IPL 2020, unlucky number 13: What’s at stake

Kolkata Knight Riders franchise owner Shah Rukh Khan arrives for a meeting with BCCI officials on March 14

IPL…the potent concoction of cricket and glamour that keeps 1.3 billion of us enthralled and enamoured. With the IPL on, the summer heat gets relegated to the background as we tune in at 8 pm every night to watch our favourite cricketers slug it out. Where else can we see Jasprit Bumrah bowling to Virat Kohli or Mohammed Shami trying to knock over Rohit Sharma? While every IPL season has its own significance, this one was extremely relevant. There are some pertinent questions that need answering and we hoped this season of the IPL would answer them for us. However, the coronavirus pandemic put a spanner into things, and we have been left to imagine the outcome for ourselves.

There is one question on everyone’s mind. No, the question is not as to when the lockdown will be finally lifted, it is whether M.S.Dhoni has retired or not. There has been no official statement from the BCCI or from Dhoni himself and as a result, social media is abuzz with speculation.

Dhoni had begun practicing in the nets and everyone, especially supporters of CSK were eager to see Thala Dhoni in action for the first time since the semi-final loss against New Zealand in July 2019. There are some who having been saying that Dhoni should retire and many of them site his age as a factor. However, even at almost 39, Dhoni is still among the fittest cricketers in the world, but it has been observed that he is not as explosive a batsman as before. My take on this is that whether he decides to continue playing or not, there should be clarity.

In continuation to the above point, there is another issue which the Indian team is grappling with. Who will be the wicketkeeper? As Dhoni has not played for India since July 2019, we have tried out Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson and K.L. Rahul, with varying degrees of success. While Rishabh Pant is destructive with the bat on his day, thereis scope for improvement behind the stumps and in his shot selection. K.L. Rahul, though in the batting form of his life, has on occasion struggled while keeping. I wished we could see more of Sanju Samson also for us to make an even more informed decision. So, who will turn up behind the stumps for India in October 2020, when the T20 World Cup will (hopefully) be played in Australia? Your guess is as good as mine.

Virat Kohli is possibly the most passionate cricketer in the world. Unfortunately, India has not won an ICC tournament and neither has RCB won the IPL under him. The RCB fans, the most optimistic supporters ever, hope that this would be the year when Virat would finally lift the IPL trophy and end their agonising title drought. RCB has made some impressive buys in the auction this year and have improved the balance of their side, only to watch the tournament suspended indefinitely. Some are of the view that Rohit Sharma should take over the captaincy of the limited overs side citing his success guiding the Mumbai Indians to four titles (albeit all of them have been in odd years) and the fact that he has led the Indian team with distinction every time Virat decides to opt for rest like in the Nidahas Trophy or the Asia Cup in 2018. Would he or should he be asked to take over the mantle of the limited overs side, is something to ponder over.

There are various other unanswered questions regarding team composition like whether Washington Sundar warrants a place in the side, whether Shivam Dube can pull his weight with bat and ball and whether Hardik Pandya can return to his swashbuckling best after his recent back surgery. These were the questions which we hoped IPL 2020 would answer. There are very few things scarier than uncertainty. We can deal with an answer in the negative, but when there is no answer, we speculate incessantly. This season of the IPL could have answered the above questions, but unfortunately, we have been left to imagine the answers and outcomes for ourselves and ruminate as to what could have been