Taking the “I” out of IPL: The T20 Journey

Cricket is the sport that beats with the heart of India. Snatched from the closed gates of “Whites Only” officers clubs and taken to the narrow gullies and abandoned plots of our towns, India has truly claimed the sport for its own.

Amongst all forms of cricket, T20 stands have the most popular and beloved format. Traditional cricket was an endurance sport; it went on long enough that most people wouldn’t even stick around to see how the match ended and simply looked at it as a numbers game, checking the scores the following day. With the T20 consisting of only 20 overs, games were much more fast-paced and easier to watch, garnering a massive audience of people who were far from cricket’s target audience. The short hours of matches ensured a total grip on spectators’ attention, and the game soon became a commercial haven for product placements, making T20 one of the most profitable ventures for the BCCI.

This year has seen unprecedented changes to India’s celebration of cricket: with the country logistically and functionally crippled and unsafe to host the annual Indian Premier League, one of the largest T20 events in the world, the game has been shifted to the sands and skyscrapers of Dubai. To let Indians enjoy their most beloved sport, the “I” has been taken out of IPL. The spirit of the game perseveres-from the whistles of Chennai Super Kings’ M.A. Chidambaram Stadium to the Eden Garden pride of Kolkata Knight Riders, fans will cheer on from across the sea, glued to their TVs.

On a team-based level, there have been great changes; the Old Guard is on its. Way out. The roaring lion of Indian cricket, the beloved M.S Dhoni, retired from international cricket this year. The IPL stadium is the one place stans will be eager to see the veteran shine. Joining him in retirement from the international scene is a long time comrade left-handed batsman Suresh Raina. But what seemed to be the reunion of CSK’s classic duo fell apart from sudden tragedy. Raina jarringly and unexpectedly withdrew from the series, citing “family tragedy”. The core team seemed to crumble with Harbhajan Singh, with the iconic off-spinner choosing not to participate in this year’s edition. Stating that he wanted to “spend time with his family” in a Tweet, Singh requested privacy for his reasons to opt-out. The Super Kings faced yet another scar, one plaguing the globe-an unnamed bowler and members of the supporting staff have tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in the UAE. With the loss of one of its most valuable players and being marred by Corona Virus, it remains to see how many whistles will be blowing for the 2019 Series Runners Up. CSK open the 2020 IPL in their match with the defending champions Mumbai Indians, on September 19th.

Long have the cries of “Ee Sala Cup Namde” echoed throughout Chinnaswamy Stadium. With radically (negative) changes to the teams that have long stomped them, it seems that Virat Kohli’s RCB may very well have a chance of winning this year. Playing the third match of the season on the 21st of September against young upstarts Sunrisers Hyderabad. The team has been described as “batting-heavy” from a Times of India analyst. With the core team intact and the grand old cricketing legend Sunil Gavaskar stating the potential of Yuzvendra Chahal to be a  remix of sorts to give a new, victorious face to the Kohil-DeVilliers combo, fans anxiously await to see if 2020 could finally be RCB’s reckoning.

Defending champions and 4-time winners Mumbai Indians look stronger than ever.  The Rohit Sharma-lead team remains confident and solid. While the Emirates has proven to be the downfall of the diverse and strong team in the past, captain Sharma is assured that the losses of the 2014 series will not repeat itself. Will the Mumbai Indians remain safe and victorious has the years before in domestically based matches?

While other sporting events have had chaotic and often disappointing outcomes with their favourite teams in the COVID-19 Era, Indian cricket looks as exciting as ever. With players gone and renewed hopes for those defeated in the past, the Dubai IPL looks to be the most engrossing sporting event of the year.

Written by: Arul Kirubakaran and Vijay Senathipathi

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