NEW DELHI: Former Indian batsman and Sunrisers Hyderabad mentor VVS Laxman expressed his excitement as the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League get underway in Chennai tonight.
Defending champions Mumbai Indians led by Rohit Sharma take on Virat Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore in what promises to be a cracker of a contest.
In his column for the Times of India, Laxman wrote, “A brand new season of the world’s most widely followed T20 league is just a few hours away, and there is the inevitable sense of expectant anticipation.”
Laxman restrained himself from picking up a favourite for the title as all the teams pack a punch and are strong contenders for the championship.
“This season, more than ever before, all eight teams in the Indian Premier League wear a formidable look, which guarantees thrills galore over the next eight weeks. History suggests it’s crucial to begin well and get on a roll, though there have been instances of teams mounting a late charge towards the later part of the league phase and riding that momentum through the playoffs,” Laxman added.
Last year’s delayed tournament was shifted to the United Arab Emirates but the 14th edition returns to India, where the coronavirus situation has worsened significantly in recent weeks. The surge in new cases could yet scupper plans to host the tournament in bio-secure bubbles at six venues across the country.
“The tournament is back in India after the UAE adventure last time around, which was impeccably organised and went by without any glitches. The challenges are more daunting, especially with the second wave of the pandemic sweeping through the country and the caseloads mounting every day. It is incumbent on everyone associated with the tournament to remain disciplined and strictly adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures so that all the action is focussed on what happens out in the middle and we come out victorious in our battle against the coronavirus,” Laxman opined.
Just like last year, the IPL this time also will be out of bound for fans and will be held behind closed doors, but in the opinion of Laxman, absence of fans will certainly not mean a drop in the intensity level of the players.
“There were concerns last year that the intensity of the players might drop as they play in front of empty stands and spend the duration of the tournament in bio-secure bubbles. Those fears were unfounded; digging deep into mental and physical reserves, the players put on a show to remember. Last season was the closest ever, just one win separating the fourth-placed team from the side that finished last,” Laxman wrote.
Just like last year in the UAE, no team will get home advantage even in Indian conditions.
“Now, even though the tournament is back home, no team will have the advantage of playing in their own backyard, which provides the level-playing field so crucial to a tournament of this nature. International players of various nations have been in bubbles almost non-stop from last August, and it’s a credit to their fortitude that they have still been able to perform at their best. As management, it’s our duty to ensure we take as good care of them as possible – physically and mentally – so that the monotony of living in a bubble doesn’t get to them,” Laxman added.
Sunrisers Hyderabad have been one of the most consistent teams in the IPL over the last five years. Since winning their only IPL title in 2016, SRH have always made it to the play-offs but failed to finish on top.
“We at Sunrisers Hyderabad have taken over three full floors in our Chennai hotel, with a dedicated swimming pool and gym accessible only to those in our team bubble. The idea is to put the players at ease and make them feel as comfortable as they can under the circumstances, without having to worry about non-cricketing issues. As the Sunrises mentor, I am extremely excited at the resources at our disposal ahead of our opener, against Kolkata Knight Riders on April 11,” Laxman signed off.