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Update: IPL 2017 - Fixtures & News updates
Injury paves way for opportunity as IPL enters landmark year

[Image: prv_1491375558.jpeg]

The biggest brand in world cricket, and I choose 'world' carefully, begins amidst expectation and a touch of turmoil. India's cricket fan, so openly enamoured by T20 cricket, hasn't had much of it in recent times but now he (and increasingly, happily, she) has his annual festival back. It is both a stage and a laboratory, the IPL, and you will see performances and experiments over the next eight weeks.

So much of the talk has been about who is missing this year and that is an issue the IPL must address as soon as this tournament is over. But inevitably, absence presents opportunity and, whether you like the IPL or not, it has offered opportunity in plenty. And those that have got it this year, in varying degrees of importance, must grab it.

Look at RCB! When I did the preview of the tournament, I had said it was the best top-six in the tournament. Three of those are missing including, at least initially, the most extraordinary double act from last year, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. And with no Lokesh Rahul either, the top order looks bare but fertile for someone like Mandeep Singh who would have been resigned to an occasional appearance. Now, he might well open the innings and draw attention towards himself.

Kedar Jadhav would have had the finisher's role, the fifteen-ball marauder. Sometimes, with that batting order, quite often actually, he would have had less. Now suddenly he could be one of the key batsmen, charged with playing a bigger role. And he could revel in the responsibility. It is a bit like a part player getting a lead role.

So too, at Delhi Daredevils, where a wonderfully balanced and well-constructed side is being buffeted by injury tremors. Without Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy, two seriously good T20 cricketers, there is a hole in the top order and while Rishabh Pant would always have got a starring role, he now has the spotlight. As a 20-year-old, it will test him but if he is made of sterner stuff, he will welcome the opportunity of playing the role that de Kock would have. And Sanju Samson, whose wonderfully promising career has hit the pause button, now gets another opportunity since his team doesn't have enough quality Indian batting replacements. Samson has it all, he just needs the clouds to clear and maybe one person's injury problem could be his chance.

A couple of years ago, I thought Manan Vohra would be challenging for higher honours. Indeed, King's XI had retained him in an extraordinary show of faith. To be honest, if Murali Vijay was around, he would have struggled to get a regular spot. Now, under the tutelage of a free spirit in Sehwag, he might just find the environment and the opportunity he might have thought had passed him by.

There is another crop of players waiting for their turn on the stage. They have a lot of promise and wonderful stories behind them and this is what the IPL does. It gives you opportunity but it also changes your life financially. Watch out for players like Basil Thampi and Natarajan, among many others. I don't know if they will make it, they don't have a huge track record, but this is the blockbuster season and even a cameo gets noticed.

The IPL comes this year on the back of an extraordinary home season of Test cricket, one that it is safe to say, Indian cricket will never have again. Players are changing from white to coloured, from survival to attack, from the pride of playing for India to playing against erstwhile team-mates, from being at one ground for a week to being on three others in the same time. It is not an easy transition to make, to shake off the mental fatigue and get ready to recalibrate thoughts.

Much water will flow under the bridge before the next IPL. We must savour this one.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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