If anything summed up the IPL, it was Ricky Ponting’s Craig Kieswetter impression in the first over of Mumbai’s match with Delhi, followed by Sachin Tendulkar running himself out two balls later, leaving their side two down in the blink of an eye and both geriatrics back in the pavilion. Ancient players embarrassing themselves has been one of the themes of the tournament’s first week; along with “Pondulkar”, Rahul Dravid and Kumar Sangakkara have both been mostly awful as well. The other main trend has been that of coaches leaving their well-crafted season plans in the hotel, before arriving at the ground in a blind panic and picking the first eleven players they see. Any sort of common sense to team selection appears an alien concept while in-game tactics have veered from idiotic to hilarious and back again.
Our beloved Pune are the prime offenders, having decided to make a mockery of their entire existence throughout the first two games. Allan Donald (who is the coach, for those of you not au fait with everything Pune) made a big point of telling everyone how there would be no repeat of the 1990’s England-esque selection policy on display last year, then proceeded to pick half the team on reputation and the other half, presumably, as a joke. Ross Taylor, specialist moaner without a run in the IPL for two years, and Mitchell Marsh, specialist drunkard, have been selected ahead of numerous overseas players who would have improved the team. In particular, players with names like ‘Steve Smith’ and ‘Luke Wright’ really should be playing; the latter would go some way to solving one of Pune’s most glaring issues – the fact their openers look like they’ve never seen a cricket bat before, never mind used one.
Three of this year’s most expensive buys are yet to play a game: Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson and Ajantha Mendis, two of whom are, again, Pune’s doing. It’s difficult to know whether this is a triumph for (belated) common sense or a further example of common sense flouncing off over the horizon in a fit of pique. Obviously, Maxwell, Richardson and Mendis are not worth more than $2 million between them, but at the same time once you’ve spent $2 million on them it’s probably an idea to use them for something beyond drinks carrying, perilous exercise though it undoubtedly is.
Tactical lunacy has not been limited to preparation; captaincy has been a bubbling cauldron of unpredictability as well, spewing out big globules of insanity at regular intervals. Primarily, these bouts of calamitous decision-making have centred around the use of Australians, as the tournament in general continues to wildly overestimate the qualities of vast numbers of mediocre players. In Bangalore’s match with Hyderabad, Virat Kohli chose to bowl Moises Henriques ahead of Murali Kartik, who had bowled a tidy three overs and claimed a wicket, for no logical reason. The next six balls promptly disappeared for 18 runs. To be fair to Kohli, he then somewhat made up for his aberration by blasting a 47 ball 93* to win the game, but the point stands.
Mishaps aside, the standard has been fairly inconsistent. There’s been some excellent performances alongside some truly awful ones (mostly from teams playing in light blue) with some names like Jasprit Bumrah thrown in to keep everyone entertained. If/when teams stop making absolutely mental decisions and sabotaging themselves on a regular basis, the overall quality should improve considerably. For a week or so until everyone gets bored because the tournament’s so bloody long, at least.
Incidentally, if anyone is wondering about actual results: everyone has beaten everyone and has the same points apart from Pune and Delhi who have lost to everyone and have 0 points.