IPL Diary: Fans can’t mask their following

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The Indian Premier League is about glitz, glamour, top-level cricket and of course, the fans. After two years, the tournament has opened the doors for spectators, with all the venues — Wankhede Stadium, D. Y. Patil Stadium, Brabourne Stadium and Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune — witnessing 50 per cent attendance.

With the Maharashtra government removing all COVID-19 curbs and making it clear that wearing masks is no longer mandatory, the fans, too, seem to have taken things a bit easy. In packed stadiums, one could barely see spectators wearing masks. With the COVID-19 cases again rising in several states and the virus hitting the Delhi Capitals camp, there were apprehensions that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) could cut down on the fan attendance.

READ: Eden Gardens to host IPL 2022 playoffs on May 24, 25

However, after its recent apex council meeting, the board president, Sourav Ganguly, indicated there won’t be any changes to the plans for the time being, but the board will monitor the situation and abide by the guidelines set by the local administration.

The board plans to have 100 per cent attendance for the playoffs in Kolkata and Ahmedabad. “As of now, the plan is to have full crowd capacity for the playoffs,” Ganguly told Sportstar, adding, “obviously, things will also depend on the situation at that time.”

The board also plans to allow spectators for the Women’s T20 Challenge to be held in Lucknow between May 24 and 28. But with several states bringing back the mask rule following the rise in COVID-19 cases, will the BCCI also issue a fresh guideline for spectators? The board officials indicated they will follow the orders from the local administration and work accordingly.

Despite the virus scare in the Delhi Capitals camp, the BCCI has been able to continue with the tournament smoothly, so far.

Ground reality

When the BCCI decided to host the entire group leg of the IPL across four venues in Mumbai and Pune, there was talk of how the wickets would last for nearly two months. So far, the Mumbai Cricket Association and the Maharashtra Cricket Association have been able to prepare good sporting wickets, which have offered ‘something for everyone’.

The curators have put in the hard yards to ensure that the standard is maintained and there are no complaints about the surfaces. Under the watchful eyes of BCCI’s Taposh Chatterjee, Sunil Chauhan, Ramesh Mhamunkar and Prakash Adhav, the groundsmen have ensured that the matches go smoothly, despite the temperatures soaring. While there is still a month to go for the tournament to end, the BCCI officials and the state associations are confident that they will be able to sustain the quality of wickets.

The players and the coaches have also lauded the wickets prepared for the tournament. “The pitches are wonderful. Every game has something to offer for the seamers in the first six overs, the spinners have come into the game and we have seen Yuzi (Yuzvendra) Chahal getting the Purple Cap. The wickets are really good, and we have also seen batters scoring hundreds, with a strike rate of 200-plus,” Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling coach Dale Steyn told Sportstar.

READ: Shikhar Dhawan becomes second batter to score 6000 IPL runs, third Indian to reach 9000 T20 runs

“My hats off to the curators. I think they have done a great job and they have kept this competition really interesting. There has been something in the wicket for everyone and that’s something you want from a cricket pitch — you don’t want to be dominated by one facet, be it bat or ball. That’s been fantastic.”

That’s Mumbai for you!

Navi Mumbai is in limbo — torn between aping its south-western alter ego and retaining the languor of a town. The dilemma is evident through half-shuttered shop fronts at 10 in the night that grudgingly invite the late customer. Or the woman from Varanasi, who ploughs her auto-rickshaw through a Saturday afternoon crowd and cannot come to terms with her cosmopolitan reality, wondering why anyone would root for any team in the Indian Premier League. “Saare hi to India mein hain toh sabko support karna chahiye” (all of them are in India, so we should support all the teams), she exclaims, visibly baffled.

The on-field action too at the city’s D. Y. Patil Stadium was steeped in a similar quandary — of change and status quo and past and present. Over two days, the current Indian captain and his predecessor scored ducks while a third, their senior, wound the clocks and sealed a thrilling run-chase.

Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni had briefly snapped the city out of its reverie for different reasons. If not the whole city, then that guard outside the stadium for sure, who slouched and yawned in his chair until the adrenaline of denying a journalist entry for no apparent reason coursed through his veins.

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