it would be entirely cancelled or would be played on another dates.
However, there were some positives that came forth for India. The IPL did give the Indian selectors a good opportunity to assess many of the Indian players, especially as they will need to finalise the squad for the T20 World Cup.
The batting looks formidable with Shikhar Dhawan, K.L. Rahul, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, Devdutt Padikkal and Ruturaj Gaikwad. There are also Manish Pandey and Ambati Rayudu, both experienced batters in the wings as well. The problem that India may face is to choose correctly as the surfeit of options could prove difficult.
The sterling performance of Ravindra Jadeja who returned after the injury with a bang is a big plus for the side. He is after all at present India's premier all-rounder. However, the concern is that of Hardik Pandya, whose powerful batting is essential for India but without his contribution as a bowler, his place becomes uncertain.
The lack of another genuine all-rounder could be the Achilles heel for India at the T20 World Cup, so Hardik needs to get his bowling into play soon. The cupboard of pace bowling options is full and so is the leg-spin variety. Selecting the most effective combination of bowlers could prove to be another worrisome issue for the selectors.
Another positive aspect of the IPL was that the tournament was not a complete washout and that at least half of the schedule was completed. Although the expected revenue may not be received, even a 50 per cent collection is a sum that cannot be ignored easily.
The absence of spectators may have been a concerning factor for players. However, for millions of cricket fans and followers of the IPL, watching it on TV was a much-needed break and entertainment from the lockouts and lockdowns that all are facing. The gloom of the world around one was forgotten during those engrossing moments and one is grateful to cricketers, support staff, and the administrators who took it upon themselves to give us those precious moments.
Curtains may have come down on the second act of the IPL but the first act itself showed how important the tournament was for Indian cricket and for the unknown domestic players to get heard. Some lucky ones may shortly be wearing the Indian colours soon. Indian cricket has definitely not been a complete loser.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal)
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-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text