Off the Mark

By Ollie Field

The Indian Premier League. A festival of cricket that has W.G Grace turning in his grave and makes every member of the MCC at Lords cringe in disapproval. Cheerleaders, mass sponsorship deals, strategic time-outs and big pay-outs to players in US Dollars makes it sound more like American Football than the gentleman’s game of cricket, and yet it has a mass following around the world.

From a South African perspective, having the joy of hosting this blasphemy of cricket has really brought our nation alive, with stadiums being filled around the country for almost all the games. I call it a blasphemy of cricket, but don’t get me wrong, I love the IPL. What’s not to like? It’s a three and a half hour spectacle of massive shots and great wickets, with all the entertainment to keep anyone interested.And having it in our backyard makes it even better. Seeing South Africans pledge their alliances and scream like their lives depend on it for teams from the likes of Chennai and Kolkata to Rajasthan is what makes it so special.

And in that vein, the 2009 edition has given us a lot to shout about. Which brings me to the much shouted about ‘Off the Mark IPL T20’.

The opening batsmen sort of choose themselves. With Matthew Hayden and Herschelle Gibbs tearing the tournament apart so much, it’s impossible to leave them out. Gibbs has had a tough time of late, but his performances in the earlier games really put the Chargers in a good position.

Two Daredevils come in at three and four, in AB de Villiers and Tillakaratne Dilshan, both of whom have been unstoppable, especially AB with that amazing century. AB’s fielding might get him in the team on its own as well. Batsman number five is Suresh Raina. He had a great IPL last year, and has shown that he isn’t just a flash in the pan by being the stalwart in the middle of the Super Kings’ batting attack.

JP Duminy comes in at number six, not because he’s really set the tournament alight, but just because he’s so good to have on your team. Yusuf Pathan comes in as number seven. His explosive batting and ability to turn games around has made him a force to be reckoned with for the Royals. His bowling has also been on spot all tournament.

Shane Warne is captain and eighth batsman. Every South African loved to hate him, but now that he’s retired and not playing for the Aussies, it’s okay to admire his genius with the ball. His captaincy has also meant that the Royals, who were dubbed as being the worst team before the competition, have a great chance of landing a semi-final spot, and maybe even defending their title.

My bowlers consist of two surprise package left-armers and Off the Mark’s favourite trashy bowler, slinger Malinga. RP Singh and Ashish Nehra have destroyed batting line-ups early on in almost every innings, and earn a deserved place in the team. Malinga is just so hard to get away, that he might just be the ultimate T20 bowler.

So, as you can see, it’s quite a menagerie of players that make up the team, but such is the nature of the IPL that these misfits of world cricket have really stood out in this year’s competition. All that can really be said is that South Africans and cricket supporters around the world will continue to shout for the Royal Challengers, Kings XI Punjab, Chennai Super Kings or whatever, in the ultimate spectacle of T20 cricket.


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