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Twenty-four from the Twenty20

Even the most stone-hearted Twenty20 cynic - I have moved to an agnostic middle ground - will concede this: the Indian Premier League has delivered on its promise. There has been plenty of action and entertainment. There has been passion and commitment from the players, the cricket has been competitive, and the stands have been full.

And it has achieved what seemed impossible. In a country where every citizen was thought to be a cricket fan, the IPL has unearthed even more fans. My wife, who has loathed cricket as if it were my mistress, has been to a game already. And she is soon to go to another. She is not alone.

Equally, I know of devout cricket fans who have stayed away. Twenty20 remains a perversion for many. And some are afraid it might consign Test cricket, their beloved form, to insignificance.

But the commercial success of the tournament should not be measured by how many are watching in the stands. It will finally come down to how many are watching on television.

One of the remarkable aspects of the tournament has been how well many of teams have come together. The ICC Super Series was a disaster from the team-building point of view; and naturally, it was a disaster otherwise. Only a part, a small part, of this can be attributed to personal pride. Mostly it is because the stakes are high. Money not only talks, it also bonds.

One of the most disappointing aspects, however, has been how little has been done to make the spectators comfortable. Kolkatans have nearly filled the Eden Gardens every match, yet they have to endure sub-human conditions. Thanks to a friend, I had a club-house seat, among the most expensive. Yet I couldn't fetch myself a glass of water: there was no room to move. In Bangalore, the expensive tickets come with free booze, but only for men. The bathrooms are appalling everywhere. If franchises are serious about cricket as business, they need to ensure a bit more respect for the paying customer.

The average number of sixes per match is 10.8. Quite a few of these would have been caught if the boundaries hadn't been brought in. But a plenty of hits have been huge. It's obvious that smaller boundaries have led to greater freedom of the mind.

Sanath Jayasuriya hit 11 sixes during his 45-ball hundred against Chennai. It was not merely the number, but the ease with he hit them. It wasn't power hitting; he didn't muscle or bludgeon them, he just flicked them away with his wrists. He isn't silky like VVS Laxman, but there is magic in those wrists - a different kind of magic.

Jayasuriya's hundred ranks alongside Brendon McCullum's 158 on the opening night as the best in the tournament so far. These came on pitches that suited the bowlers, and on which most other batsmen struggled to get going.

Smaller playing areas have diminished the value of fielding and running between the wickets. Hitting into the spaces is an art, and watching batsmen convert a single into a two is thrilling.

In fact, the standard of fielding has been uniformly disappointing. With the exception of Australians, all others have been below par. Even Herschelle Gibbs has dropped catches. The young Indians have been sub-standard.

One of the encouraging aspects of the recent rounds of games has been that bowlers have come roaring back. No doubt the pitches have grown kinder with use, but also, the big Australian batsmen have gone home.

The Australian players have provided reasons why Australia have been, and are likely to remain, the best team in the world. Even after the top guns have gone, their players continue to dominate. Glenn McGrath has arguably been the best bowler of the tournament, Shane Warne the best captain, Shane Watson, by a distance, the most valuable player. And Shaun Marsh could well end up being the best batsman.

Watson and Marsh have turned out to be the best signings of the IPL. Watson has been a match-winner with both bat and ball and Marsh a model of consistency. He looks a remarkable batsman, who hasn't had to change his game to succeed in Twenty20. He bats with a still head and has wonderful wrists, and his strokeplay resembles that of Yuvraj Singh, his captain. And he has a more organised defence than Yuvraj. He could be the next great Australian batsman.

Rohit Sharma has done everything to buttress the notion that he could be the same for India. He has been calm, unhurried, and has scored nearly 300 runs at about one-and-half-runs a ball without playing one ungainly shot. His grace has been among the most soothing sights of the IPL.

At the other end is Vijay Mallya's public disowning of his team. Very little has gone right for the Royal Challengers. The last thing they needed was their owner to destabilise them further.

It's difficult not to feel for Rahul Dravid, whose annus horribilis continues. Apart from being one of the greatest, he has been among the most earnest men in Indian cricket. Twenty20 was never going to be his game, and perhaps his biggest mistake was to choose a team in his own image. The Royal Challengers' position on the points table is befitting: they have looked the worst team in the competition. But even that doesn't justify their owner's crassness.

Twenty20 has revealed itself as a captain's game. Not cerebral in the manner of Test cricket, but it requires plenty of decision-making in a short time. Captains need to be in the game all the time. They also need to be calm, clear-headed and quick-thinking. One bright idea can turn a game, just as one mistake could lose it.

The Slapgate affair could be a defining moment for Indian cricket. Hopefully, both Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth will be better human beings for it.

It has been said that Lalit Modi has been making up the rules as the tournament has gone on, but hearteningly, the IPL has been decisive in dealing with issues of on-field discipline The action against Harbhajan Singh was swift and suitably severe, Sourav Ganguly and Shane Warne were promptly fined, and even the umpires haven't been spared. Which is a good thing.

But should Modi be seen at the grounds, cheering for teams, even if they are owned by his friends? Shouldn't the IPL boss be seen to be above partisanship?

Even less gratifying is the sight of commentators assuming the role of cheerleaders. One of the most tiresome routines during the presentation ceremony, a tiresome routine in itself, is that of presenters cajoling players to extol the praises of the IPL.

It is alarming how much the media has become part of the IPL establishment. One newspaper group owns a team, television channels and newspapers have become media partners for franchises, and commentators have been contracted by the BCCI. Harsha Bhogle sits in the Mumbai dugout these days.

And finally, a word about us. One of our challenges in covering the IPL was to keep out the bitterness of having been denied accreditation and access to match photographs. Only you can tell us if we have succeeded.