The 2014 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) gets under way this week amid the hysteria of the Indian elections and controversy within the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
There was a suggestion the IPL may be staged in South Africa again, despite strained relations between the BCCI and Cricket South Africa (CSA). South Africa hosted the tournament in 2009, when it clashed with national elections in India.
With few options to choose from, IPL organisers have opted for the United Arab Emirates to host the first half of the competition, with the business end concluding in India from May 2.
When it comes to the IPL, the show must simply go on.
The defending champions, Mumbai Indians, will again feature prominently, though they do so without the retired Sachin Tendulkar. But they still retain a healthy helping of experience, with Harbhajan Singh, Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga and the powerful West Indian Kieron Pollard all T20 veterans.
Pollard, who missed the Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh recently, made an encouraging return from injury, with a first-class hundred for Trinidad and Tobago. His all-round expertise was missed by the West Indies, and he will give Mumbai another dimension.
Intriguingly, the seventh edition of the IPL will also see some strange alliances formed.
Gary Kirsten has taken over as Delhi Daredevils coach, and he has selected the mercurial Kevin Pietersen as his captain.
The English outcast, who cost the Delhi outfit over R15-million at auction time, was this week at pains to prove his enduring love for the game, suggesting he has still not given up on donning the England jersey in future. Pietersen said it would be a privilege to work under Kirsten.
The South Africa-born Pietersen will have Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy for company at the Daredevils, who have had a complete overhaul under Kirsten.
AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and David Miller were all retained by their respective franchises from last season, which means they did not form part of the player auction in January.
The big scoop at that auction, from a South African perspective, was Test-retiree Jacques Kallis, who was snapped up for R10-million by the Kolkata Knight Riders.
The Morkel brothers also secured lucrative contracts, Morné joining Kallis in Kolkata for almost R5-million, while all-rounder Albie was signed by the Royal Challengers Bangalore for R4,4-million, where he will join a potentially explosive batting line-up that also includes Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and De Villiers.
T20 international captain Faf du Plessis was secured by the Chennai Super Kings for R9-million, but South Africans didn’t enjoy quite as much attention at the auction as in previous years, perhaps another sign of South Africa’s standing in the shortest format.
But the tournament itself seems to be gathering more and more momentum, as the insatiable appetite for hit-and-giggle cricket in India shows little sign of wavering, despite the controversies off the field.
Not that the players – or their agents – are complaining. - Sunday Independent