IPL 2014 May 1, 2014

Grass banks, shiny pitches and that man Maxwell

Disjointed thoughts on the UAE leg of the IPL, which had big crowds and some pretty good Twenty20 cricket
12

The weather

April 18, Chennai Super Kings versus Kings XI Punjab. There is a place and a time for watching cricket from grass banks. Abu Dhabi in April, at 2.30 in the afternoon, didn't seem like it. The approach to the stadium, over a vast expanse of sand with dust blowing all over the place, added to the feeling of foreboding that had led, earlier, to the procurement of a tube of SPF 80 sunscreen.

And yet, the front slope of the West Mound stand was packed with spectators. Down the back slope, meanwhile, rolled a group of children attending their first ever cricket match. The sun proved a largely benign presence, easily kept at arm's length by means of an umbrella or a wide-brimmed hat. It was hot, yes, but only as hot as a normal summer day.

This was the case right through the UAE leg of the tournament, in all three venues. This wouldn't have been a surprise for anyone who had done some rudimentary research. The UAE is at its hottest in July and August, and is cooler than the warmer parts of India in April and May. In April, the average maximum temperature in Abu Dhabi is 33°C. The corresponding figure in Delhi is 36°C.

By India, for India

Even if the weather wasn't outrageously sapping, scheduling afternoon matches at 2.30pm seemed a touch excessive. The match timings - evening games began at 6.30pm local time - were clearly aimed at the Indian TV audience, long accustomed to their 4.00pm and 8.00pm starts.

The Indian TV audience is used to this sort of thing, of course. During the World T20 in 2010, they got to tune in at 7.00pm to watch West Indies take on India in Bridgetown, where the local time, for the local fans, was 9.30am. An early morning start, for a format of the game designed to be played and watched under lights.

Timings aside, Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi may well have been Bangalore, Mohali and Mumbai, considering the wall-to-wall IPL branding plastered all over the stadiums. Or the Bollywood music that blared incessantly from the DJ's turntables. Or the flyers that remained strewn around the stands after the spectators had left, selling electronic appliances at duty-free rates to fans who had flown in from India.

The fans

Most fans at the stadiums, though, belonged to the massive Indian diaspora that lives in the UAE, and the tournament afforded them a chance to watch India's big names in the flesh for the first time since 2006, when India played two ODIs against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, and for the first time in a sustained manner since 2000, when India last played an ODI tournament in Sharjah.

The stadiums, as a result, were uniformly packed to capacity, unlike the ones in South Africa that had hosted the 2009 edition of the tournament. This in itself should earn the UAE extra points in favour of hosting future editions of the IPL or the Champions League or even international cricket involving India.

You do wonder, though, why the BCCI waited until the general elections were almost upon India before they went in search of a host. Everyone in India knows that elections happen once every five years; the BCCI, moreover, had the precedent of 2009 to go by.

Finalising the venue earlier might have also helped franchises draw up schedules for their players to make public appearances outside matches, like they do in India. As it was, the average fan in the UAE didn't even get to watch the opening ceremony, an invitees-only event.

The pitches

They got to watch some pretty good cricket, though, even if it wasn't of the edge-of-the-seat kind for most part. There were only two 200-plus totals in 20 matches, both of which came in the same game, and 16 scores under 140. It was good to see bowlers influence matches, though, and some of the young fast bowlers from India enjoyed themselves.

Varun Aaron showed he could be accurate as well as quick, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma and Ishwar Pandey moved it around, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar was as much of a threat in the death as he was in his natural habitat of the early overs. All of them conceded between 5.56 and 6.69 runs per over.

This had a lot to do with the pitches in the tournament. The pitches in Sharjah had a glossy sheen to them, and batsmen found the ball coming on beautifully in the initial part of the tournament. Abu Dhabi helped both spin and seam, with a bit of bounce and green patches that came alive under lights. Dubai was on the slow side, and seamers who took the pace off the ball proved quite difficult to hit.

Marauding Maxwell

Brendon McCullum is the third-highest run-getter in the tournament, with 193 runs in 151 balls. Glenn Maxwell has faced two balls less than McCullum and scored 107 runs more. Maxwell's 43-ball 95 against Super Kings seemed like a season-topper. He promptly smashed 89 off 45 in his very next innings, against Rajasthan Royals, and followed that up with a 43-ball 95, this time against Hyderabad Sunrisers.

Over the course of those three innings, Maxwell showed he could play the most gorgeous orthodox drives, the most inventive laps and reverse-sweeps, and the most primitive clubs over the leg side, all the while looking a little bored, as if he was asking the bowlers "is that all you've got?"

