South Africa’s IPL cricket success

26 May 2009

What a turnaround the 2009 DLF Indian Premier League brought from the first year of the 20-overs-a-side cricket extravaganza. The final featured the two teams that propped up the table in 2008, and the tournament flourished – not in India but in South Africa!

Incredibly, the Deccan Chargers, the “cellar dwellers” last year, and a team that qualified for the semi-finals of this year’s competition with a record of sevens wins and seven losses only, walked away with the honours after holding off the Royal Challengers Bangalore to win the final by six runs at a packed Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Sunday.

The story of the 2009 IPL was, however, not about the Chargers “worst-to-first” season. It was about the incredible success of an event that was moved to South Africa from India only three weeks before it was due to begin.

It was on the 25 March that South Africa was named host of the event after the Indian government said it couldn’t guarantee the safety of players because of the Indian national elections taking place at the same time as the IPL. On 3 March, the Sri Lankan national team had been attacked by terrorists in Pakistan, and safety was a huge concern for the organisers.

No hiccups

After an agreement was reached between Cricket South Africa and the IPL, matters moved into high gear. On 18 April the event got under way in Cape Town. It finished on 24 May in Johannesburg, and during the 59 matches played in that time nary a hiccup was experienced.

The IPL hit South Africa with a lot of fanfare, and fans responded by snatching up tickets for the games, but one was left to ponder whether or not this enthusiasm would last for the duration of the league. It did, and very impressively so.

Grounds were routinely sold out, and they heaved, buzzed, and roared to the glitz and glamour of the IPL and its massive Bollywood connections, with its teams featuring not only the cream of India’s talent, but the cream of the world’s cricketers, including some retired players who proved in no uncertain terms that they are far from spent forces.

Retired stars

Adam Gilchrist, one of those retired players, captained the champions, the Deccan Chargers. He was his team’s leading run maker by some distance.

Matthew Hayden, who couldn’t buy a run when South Africa toured Down Under at the end of 2008 and subsequently retired, was the leading run getter in the entire IPL. The Chennai Super Kings’ star totalled 572 runs, which was 77 more than the second-placed Gilchrist, and scored his runs at the remarkable Twenty20 average of 52. His strike rate of 144.81 was quite something too.

There were some head-scratching decisions too. Considering the success of his contemporaries, why wasn’t one of the greatest bowlers in history, Glenn McGrath, used by the Delhi Daredevils? Not even in one game!

Then there were the Kolkata Knight Riders, a star-studded outfit that couldn’t put things together on the field. The team of Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan propped up the table.

No Langeveldt?

They had in their ranks Charl Langeveldt, the best bowler during South Africa’s most recent domestic Standard Bank Pro 20 season. He managed to get permission from his county team Derbyshire to play in the IPL, but spent almost the entire time sitting on the bench.

When Langeveldt was finally given a run in the Knight Riders’ final match against the Rajasthan Royals, he helped them to victory with a superb return of 3 for 15 in four overs. What might have been, one was left thinking.

The IPL offered fans opportunities that they wouldn’t have got anywhere else, like the chance to watch players like the retired Matthew Hayden take on Harbhajan Singh, a player who Hayden had previously called “an obnoxious weed” after the Indian off-spinner had been suspended for racial abuse against Andrew Symonds in early 2008.

Most expensive player

The second season of the IPL also saw Kevin Pietersen make his bow as the most expensive player after he cost the Bangalore Royal Challengers US$1.55-million. The former England captain played only part of the programme, not very successfully, before returning home for international duty.

Interestingly, once Pietersen had departed the Royal Challengers’ fortunes sky-rocketed. Coach Ray Jennings put it down to two reasons. He said Pietersen didn’t really know the players in the team, and Anil Kumble, when he took over as skipper, executed tactics well.

Kumble, another of the retired men, was outstanding for Bangalore. Despite his team losing in the final, he was named man of the match after snapping up 4 for 16 in his four overs. He began the IPL by bowling the Royal Challengers to victory over the defending champion Rajasthan Royals.

Best figures

In that game, the second of the IPL, Kumble knocked over 5 for 5 but – and who knows what the man of the match adjudicator was drinking, sorry thinking – Kumble was not named man of the match. That award went to Rahul Dravid for his 66 off 48 balls, as only four other men reached double figures, three of them making 11. Nonetheless, Kumble’s haul remained the best of the entire tournament.

For a young man like JP Duminy, whose international break came only at the end of 2008 when Ashwell Prince was injured during South Africa’s tour of Australia, the IPL must have, at times, seemed surreal. The Mumbai Indians forked out $950 000 for him, but Duminy repaid them by scoring five 50s – tied with Hayden for the most half-centuries – as he finished as the sixth-highest run scorer.

The leading South African run getter was AB de Villiers, whose growth as a world-class player was evident for all to see. He was third behind Hayden and Gilchrist with 465 runs at an average of 51.66. He was also one of only two players to score a century, 105 not out off 54 deliveries for the Delhi Daredevils against the Chennai Super Kings.

Not finished yet

Herschelle Gibbs showed that he still has a lot to offer by finishing as the seventh-highest run scorer, while Jacques Kallis, whose proficiency as a Twenty20 cricketer had previously been questioned and resulted in him being left out of South Africa World T20 squad in 2008, finished 11th on the list. This time around he has been selected for the Proteas for the 2009 tournament.

Reflecting on the IPL, Cricket South Africa CEO Gerald Majola said: “CSA’s main reason for taking on the challenge of hosting the IPL was to assist an ICC member country who had problems hosting a major tournament for reasons beyond its control.

“We knew that CSA had the climate, facilities, know-how and a cricket-loving public to back up the successful hosting of this second IPL tournament even at this short notice. To see it all come together with a full house at the Liberty Life Wanderers Stadium for the final was incredible.”

Confederations Cup and World Cup

Looking ahead, Majola said: “It also showed the world that South Africa was ready and able to do a great job in hosting Fifa’s two most important events: the 2009 Confederations Cup and the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

“The 2009 IPL has re-confirmed South Africa as a wonderful host to major sporting events, and a home for the world’s rainbow cultures,” Majola said. “It has also brought in unexpected and very welcome funds for the further development of South African cricket, mainly in previously disadvantaged communities.

“Internationally, it has changed the landscape of world cricket. Properly handled, the IPL concept will bring about the real globalization of the sport for the first time. This should enable the longer forms of cricket to prosper, but only if they are made to be publicly attractive in the 21st century and beyond.”

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