Mahendra Singh Dhoni, on the opening day of the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League, once again showed the world why he is regarded as a great captain. Of course he was aided by some brilliant bowling, but he was brilliant as a captain during that game against the Kolkata Knight Riders. He has got a magical touch and was called as “Midas” Singh Dhoni by Steve Waugh.
He came into the field to a standing ovation from the Chennai crowd, who had turned out in numbers. Sadly, only 80% of the ground was full and that happened to be one of the best turn outs in the first week. When the Kochi tuskers played their first game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, the ground was only half full and it was a body blow to the owners, who were reluctant to play their games in Kochi in the first place.
There could be many reasons for such a low turnout. Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal have been gripped by the election fever, while people from all over India are yet to come out of the euphoria of winning the World Cup. The tournament came immediately following the World Cup and it was and will be tough for the fans to see their stars play for different teams after rabidly cheering them under one banner.
To make matters worse, the introduction of two new teams has split all the teams and has created completely new squads. Only the Chennai Super Kings and the Mumbai Indians have any semblance to their previous squads and have some sort of continuity. Virendar Sehwag lamented the loss of his old squad, just after one game, when he said that 10 others will be making their debut for the Delhi Daredevils in the first game.
The cricket too hasn’t been electrifying. All the games played thus far have been low scoring affairs, on slow tracks. The World Cup stars have not yet made the mental switch to the T20 format and will need some time to do so. However, more cricket, in such a short span of time, will only drain them further. The players in the World Cup winning team are vital members in the different squads and cannot be dropped, unless there is an injury. The highly competitive format will also mean that the franchises would want their best teams to play in all the games.
However, the crowds should turn out as the tournament progresses further. When the competition for places get intensive, the franchises would hope that, it would also get the attention of the fans. Even if the stadiums aren’t full, television audience should go up. And with the IPL reaching 100 million viewers last year, there is no reason why that number wouldn’t go up this time around.