Spectators at the three venues exercised their lungs frequently and vociferously over the two weeks that the IPL pitched camp in the UAE. Their noisiest cheers, though, didn't greet MS Dhoni or Virat Kohli. They came instead in Sharjah, during the 15th over of Kings XI Punjab's innings against Sunrisers. Maxwell had almost walked off the ground, after slogging Darren Sammy straight into deep midwicket's hands, before the third umpire confirmed Sammy had overstepped. The umpire signalled no-ball. Maxwell returned to the crease. Sharjah roared its approval.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Baundele on May 2, 2014, 16:11 GMT

    Maxwell is the Chris Gayle of this year's IPL.

  • on May 2, 2014, 14:56 GMT

    how about the cheer when Gautam got his first IPL 7 run, that was huge too...

  • I_Perfectionist on May 2, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    @Taun: How many Srilankan players won MOM in UAE this year?

  • on May 2, 2014, 4:22 GMT

    ok we will see next year in pakistan crick league tat who can pull more crowds btw even pakistan's domestic 20 20 tournaments are always houseful even ppl stand outside for long times so plz dnt talk if y'all dnt kno any thing

  • kris_mg on May 2, 2014, 3:29 GMT

    I would call it a quick summary, but as an avid Cricinfo fan I am a bit disappointed with this. I was expecting (actually waiting for) something more deeper and comprehensive, with not just the quick general emphasis like Fans, Pitches et al., but a more wider review on how each Team has performed / under-underperformed, and how much much effect the UAE leg will have on chances of eventually making the knockouts. Or what strengths / weaknesses were exposed in each of the teams in the conditions in UAE and how relevant those will be back in India. We all know the general trends, especially the 2 or 3 teams each person will be watching closer, but this is a fine point to have an overall look at each of the eight teams from Cricinfo. It would be an amazing read and I hope something like that is coming!

  • Aashiyer on May 1, 2014, 18:43 GMT

    Yuvi is doing very well. I think he is the top run getter for RCB this ipl

  • funkyrith on May 1, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    @Tuan:Do not compare apple with orange. Ranji is not 20-20 tournament. I agree IPL is a success for the foreign players, as much as its Indian core. Stars always pull crowd, and when each team has 2-3 foreign stars, they have 2-3 Indian stars too. I went to see matches just because of Dravid and Sachin, not for Ponting or Watson.

  • on May 1, 2014, 16:56 GMT

    @vish2020...true,we Sri lankans may not have Billion people to fill stadiums,Yet we have the best talent in the region amongst 18 to 20 million Population,where you franchisers may want to hire their services for a couple of Million dollars.What pulls the crowd for IPL is the presence of foreign talent.Look at the crowd at domestic Ranji Trophy,its too disappointing with empty stadiums.

  • Nampally on May 1, 2014, 16:18 GMT

    A fine summary of the Pitches, venues, weather & spectators, for those not present, Mr. Krishnaswamy. I still feel the pitches & general conditions in India will be big factor in turning the tables upside down even for the best performers like Maxwell & McCullum. I wonder whether they can repeat their batting totals of 300 & 193 in the next 5 matches. I also wonder whether Punjab can reproduce their 5-0 record. Maxwell also enjoyed a charmed life in each of his 3 big innings with > one "Life" due to dropped catches. He had 2 catches floored apart from Sammy's No ball- one at 18 by Warner- vs, SRH. The Indian seamers Pandey, Sharmas -Sandeep & Mohit + Aaron in addition to Kumar all had good shows. Aaron is a fast bowler of some talent who was plagued by injuries. Sandeep Sharma is a talented swing bowler in the mould of Kumar whilst Pandey is a good wicket taker. All 3 deserve a chance for England Tour. I think in India results may be different & few Teams will beat Punjab.Let us See!

  • vish2020 on May 1, 2014, 14:57 GMT

    No country fills stadiums like India. Jealous as u want from Sri Lanka, pak, bangla etc but if it wasn't for India your teams will exist only in small grounds with no money

  • Baundele on May 2, 2014, 16:11 GMT

    Maxwell is the Chris Gayle of this year's IPL.

  • on May 2, 2014, 14:56 GMT

    how about the cheer when Gautam got his first IPL 7 run, that was huge too...

  • I_Perfectionist on May 2, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    @Taun: How many Srilankan players won MOM in UAE this year?

