IPL 2017: No Chris Gayle swagger or buzz, build-up to this season feels like an Indian marriage sans music

No zing, no buzz, no sparkle and no verve. It does not feel like the IPL this year.

Missing are the noises, colours and snazziness around the biggest cricketing festival in the country. It’s like an Indian marriage without music, Holi without the gung-ho spirit and a masala movie with no song and dance. If it feels like a sarkari seminar, solemn and insipid, then it actually is not much different.

Chris Gayle is yet to get going this season. BCCI

File image of Chris Gayle

Chris Gayle is not on our television screens yet with his customary swagger. There’s no flashback of his towering sixes. How can the biggest entertainer in the show be so invisible? We have not heard much about AB de Villiers yet; or about Kane Williamson or Jason Roy or even MS Dhoni. The talk of some new overseas sensation or prodigious talent from India is conspicuous in its absence. There’s no furious speculation over the winner in the 10th edition of the event. How come the mighty Mumbai Indians or Kolkata Knight Riders are not part of drawing room discussions yet?

As Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad face off on Wednesday in the first match of the season, the enthusiasm over the contest should have been felt in street-corner discussions. After all, both were finalists last year. It was a terrific contest with big guns from both sides firing at the Chinnaswamy Stadium and several tense moments. Both Chris Gayle (76 runs off 38 balls) and Virat Kohli (54 off 35) struck big for the Challengers, still they failed to overhaul the target of 208 set by David Warner’s team.

How many times do you lose after scoring 100 off just nine overs? Well, not many. But the formidable Challengers did. It was T-20 cricket at its sensational best. It is surprising that there’s no excitement over a repeat contest. Surely, it cannot be that cricket-crazy Indians have suddenly gone unenthusiastic about the Indian Premier League. Ten years since its inception it has taken the character of a festival and entrenched itself in the Indian cricket-lover’s psyche.

The energy around the event has proved infectious. Even those dismissing it as a bikini cricket fair and calling it a travesty of the great game have come round to accepting it as good entertainment. While everyone thought such frivolity would kill long format cricket such as Tests and eventually the One-Dayers, it has actually achieved something entirely different: it has revived popular interest in the game. Credit it to the hype and hoopla around the tournament. The excitement and effusiveness sometimes appeared manufactured but then nobody complained.

Everything fit in – the signature dance steps of Dwayne Bravo, Gayle’s swagger, team theme songs, cheerleaders, television cameras capturing ecstatic fans and what not. The atmospherics matched the intensity on the pitch. It was a complete package. We will still have the intensity on the pitches but without the atmospherics the experience will be incomplete.

Perhaps it has do with, as experts would say, lack of interest among advertisers, injury issues of top Indian players, the presence of the Supreme Court-appointed administrators, too many foreign players captaining IPL teams or simple fan fatigue after a long season. Whatever the case, the build-up to the event has been spectacularly dull this time.

One hopes as the matches progress to the business end, the heat and excitement will be back. Fans will start rooting for teams and players and bring the zing back into the tournament. Bring it on guys! Don’t make it look like a sarkari event.

Updated Date: Apr 05, 2017 15:30 PM

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