Tournament review

The Indian Premier League, 2009-10

Nagraj Gollapudi


Chennai Super Kings pose with the IPL trophy, Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians, IPL final, DY Patil Stadium, April 25, 2010
For the third year in a row, the IPL had a different champion © Indian Premier League
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"I've played this game for 20-odd years. I've seen Sachin Tendulkar smash bowlers all around the park plenty of times, and I've seen some wonderful players, but this is probably the best innings I've ever seen." So said Shane Warne, the Rajasthan Royals captain, about Yusuf Pathan's 37-ball century against Mumbai Indians on the second day of the third IPL. He couldn't stop gushing, even though his side had lost by four runs.

It was a ridiculous statement; even Warne, the agent provocateur nonpareil, should have known he was not giving a pep talk in the dugout but making a declaration to the world. But hyperbole was one of the strongest bricks that the IPL's architect, Lalit Modi, used while constructing the league. Since day one, the likes of Warne have been strengthening that foundation.

Modi made it clear nothing would stop him turning the IPL into the first global Asian sporting brand. In the weeks before the third tournament, he stressed that his only goal was "reach, reach, reach". So he signed a one-year deal with ITV, which itself was returning to high-profile cricket broadcasting in the UK after a generation. Even considering the matches were shown on ITV4, a free-to-air channel, the broadcasts proved a raging success - a daily average of 400,000 viewers was ten times the figure achieved by Setanta, the pay-TV network which had bagged the original rights in 2008 but collapsed in 2009, leaving the IPL without a UK broadcaster for its second season.

Modi could only smile back at the enraged cricket purists in England. No matter what the die-hard fanatics thought about the quality, the numbers revealed that a lot more people were interested in watching the bling of the IPL compared to the staid cricket being played by England in Bangladesh (their tour overlapped with the first part of IPL3).

There was a further boost when Modi signed a two-year deal to stream the matches 15 minutes after they finished. They were screened on the Googleowned YouTube in all countries bar the United States. According to the New York Times, "about 50 million viewers tuned in to YouTube's IPL channel, 25% more than Google executives said they expected when they signed the deal in January. Approximately 40% of those viewers were outside India."

Several new sponsors were added, including one for the controversial afterhours party: here players would mingle with a select group of fans, who had to buy the invitations at premium prices - but Modi knew the idol-worshipping Indian fan would stop at nothing. More money was brought to the table when Modi found another 150 seconds of commercial space by throwing ads between deliveries mid-over. For the purist this was the final slap; already the screen space was partially obscured by vertical ads that cut the size of the live picture.

Still, nothing could deter the crowds thronging to the 12 venues. It was clear that Indian fans had dearly missed the IPL the previous year when it was displaced to South Africa. Now the show was back in town, they were willing to brave the heat, the moths, and even - in Bangalore towards the end of the tournament - a bomb scare. Two of what the police called "low-intensity" devices exploded around the Chinnaswamy Stadium - one at an entrance and another a few hundreds yards away - and the match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians was delayed. But the teams remained mostly unaffected, as their bosses personally assured the players, especially the overseas contingent, that it was safe to stay and play.

On the field, Sachin Tendulkar was the star. He had opted out of India's national 20-over side three years previously, saying Twenty20 was a format more appropriate for youngsters, but now he added another chapter to his everevolving career by playing some traditional cricket with a calm pulse to set up most of Mumbai Indians' 11 victories. Tendulkar finished as the tournament's highest run-getter with 618 at 48, including five half-centuries, and four match awards, not to forget the Man of the Series gong. His success and tactical nous drove his Mumbai team-mate Harbhajan Singh to suggest that his captain should reconsider his decision not to play Twenty20 for his country.

Tendulkar was touched by Harbhajan's sentiment, but remained happy to allow Mahendra Singh Dhoni to safeguard India's fortunes. Dhoni, captaining Chennai Super Kings, again proved a smart strategist, fielding three spinners in the crucial semi-final, and before that throwing the new ball to off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, whose alliance with the left-arm pace of Doug Bollinger put Chennai back on the tracks after a terrible start. Before Bollinger arrived in India to make his IPL debut, Chennai had lost five of their first eight matches, but once he was paired up with Ashwin - the most economical regular bowler in the tournament - they choked the flow of runs in the crucial powerplay overs, shifting the momentum towards Chennai, who finished with six wins in their final eight games.

But Chennai's, and the IPL's, most stunning picture materialised in Dharmasala, where Dhoni cracked a swashbuckling half-century, including 30 off the final two overs, to help his side become the only team to make the semifinals in each of the IPL's three seasons. It was a must-win game, so, after Dhoni hit the winning back-to-back sixes off Irfan Pathan, he screamed in ecstasy to release all his pent-up energy while he punched manically at his jaw. A week later he brought his slow bowlers on early again to stifle Mumbai's batsmen in the final, helping Chennai lift the IPL crown for the first time.

