Wait's almost over for IPL

NORMAN DA COSTA, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:33 AM ET

TORONTO - For the next 54 days life in India will be centred around three-hour cricket matches followed by hours of partying. Organizers are confident that the phenomenon known as the Indian Premier League will continue to attract more fans despite the national team’s horror show on the road in recent months.

Last year IPL’s viewership jumped to 160.2 million around the world, including Canada, and even Bollywood noticed the impact the tourney made by delaying the release of its blockboster movies until after the final. That is no surprise as the country’s leading film stars and multi-millionaire businessmen are part and parcel of the cricket scene. They include heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan (Kolkata Knight Riders), Preity Zinta (Kings Eleven Punjab) and Mukesh Ambani, one of the world’s richest men, who owns Mumbai Indians.

IPL’s fifth season — involving 72 matches in 12 cities — starts on Wednesday with each of the nine teams parading a star-studded cast. It is only human for those super stars left out for reasons of other than international duty to be envious of those selected because of their lucrative contracts.

The players are auctioned off to the highest bidder and this year Chennai Super Kings broke the vault by making India all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja the highest paid at a little more than $2 million. Jadeja was a prime target of some of the other teams as well, but Kings trumped Deccan Chargers in a secret tiebreak.

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene was the next highest pick, going to Delhi Dardevils for $1.4 million, followed by Royal Challengers Bangalore dishing out $1 million for medium-pacer Vinay Kumar. Kolkata Knight Riders paid $900,000 for Brendon McCullum and then inked little-known West Indies off-spinner Sunil Narine for $700,000.

Narine now faces a huge predicament as he is in the West Indies Test squad to face Australia. Others facing the same dilemma include several Aussies, but they have been allowed to join up with their teams after their tour of the Windies.

Any of the nine teams are capable of winning the title with Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings looking to repeat. It has a solid batting lineup with top-class pace bowlers in Albie Morkel, Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus and, of course, $2-million man Jadeja.

Their top challengers include Virender Sehwag’s Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders, who will be led by Gautam Gambhir; Sachin Tendulkar’s Mumbai Indians and Royal Challenger Bangalore, captained by Daniel Vettori. Bangalore appears to have the most potent batting lineup with the likes of AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, Tilakaratne Dilshan and Virat Kohli.

Fans will be looking to West Indian Gayle for another show of fireworks from his bat. Gayle, who will make around $600,000 and about as much in bonuses, scored 608 runs last season and that included two centuries for an extraordinary average of 67.55.


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