IPL: No country for the old and overweight
What if the real stars of the game from an era bygone played the IPL today? Would they have made it any less entertaining?
Come Saturday and the world's richest and the most extravagant annual cricket carnival will start being dished out once again to millions of hungry cricket viewers around the Indian sub-continent. It will happen, not for the first time, right from our neck of the woods here. The stadia in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah will dazzle again, sounds of music will punctuate the air in between overs and innings as eight franchises go head to head with hundred-odd cricketers in tow. Some true world-beaters, some accomplished men, some really famous, some remotely known but a majority otherwise unremarkable, if not ordinary. And had it not been for the sudden arrival of this cash fest 13 years ago, you wonder if the life for most of them outside of national team colours would have meant anything more than languishing in the pits of mediocrity. Of course, not in today's world! They may or may not have pulled their country out of despair on a cracking fourth day's wicket or bowled to victory defending a modest total in a one-day final but they have all pulled on a cash-dyed IPL jersey to be a star of some reckoning, lean, mean and fit. For them, both luck and lucre have come and sat on their heads, too much and too soon thanks to the tournament's outrageous pay scale. The pay may still be a pittance compared to an even more outrageously paid top premier league players but it is just enough to change the lives and fortunes of several ordinary cricketers and those around them. And for most of them, just being fit enough to play a forty over game holds the key.
It's been a decade since I have watched any game of cricket but it's not too difficult to fathom that cricket and those who play the game today, like in any other sport, have become sharper, faster, and even more furious. They may or may not be as gifted or as charismatic as their predecessors, and that is up for debate, but they are certainly fitter, leaner and meaner to suit the tournament's rigours and demands. So much so that you wonder what if the real stars of the game from an era bygone played the IPL today? Would they have made it any less entertaining?
As someone, who's consistently been on the wrong side of the nineties on the weighing scale, I draw succour from stories of fat, obese or overweight men running amok in the world of sports. Not many will know Saheed Adebayo Akinfenwa. He is tall, big and at around 100 kilos, he is just a few odd kilos heavier than me and like me, looks the guy who ate all the pies. But earlier this summer he fired his team Wycombe into the Championship, the second tier of English club competition, with 10 goals, the most in the season for his club. Today he is more of a toast of Buckinghamshire than a social misfit in a team photo. What if the IPL had players of such gait and build? Who would you pick?
How about the stocky David Boon from Australia opening your innings with his big-sized Ashes rival Graham Gooch followed by his burly England teammate Mike Gatting in at one down. Four could then belong to Inzamam-ul-Haq who made up for his lack of running between the wickets with big shots and five to 'Mad Max' Aravinda De Silva, who could finish an innings like no other. The captain of this team could well be Arjuna Ranatunga, who belied his physical appearance and Sri Lanka's underdogs status to lift the World Cup in 1996. He could come in at six before making way for wicket keeper Rod Marsh, not obese by any standards but perhaps the plumpest keepers of all time and arguably one of the best too, at number seven. Solid with the bat and master spinner, Shane Warne could come in next at eight followed by his Aussie teammate Merv Hughes, the bowler with handlebar moustache as famous as his big giant frame, in at nine. 'Mountain Man' Rakheem Cornwall, who stands 6'5" tall and weighs 140 kilos is the only player from the current generation at number 10 and completing the line-up could be England's Derek Pringle who makes the cut for his paunch as the second pacer. I would love to watch a game of IPL featuring such characters of the game, would you? -email@example.com