  • on May 2, 2014, 4:22 GMT

    ok we will see next year in pakistan crick league tat who can pull more crowds btw even pakistan's domestic 20 20 tournaments are always houseful even ppl stand outside for long times so plz dnt talk if y'all dnt kno any thing

  • kris_mg on May 2, 2014, 3:29 GMT

    I would call it a quick summary, but as an avid Cricinfo fan I am a bit disappointed with this. I was expecting (actually waiting for) something more deeper and comprehensive, with not just the quick general emphasis like Fans, Pitches et al., but a more wider review on how each Team has performed / under-underperformed, and how much much effect the UAE leg will have on chances of eventually making the knockouts. Or what strengths / weaknesses were exposed in each of the teams in the conditions in UAE and how relevant those will be back in India. We all know the general trends, especially the 2 or 3 teams each person will be watching closer, but this is a fine point to have an overall look at each of the eight teams from Cricinfo. It would be an amazing read and I hope something like that is coming!

  • Aashiyer on May 1, 2014, 18:43 GMT

    Yuvi is doing very well. I think he is the top run getter for RCB this ipl

  • funkyrith on May 1, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    @Tuan:Do not compare apple with orange. Ranji is not 20-20 tournament. I agree IPL is a success for the foreign players, as much as its Indian core. Stars always pull crowd, and when each team has 2-3 foreign stars, they have 2-3 Indian stars too. I went to see matches just because of Dravid and Sachin, not for Ponting or Watson.

  • on May 1, 2014, 16:56 GMT

    @vish2020...true,we Sri lankans may not have Billion people to fill stadiums,Yet we have the best talent in the region amongst 18 to 20 million Population,where you franchisers may want to hire their services for a couple of Million dollars.What pulls the crowd for IPL is the presence of foreign talent.Look at the crowd at domestic Ranji Trophy,its too disappointing with empty stadiums.

  • Nampally on May 1, 2014, 16:18 GMT

    A fine summary of the Pitches, venues, weather & spectators, for those not present, Mr. Krishnaswamy. I still feel the pitches & general conditions in India will be big factor in turning the tables upside down even for the best performers like Maxwell & McCullum. I wonder whether they can repeat their batting totals of 300 & 193 in the next 5 matches. I also wonder whether Punjab can reproduce their 5-0 record. Maxwell also enjoyed a charmed life in each of his 3 big innings with > one "Life" due to dropped catches. He had 2 catches floored apart from Sammy's No ball- one at 18 by Warner- vs, SRH. The Indian seamers Pandey, Sharmas -Sandeep & Mohit + Aaron in addition to Kumar all had good shows. Aaron is a fast bowler of some talent who was plagued by injuries. Sandeep Sharma is a talented swing bowler in the mould of Kumar whilst Pandey is a good wicket taker. All 3 deserve a chance for England Tour. I think in India results may be different & few Teams will beat Punjab.Let us See!

  • vish2020 on May 1, 2014, 14:57 GMT

    No country fills stadiums like India. Jealous as u want from Sri Lanka, pak, bangla etc but if it wasn't for India your teams will exist only in small grounds with no money

  • shrastogi on May 1, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    IPL was well organised in UAE though it created lesser noise in India. The feature of this leg was that batters who were released by their last employers and went to newer teams shown like anything eg Maxwell,Dwayne Smith,Brendon McCullum,JP Duminy. Except for Mumbai every team has something. Mumbai is struggling not because Corey Anderson , picked ahead of Maxwell, struggled. Its because their Indian players are struggling. They have strange team where there are 4 wicketkeepers but not enough Indian batsmen. They face an uphill task to qualify but in familiar Indian condition they should definitely win a few matches. Maxwell was impressive but he needs to review and modify his strategy over a few matches otherwise he would be a glorified Shahid Afridi as a batsmen. Indian pacers have done well though spinners not as well. Also we are yet to see an Indian batsman amongst top. These things would change in India.

  • JustIPL on May 1, 2014, 14:14 GMT

    Every IPL starts with finding answers to queries faced india cricket specially finding fast bowlers but most of them have not been answered. Like in the past this IPL is also dependent on foreign players to shine and they have done it consistently in this IPL as well. Yuvi continued his impact from the Worldcup final with similar performances in this IPL. On the other hand indian players are still not able to forget drubbing in two back to back international tournaments and it is showing up on their morale. Mishra got shredded by pollard and generally been ineffective. What to do with Sehwag and gambhir, Rohit and dhawan etc. Tambe rubs salt in the wounds by performing at the age of 40+ and selectors cant include him into indian team. BCCI were smart enough to make money through UAE leg where lot of indian expacts reside. IPL is different from worldcup in the fact that there are many more knockout games while in IPL lot of games which becomes boring at times unless you support a team.

