I’m giving the couch a break. It needs one. It has provided sterling service over the last seven weeks but it is time to remove my posterior, poke my head outside the front door and reacquaint myself with natural daylight and fresh air.
The Indian Premier League is dangerous. It can become seriously addictive and once you’re hooked it’s tough to quit. Leaving the couch — other than for a strategic time out — becomes a daily battle. Everyday chores are delayed or ignored, and lame excuses are offered in the hope of placating loved ones.
The fifth edition of IPL was tortuous. The plot contained more twists and turns than a theme park rollercoaster. Opting to ignore the drama merely led to a feeling of negligence, an urge to catch up and a resolution that this would not happen again.
It was compelling stuff from beginning to end. Before a ball was bowled the owners of the Pune Warriors kicked up a stink over sponsorship and threatened not to take part at all. In the event, the franchise would hardly have been missed. Its expensively assembled squad failed to launch and limped in at the bottom of the standings.
The best batsman in Twenty20 cricket also missed out. Chris Gayle is a danger to bowlers and spectators alike. He sent a little girl to hospital with a broken nose after clobbering one of his mighty sixes into the crowd. She forgave him when he visited her but probably not the Bangalore franchise. Not even Gayle’s monumental efforts were enough to hoist the Royal Challengers into the playoffs.
Mumbai got there but the search for success goes on. For a team so deep in talent, it was another campaign which promised much but ultimately fell flat. History will remember 2012 as the year in which Sachin Tendulkar finally completed a lifetime’s work by reaching 100 international centuries, not the one in which he helped his hometown Indians to the IPL title.
Not for the first time Mumbai’s dream was ended by Chennai. The defending champions lost home and away to the Indians during the regular season but after CSK had scraped into the playoffs they found another gear. Mumbai were eliminated in clinical fashion as the Super Kings homed in on a third straight championship.
They were not alone in their ambition. Delhi was the most improved team of 2012 but blew it in the playoffs. The Daredevils might have gone all the way had Kevin Pietersen been available for the whole season but their over reliance on Virender Sehwag and, to a lesser extent, Mahela Jayawardene was exposed when it mattered most.
Kolkata didn’t make the same mistake. The Knight Riders played second fiddle all season but got on with their work in a relatively quiet but efficient manner. Road wins over Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai should have served notice this was a well organized team capable of beating any team on its day.
Gautam Gambhir was the most reliable opener in the league, Jacques Kallis reminded us why he is still probably the best all-rounder in world cricket and young West Indian spinner Sunil Narine was the find of the season.
The road finally led back to Chennai. Kolkata was again cast in the role of underdog, playing its first ever IPL final at the home of CSK who had been there and done that twice before. Narine was wayward, Kallis was also expensive and Gambhir misfired as the Kings seized control.
The season’s final twist was entirely appropriate. An underdog became a hero as journeyman Manvinder Bisla blasted Kolkata into contention. But for injury to a teammate Bisla wouldn’t have even played. Sometimes, fate just finds a way.
So that’s that for another year. The grandstands are empty, the cheerleaders have packed up and left, and those living close to the stadiums can finally have a quiet night in.
It is amazing how quickly the grass grows in seven weeks. I no longer require a lawnmower. Can anyone lend me a combine-harvester?