Although the standard of the fielding - and perhaps overall - was lower than in the first two IPLs, there were more hold-your-breath moments for the photo album. Justin Kemp's backward-running, twisting, one-handed clincher on the ropes to dismiss Virender Sehwag in Chennai's match against Delhi Daredevils was one of the best catches; in the same game Matthew Hayden walked out with the long-handled, short-bodied Mongoose bat and thrashed Delhi into submission, thereby giving the bat-maker priceless exposure. For Bangalore, Robin Uthappa's muscularity oozed through powerful hits over the shortened boundaries, but it was his switch-hits that lingered more in the memory, because of their effortlessness. Competing with Kemp for best catch of the tournament was David Hussey of Kolkata; it also came against Delhi. Paul Collingwood hit a flat-batted stroke which seemed to be sailing over long-on; Hussey took a couple of steps backwards, jumped up, was on the other side of the rope as he parried the ball back while still airborne, then sprang back on to the field to complete a stupendous effort.


Lalit Modi talks on the phone at the IPL awards, Mumbai, April 23, 2010
Off-field controversies marred the third edition of the IPL and led to Lalit Modi's downfall © Indian Premier League
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Of the other teams, the most disappointing were Delhi Daredevils, who on paper boasted one of the most fearsome batting line-ups. They started well, but subsequently looked out of sorts, and fragmented. Royal Challengers Bangalore, runners-up in IPL2, stayed in contention till the semis but, once Jacques Kallis grew tired after a long summer and failed to provide an opening burst, their middle order struggled.

The Deccan Chargers captain Adam Gilchrist fell away with the bat. After making 149 runs in his first four innings, his remaining 12 knocks produced only 140, with seven single-figure scores. The defending champions did still reach the last four - they had to win their last five league games to do it - with much credit going to Andrew Symonds and Rohit Sharma for their sensible batting. Rajasthan Royals, who lost match-winners such as Graeme Smith and Dimitri Mascarenhas to injury early on, again relied heavily on Warne, but at 40 even he couldn't overcome the inaugural champions' misfortunes on his own. He finished with 11 wickets at 27, and an economy-rate of 7.62. The New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond was bagged by Kolkata Knight Riders for the princely sum of $750,000, but didn't do much (nine wickets in eight games) for the IPL's most popular team, owned by Bollywood heart-throb Shah Rukh Khan and led by Bengal's favourite son, Sourav Ganguly.

But it was Kings XI Punjab, one of the more successful teams of the league's first two seasons, who plummeted to the bottom, mainly because of the failure of Yuvraj Singh (255 runs in 14 games with a highest score of 43), while Kumar Sangakkara, who replaced him as captain, had a subdued time too. Tom Moody, one of the best coaches around, said Yuvraj's slump was down to a wrist injury, but he knew his star player was below par in fitness, batting, fielding and even attitude. Yuvraj maintained a relaxed attitude off the pitch as well: at a meeting with the Dalai Lama in Dharmasala he asked him what his favourite sport was (table tennis).

Among those seeking the meaning of life beyond cricket in the Tibetan head monk's summer palace was Modi himself. The couple of hundred fans who lined the steep and narrow path leading to it instantly recognised Modi, on the verge of a descent into turbulent times. India's tax authorities had found irregularities in the ownership structure of the Kochi franchise (one of two new entrants for IPL4, the second being a Pune side fronted by the Sahara Group, India's team sponsors) after Modi himself, in a reckless moment that ultimately proved his downfall, had posted the individual stakes of Kochi's various owners on Twitter. That exposed the involvement of Shashi Tharoor, a minister in India's federal government, who had to resign within days.

Modi himself soon hit rock bottom as the government revealed that "all aspects of the IPL" were under investigation. None of the BCCI's functionaries attended the final, not even the secretary, N. Srinivasan, owner of the victorious Chennai team. After the presentations Modi was handed a letter of suspension from the board, and an inquiry began into the many allegations.

