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Opening the IPL

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Openers_IPL_CricketOpeners. There’s an unexplained romance when it comes to opening batsman and how they go about their game. Right since the 90’s, when Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana arrived on the scene, the Batman and Robin Hood of changing limited-overs cricket forever, the outlook of teams had to change. From batsmen who could work out the new-ball in the 15-overs restrictions, the game demanded that same batsman should run helter-skelter right from ball number 1. And in the eleventh edition of the IPL, the role of the openers continues to be redefined.

The opening ceremony of every rendition of the extravagant IPL is one to forget. Bollywood celebrities strut around aimlessly without much relevance to the sport itself. When the chartbusters ruling the music industry are vomited out through deafening speakers along with some superficial lighting, it only means one thing. The majority of the audience will throng to the stadiums, giving in to their idol-worship of the Hrithik Roshans and the Priyanka Chopras.

But this edition of the IPL saw to it that there was justice done to the term ‘opening’ ceremony. And nothing more could have done justice apart from one of the most important constituents of T20 gamesmanship itself.

The opening game of the IPL saw the mega return of the mega team, Chennai Super Kings, taking on the defending champions, Mumbai Indians. As one would expect the hero in any Bollywood movie to come out on top in spite of being down and out, it was the Men in Yellow, who stole the game from under Mumbai’s nose in dramatic fashion, thanks to some breathtaking counter-attacking by DJ Bravo. No one could have scripted this any better, even if they wanted to.

The mighty impressive Evin Lewis could have made an impression, but it was not meant to be. Second innings of the IPL. It needed the second day. Who knew where the IPL would have headed had Brendon McCullum not smashed that unbelievable 158 on the opening day of the inaugural edition of this carnival? 10 years down the line, opening batsmen are at it, yet again.

Cometh the second game, cometh the openers. The man who continues to not give up on anything in his life, Gautam Gambhir, kick-started his revamped 2nd innings with a steady and careful 50. But he was blunted and how! KL Rahul, with an almost slap-like innings that cried out for attention to the selectors for not picking him in the limited-overs format, had raced away to a 50 in just, wait for it…….3 overs! The Indian crowd is used to chanting the name ‘Rahul, Rahul’ and KL is from Karnataka. But in Mohali, when the KL show was on, it was neither that ‘Rahul’ nor that format.

How can you talk of opening batsmen putting on a show at the start of the IPL and not have Baz McCullum anywhere near it? In RCB’s 1st game against Kolkata Knight Riders, the Bazooka came out all guns blazing, with a blistering 43, striking at 160. But still, he was not the opener who set up the victory.

You did it once; they’ll call you a fluke. You do it twice, well, it’s just luck. You do it thrice; people will start calling you a maestro. The setup of KKR has changed. GG gone. DK in. But thank their stars; they’ve still stuck to Sunil Narine opening the batting. A miniature Chris Gayle when it comes to his regular zones of hitting, the wily spinner put on an exhibition of see-ball, hit-ball yet again and equaled his own record of IPL’s second fastest fifty in 17 balls.

It was then the chance for Shikhar Dhawan, one of India’s most under-rated performers in the past few years to raise his hand and carry forward the streak of openers performing in as many games so far in this IPL. While Rajasthan Royals had to replace their skipper, the Bad Boy of Australia with the Good Boy of India, their fortunes hadn’t changed much. Skittled out for a paltry 125, Shikhar Dhawan took upon the opportunity to score a tidy 78* at a strike rate of 136.84.

All the Orange Cap owners so far in the history of IPL have been openers. From Shaun Marsh to Matthew Hayden, from Sachin Tendulkar to Virat Kohli, from Robin Uthappa to David Warner, the tradition has never changed. At the rate this IPL has begun, this record is looking less and less likely to be broken.

 

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