Saturday, May 18, 2024

A busy season: The Hindu Editorial on cricket at the WPL, the IPL and ICC events  

It is the season of Twenty20 and just as the inaugural Women’s Premier League (WPL) concluded at Mumbai, it is time for the 16th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). With Friday night’s clash between defending champion Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, the IPL’s annual summer tryst is back in vogue. Launched in 2008, the IPL has become a money-spinning brand while the WPL finally found its feet with five teams. Women’s cricket in India is carving a niche and it is a progressive step as not long ago this brand of sport was deemed an afterthought before the BCCI bridged the gender divide. The board initiated corrective measures including central contracts, pay parity in terms of match fees and the WPL became an essential milestone. In the pathways laid by Diana Edulji, Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, to name a few, the current generation of women cricketers has also gained commercial heft. And when Harmanpreet Kaur’s Mumbai Indians won the maiden WPL with a seven-wicket triumph over Delhi Capitals, it was a significant moment in the history of Indian women’s cricket. With the Under-19 team having won the World Cup recently, the WPL’s arrival should further enhance the quality within the Indian ranks.

Just as the women rest, their male counterparts are already busy with the IPL that stretches up to May 28. The 10-team championship can sap energy from the very best of players. Not surprisingly, ‘workload management’ has become an oft-repeated expression as the cricketers look at the immediacy of the IPL while also being aware of the World Test Championship final in England and the World Cup in India, later this year. All-format players such as Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and some bowlers have to make choices while juggling between their IPL stints and India duties. M.S. Dhoni turning out for CSK at 41, is a testament to longevity. Equally, it is revelatory of the career choices that players make these days through staggered retirements starting with Tests, then ODIs while keeping the T20 exit for the last. A Sachin Tendulkar playing top-flight cricket for 25 years will perhaps remain an exception as the present generation pick and choose their formats. The latest IPL has drafted in the ‘impact player’ concept wherein a team could effect a substitution, as in football, and use the star’s core skills unlike the usual cricketing substitute relegated to just fielding. The stage is set and new stars will emerge in a year during which India could eventually chase glory in ICC events.

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