Match reports for

1st match: Deccan Chargers v Kolkata Knight Riders at Mumbai, Mar 12, 2010
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2nd match: Mumbai Indians v Rajasthan Royals at Mumbai (BS), Mar 13, 2010
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3rd match: Kings XI Punjab v Delhi Daredevils at Mohali, Mar 13, 2010
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4th match: Kolkata Knight Riders v Royal Challengers Bangalore at Kolkata, Mar 14, 2010
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5th match: Chennai Super Kings v Deccan Chargers at Chennai, Mar 14, 2010
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6th match: Rajasthan Royals v Delhi Daredevils at Ahmedabad, Mar 15, 2010
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7th match: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kings XI Punjab at Bangalore, Mar 16, 2010
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8th match: Kolkata Knight Riders v Chennai Super Kings at Kolkata, Mar 16, 2010
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9th match: Delhi Daredevils v Mumbai Indians at Delhi, Mar 17, 2010
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10th match: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Rajasthan Royals at Bangalore, Mar 18, 2010
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11th match: Delhi Daredevils v Chennai Super Kings at Delhi, Mar 19, 2010
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12th match: Deccan Chargers v Kings XI Punjab at Cuttack, Mar 19, 2010
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13th match: Rajasthan Royals v Kolkata Knight Riders at Ahmedabad, Mar 20, 2010
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14th match: Mumbai Indians v Royal Challengers Bangalore at Mumbai (BS), Mar 20, 2010
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15th match: Deccan Chargers v Delhi Daredevils at Cuttack, Mar 21, 2010
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16th match: Chennai Super Kings v Kings XI Punjab at Chennai, Mar 21, 2010
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17th match: Mumbai Indians v Kolkata Knight Riders at Mumbai (BS), Mar 22, 2010
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18th match: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Chennai Super Kings at Bangalore, Mar 23, 2010
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19th match: Kings XI Punjab v Rajasthan Royals at Mohali, Mar 24, 2010
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20th match: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Delhi Daredevils at Bangalore, Mar 25, 2010
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21st match: Mumbai Indians v Chennai Super Kings at Mumbai (BS), Mar 25, 2010
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22nd match: Rajasthan Royals v Deccan Chargers at Ahmedabad, Mar 26, 2010
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23rd match: Kings XI Punjab v Kolkata Knight Riders at Mohali, Mar 27, 2010
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24th match: Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Super Kings at Ahmedabad, Mar 28, 2010
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25th match: Deccan Chargers v Mumbai Indians at Mumbai, Mar 28, 2010
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26th match: Delhi Daredevils v Kolkata Knight Riders at Delhi, Mar 29, 2010
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27th match: Mumbai Indians v Kings XI Punjab at Mumbai (BS), Mar 30, 2010
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28th match: Chennai Super Kings v Royal Challengers Bangalore at Chennai, Mar 31, 2010
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29th match: Delhi Daredevils v Rajasthan Royals at Delhi, Mar 31, 2010
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30th match: Kolkata Knight Riders v Deccan Chargers at Kolkata, Apr 1, 2010
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31st match: Kings XI Punjab v Royal Challengers Bangalore at Mohali, Apr 2, 2010
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32nd match: Chennai Super Kings v Rajasthan Royals at Chennai, Apr 3, 2010
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33rd match: Mumbai Indians v Deccan Chargers at Mumbai (BS), Apr 3, 2010
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34th match: Kolkata Knight Riders v Kings XI Punjab at Kolkata, Apr 4, 2010
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35th match: Delhi Daredevils v Royal Challengers Bangalore at Delhi, Apr 4, 2010
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36th match: Deccan Chargers v Rajasthan Royals at Nagpur, Apr 5, 2010
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37th match: Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians at Chennai, Apr 6, 2010
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38th match: Rajasthan Royals v Kings XI Punjab at Jaipur, Apr 7, 2010
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39th match: Kolkata Knight Riders v Delhi Daredevils at Kolkata, Apr 7, 2010
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40th match: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Deccan Chargers at Bangalore, Apr 8, 2010
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41st match: Kings XI Punjab v Mumbai Indians at Mohali, Apr 9, 2010
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42nd match: Deccan Chargers v Chennai Super Kings at Nagpur, Apr 10, 2010
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43rd match: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Kolkata Knight Riders at Bangalore, Apr 10, 2010
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44th match: Delhi Daredevils v Kings XI Punjab at Delhi, Apr 11, 2010
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45th match: Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians at Jaipur, Apr 11, 2010
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46th match: Deccan Chargers v Royal Challengers Bangalore at Nagpur, Apr 12, 2010
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47th match: Mumbai Indians v Delhi Daredevils at Mumbai (BS), Apr 13, 2010
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48th match: Chennai Super Kings v Kolkata Knight Riders at Chennai, Apr 13, 2010
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49th match: Rajasthan Royals v Royal Challengers Bangalore at Jaipur, Apr 14, 2010
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50th match: Chennai Super Kings v Delhi Daredevils at Chennai, Apr 15, 2010
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51st match: Kings XI Punjab v Deccan Chargers at Dharamsala, Apr 16, 2010
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52nd match: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians at Bangalore, Apr 17, 2010
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53rd match: Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals at Kolkata, Apr 17, 2010
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54th match: Kings XI Punjab v Chennai Super Kings at Dharamsala, Apr 18, 2010
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55th match: Delhi Daredevils v Deccan Chargers at Delhi, Apr 18, 2010
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56th match: Kolkata Knight Riders v Mumbai Indians at Kolkata, Apr 19, 2010
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1st Semi-Final: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Mumbai Indians at Mumbai, Apr 21, 2010
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2nd Semi-Final: Chennai Super Kings v Deccan Chargers at Mumbai, Apr 22, 2010
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3rd Place Play-off: Royal Challengers Bangalore v Deccan Chargers at Mumbai, Apr 24, 2010
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Final: Chennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians at Mumbai, Apr 25, 2010
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