IPL 2024: New Trends, Faces, Aspirants for the World Cup

Whom am I backing this IPL season? Am I a fan, of whom and why? I live in Delhi but is Delhi Capitals my team? Is the loyalty factor decided by the city we live in. Or, have we transcended city barriers to say we belong to all, any or none?

Who are my favourites? With this season well past the half way mark, I am still wondering, pondering over these questions. In fact, the intensity of the questioning grows with each match, as answers become even more difficult. In a moment of quiet reasoning, they become clearer, transparent motives to an open agenda, arguably motivated by my desire to watch the best quality of cricket, as best as can be displayed in the IPL format! So, what am I looking at? Who inspires me and whom am I backing?

Youth, passion and talent! The old order is giving way to new; support those who show grace in moving on. Be supportive of those who are embracing change. Admire and appreciate contemporary folklore. Where these young men have come from, with what aspirations and endurance, they are the new role models for the nation to follow. Devoid of political affiliations, no dynastic guarantees to power and position, most of them have had heroes they cherished but not mentors to get them positions. No patronage, so to say. In many instances, they are coming face to face with their heroes from their childhood, their idols whom they wanted to emulate. It is often a saga that unfolds on the cinema screen; do not be surprised in a few years, film makers are inspired to make films around their lives.

Or, is it simply the sons of the soil, who are realizing their dreams! Each day produces its own hero, or heroes. One day, it is a new face, a new name, never heard before, and shooting into dominance, the young guns going great! On another day, it is the likes of the indomitable Bumrah who comes through as unbeatable, on another he is beaten black and blue. Each day has its own upheavals, there is no attempt to be brazen and absolute, live by the day, for the day! In the ultimate analysis, all are equal though some more than the others. As matches get played, it keeps evolving akin to the more familiar game of snakes and ladders, one tricky ball can bowl you sending down below! Accept the uncertainty of it, its life being played out on a cricket field.

It would be useful to encapsule some of the noticeable trends. First and foremost, the trend is towards bigger scores. 200 is no longer a safe score. It has been a batter’s season, with 24 runs coming from a single over, often enough to make the last few slog overs a nightmare. In fact, the Powerplay has assumed newer proportions. If 40/50 was once the target, it is now 60/70, with one time striking an impossible 125. Pitches are more suited to batters, as placid flat surfaces. Spinners are trying to push pace, instead of turning the ball; pacers are being preferred as performers, which is also a new trend in our cricket. New talent has been spotted like never before, with numerous names who have never been capped and making it big time here this year.

Youth is getting prominence. And, with able and studies guidance from the stalwarts. Gaekwad is the new captain for CSK, with Dhoni shining bright, not still coming earlier in the batting order, very often seeing setting the field. Young Shubham Gill finding himself suddenly as the captain of GT is finding his feet, while old timer Rohit Sharma is watching younger Hardik Pandya calling the shots, though often coming for a lot of criticism. Sanju Samson is striking the bat well, keeping the wickets well, and providing successful leadership.

The wonder that is IPL! Players who have not been capped yet are winning matches. Some have emerged out of their shadows, other out of the blue.

  • Riyan Parag of the Rajasthan Royals: the young Assam youngster has finally made it this season. He hits the ball hard, has consistency and is a strong contender for the Orange Cap. He has a fixed spot in the batting order and he is proving a reliable bat to fall upon.
  • Mayank Yadav of Lucknow Super Giants, was till recently virtually unknown, but then he was found sending the fastest bullets off his sturdy shoulders. He is bowling consistently over the 150 kmph mark and has bowled the fastest ball of the tournament so far – a 156.7 kmph missile against RCB. An abdominal strain has put him on rest mode, a big pity, but we all await his return to action soon, and witness some more of the real fast stuff. He is tipped to be playing soon, and we await his return.
  • Abhishek Sharma, the Sunrisers Hyderabad prodigy, has been behind the team’s mind-boggling hitting in the IPL. Along with Travis Head, the duo has been on a record making opening in the IPL history, notching a striking 125 run start in the Powerplay.
  • Ashutosh Sharma, playing for Punjab Kings, has hit a 17 ball 31, a 15 ball 33 and a 16 ball 31, coming as a substitute, he has knocked the sails off the competition. No wonder with such batting skills, PK was able to chase the highest ever target in T20 and win, setting numerous records enroute.
  • Nitish Reddy, Sunrisers Hyderabad’s pace-bowling all-rounder is hard to come by. His most memorable 37-ball 64 rescued SRH from a difficult situation when they were 64/4 against Punjab in Mullanpur. He has bowled well, too, and made his mark both as a bat and as a bowler.
  • Shashank Singh, playing for Punjab Kings, comes from Chhattisgarh, bats in the middle order, has become a fearsome bat. At a time when Punjab had written themselves out of the game, his knock brought them back into the game.

Reputations are being made, or unmade. Pant has come into this IPL like a fairy tale hero. His 88 runs from just 31 balls brought DC to win against GT. That match was noteworthy for another reason: Mohit Sharma got knocked around for 73 runs, a record for any IPL match so far, being at the receiving end of both Pant and Axar Patel.

Onwards to the World Cup

For all the bravado, the sportsmanship (Virat Kohli is said to have gifted a new bat to Rinku Singh, following their recent loss to KKR), the daring, there are hopes and aspirations in the air – onward to the World Cup, scheduled immediately after the IPL finishes. And that is where they all want to go! Difficulties abound as there is too often more than one contender for every slot. Who will make the final cut? Some names are decided, for their experience and seniority, the need to have a steady playing eleven. Others are up there. It is a difficult choice for the selectors, considering also this is only a 11-member team. We will need pace, spin, batters and all-rounders, all are required to give duty later this summer in the ripe and untested grounds in the US and the West Indies from June 1 to 29, 2024.

So, who will win the title this year? Are there any favourites showing up. That remains tough, yet, to say. With three-fourth matches done, there is obviously less chance of those at the bottom of the table. In the remaining matches, you not only have to win yourself, but watch anxiously that those who can threaten your qualifying, lose their matches and to those who have no chance to come up, anyway. Only then, you are safe. There is also a gap of a few days between when this piece is written to when it is read – there would be more surprises in store, so no guessing in this column.

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