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  • JustIPL on May 1, 2014, 14:14 GMT

    Every IPL starts with finding answers to queries faced india cricket specially finding fast bowlers but most of them have not been answered. Like in the past this IPL is also dependent on foreign players to shine and they have done it consistently in this IPL as well. Yuvi continued his impact from the Worldcup final with similar performances in this IPL. On the other hand indian players are still not able to forget drubbing in two back to back international tournaments and it is showing up on their morale. Mishra got shredded by pollard and generally been ineffective. What to do with Sehwag and gambhir, Rohit and dhawan etc. Tambe rubs salt in the wounds by performing at the age of 40+ and selectors cant include him into indian team. BCCI were smart enough to make money through UAE leg where lot of indian expacts reside. IPL is different from worldcup in the fact that there are many more knockout games while in IPL lot of games which becomes boring at times unless you support a team.

  • shrastogi on May 1, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    IPL was well organised in UAE though it created lesser noise in India. The feature of this leg was that batters who were released by their last employers and went to newer teams shown like anything eg Maxwell,Dwayne Smith,Brendon McCullum,JP Duminy. Except for Mumbai every team has something. Mumbai is struggling not because Corey Anderson , picked ahead of Maxwell, struggled. Its because their Indian players are struggling. They have strange team where there are 4 wicketkeepers but not enough Indian batsmen. They face an uphill task to qualify but in familiar Indian condition they should definitely win a few matches. Maxwell was impressive but he needs to review and modify his strategy over a few matches otherwise he would be a glorified Shahid Afridi as a batsmen. Indian pacers have done well though spinners not as well. Also we are yet to see an Indian batsman amongst top. These things would change in India.

  • vish2020 on May 1, 2014, 14:57 GMT

    No country fills stadiums like India. Jealous as u want from Sri Lanka, pak, bangla etc but if it wasn't for India your teams will exist only in small grounds with no money

  • Nampally on May 1, 2014, 16:18 GMT

    A fine summary of the Pitches, venues, weather & spectators, for those not present, Mr. Krishnaswamy. I still feel the pitches & general conditions in India will be big factor in turning the tables upside down even for the best performers like Maxwell & McCullum. I wonder whether they can repeat their batting totals of 300 & 193 in the next 5 matches. I also wonder whether Punjab can reproduce their 5-0 record. Maxwell also enjoyed a charmed life in each of his 3 big innings with > one "Life" due to dropped catches. He had 2 catches floored apart from Sammy's No ball- one at 18 by Warner- vs, SRH. The Indian seamers Pandey, Sharmas -Sandeep & Mohit + Aaron in addition to Kumar all had good shows. Aaron is a fast bowler of some talent who was plagued by injuries. Sandeep Sharma is a talented swing bowler in the mould of Kumar whilst Pandey is a good wicket taker. All 3 deserve a chance for England Tour. I think in India results may be different & few Teams will beat Punjab.Let us See!

  • on May 1, 2014, 16:56 GMT

    @vish2020...true,we Sri lankans may not have Billion people to fill stadiums,Yet we have the best talent in the region amongst 18 to 20 million Population,where you franchisers may want to hire their services for a couple of Million dollars.What pulls the crowd for IPL is the presence of foreign talent.Look at the crowd at domestic Ranji Trophy,its too disappointing with empty stadiums.

  • funkyrith on May 1, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    @Tuan:Do not compare apple with orange. Ranji is not 20-20 tournament. I agree IPL is a success for the foreign players, as much as its Indian core. Stars always pull crowd, and when each team has 2-3 foreign stars, they have 2-3 Indian stars too. I went to see matches just because of Dravid and Sachin, not for Ponting or Watson.

  • Aashiyer on May 1, 2014, 18:43 GMT

    Yuvi is doing very well. I think he is the top run getter for RCB this ipl

  • kris_mg on May 2, 2014, 3:29 GMT

    I would call it a quick summary, but as an avid Cricinfo fan I am a bit disappointed with this. I was expecting (actually waiting for) something more deeper and comprehensive, with not just the quick general emphasis like Fans, Pitches et al., but a more wider review on how each Team has performed / under-underperformed, and how much much effect the UAE leg will have on chances of eventually making the knockouts. Or what strengths / weaknesses were exposed in each of the teams in the conditions in UAE and how relevant those will be back in India. We all know the general trends, especially the 2 or 3 teams each person will be watching closer, but this is a fine point to have an overall look at each of the eight teams from Cricinfo. It would be an amazing read and I hope something like that is coming!

  • on May 2, 2014, 4:22 GMT

    ok we will see next year in pakistan crick league tat who can pull more crowds btw even pakistan's domestic 20 20 tournaments are always houseful even ppl stand outside for long times so plz dnt talk if y'all dnt kno any thing

  • I_Perfectionist on May 2, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    @Taun: How many Srilankan players won MOM in UAE this year?