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The Indian Premier, Popular, Prestigious, Pulsating League (IPL) will once again capture the imagination of cricket lovers and fans amid the second galloping surge of the Covid-19 virus that has brought about lockdown, curfew, and severe restrictions in India. Cricketainment will capture eyeballs like never before since it will be one of the only few things to look forward to in the evenings for people locked up in their homes.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has an enormous responsibility to ensure that the bio-secure bubble created for the safety of all those involved with the IPL doesn’t get breached. The IPL is the main vein on which the finances of the BCCI depend and its success keeps Indian cricket alive.

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For cricketers, IPL is a job that they are fortunate enough to have in current circumstances. The pandemic has had a massive impact on the lives of people across the globe and many have been laid off. Cricketers have been fortunate that their profession is still operating. The eight franchises in the last 14 years of the tournament have become far more savvy and experienced.

The selection of squads and their professionally-managed approach is a lesson on how to turn cricket into a successful business venture. The coaching and support staff from India and overseas have brought the best practice into play in every aspect of the game, especially in getting the most out of players. The IPL has become the arena to perform in for superstars, the platform to be heard for aspiring cricketers. It provides the best education and learning experience for young Indian cricketers.

The IPL has been a tremendous contributor to many of the success stories as well as for the performance of the Indian team. Mumbai Indians have been the most successful team and have been a shade above the rest once the form of Chennai Super Kings, their biggest challengers, waned.

The IPL has been a tremendous contributor. Flickr

However, the last IPL tournament held in 2020 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), eight months ago, showed that, on a given day, each side is as good or bad as the other. The differential factor is consistency and confidence, which only comes by winning regularly and having their combination in place.

The Mumbai Indians side scores in this area as they have a set unit in place which requires very few alterations or changes. With hard and skillful hitters in their fold starting with their captain Rohit Sharma, and Quinton de Kock followed by Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, the Pandya brothers and Kieron Pollard, they have a very lethal batting line-up that requires only two of them to flourish to make it difficult for any side.

The other seven sides are still not as settled with either their batting or bowling combinations. The 2021 IPL may prove to be different as many of the sides in the last edition did put a structure in place and therefore, the auction was of interest to ensure that the void or weakness was filled adequately. This too is not a simple formula as the combination goes topsy-turvy if a player does not perform to his potential or is out of form. Punjab Kings (earlier Kings XI Punjab) faced this issue with Glen Maxwell in the last edition of the game.

Royal Challengers Bangalore. Flickr

Royal Challengers Bangalore have now put their hope on Glenn Maxwell and with Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers by his side, the trio could be just the batting entertainment that would be fun to watch. The IPL 2021 is a very open affair, as with matches being played in designated centers, the home side’s advantage has been completely nullified. The playing surface at most Indian venues, even on the same patch of the wicket is different. The reading of the playing conditions and the toss will be vital in the selection of the ideal playing eleven.

Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) are another of the sides that seem to have identified their combination well. They missed the services of Bhuvneshwar Kumar but with him back in the saddle, along with Rashid Khan, SRH has two lethal front-line bowlers in their midst.

The two teams that one will watch carefully would be Delhi Capitals, last year’s runners-up, and Rajasthan Royals. Both these sides will be led by two young captains in Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson, respectively. The two are innovative and unpredictable. They have shown that they play their cricket instinctively rather than thoughtfully. The onus of captaincy and the responsibility to lead through a structured process would be completely different from the way they approach their game.

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Rishabh Pant is in top form has been the most destructive player for India recently. One wonders if captaincy will become a burden for him and so too for Samson, who has seen two astute leaders in Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith fail for Rajasthan Royals in the past editions of the tournament. The Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings are sides that will need to get their base eleven in place quickly in order to make an impact in the tournament. The likes of Chris Gayle (Punjab Kings) and Andrew Russell (Kolkata Knight Riders), if in form, can upset any team’s applecart.

This is precisely why the IPL is a cricket feast that has delicacies from Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Rajasthan, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Punjab. The Mumbai Batata Vadas are the favorites, and at this point, looking beyond them seems a tough call. They have a mission of becoming the first IPL side to win three back-to-back titles. Good luck to them! (IANS/SP)


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Indian wrestler Ravi Kumar (57kg) and Deepak Punia (86kg) enjoyed fruitful outings at the Tokyo Olympic Games as they secured semifinal berths in their respective weight categories at the Makuhari Messe on Wednesday.

On the opening day of the wrestling competition, Ravi Kumar defeated Bulgaria's Georgi Vangelov 14-4 on technical superiority to reach the last-four in the men's 57kg category, while compatriot Deepak Punia overcame China's Zushen Lin 6-3 on points to advance to the semifinals.

Ravi Kumar will take on Nurislam Sanayev of Kazakhstan in the last-four, while Punia will be up against David Morris Taylor of the USA.

Earlier, Ravi Kumar had won his opening-round bout by technical superiority against Colombia's Oscar Tigreros to secure a quarterfinal spot. Competing in the Round-of-16 bout against the Colombian wrestler, the 23-year-old Ravi Kumar, who is making his Olympic debut, showed no nerves as he dominated the bout to win by technical superiority (13-2).

Ravi Kumar landed attack after attack and went 13-2 up, winning the bout by technical superiority with minutes to spare. In wrestling, building up a 10-point lead over the opponent results in a victory by technical superiority.

India's 86kg freestyle wrestler Deepak Punia showed no signs of the niggle that had forced him to pull out of the Poland Open Ranking Series in Warsaw in June, as he defeated Nigeria's Ekerekeme Agiomor on technical superiority to secure a quarterfinal berth.

He got his Olympic campaign to a fine start as he was in control from the start of the bout and hardly ever allowed his Nigerian opponent any room to maneuver his moves, finally winning with a 12-1 on technical superiority.

Punia, who had also suffered an elbow injury just before the Games, was slow at the start but came into his own as the bout progressed, inflicting takedowns at regular intervals to earn points.

The Indian wrestler eased into a 4-1 lead at the break and extended his lead comfortably in the second period.

Punia, the silver medallist from the 2019 world wrestling championships, then set up a clash with China's Lin Zushen in the quarterfinals and defeated him 6-3.