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Star Sports brings back the excitement in MI vs CSK IPL 2020 opener

In the new normal, the IPL opener had enough bells and viewers to keep buffs engaged.

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MUMBAI: It promised a lot, and it did deliver. The Star Sports broadcast of the inaugural match of the IPL 2020 at the Sheikh Zayed stadium in Abu Dhabi between arch rivals Mumbai Indians (MI) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) served all the dishes that make for a delightful platter. Thankfully, there was no gaudy, boring opening ceremony. The focus was on the sport. The venue, well it looked, perfectly fit for cricket with a green carpet on the ground. The sport too lived up to its potential. At least for the viewer at home on his Disney + Hotstar service or on their Star Sports channels.

A rusty looking MI side muffed many a chance on the field and let a fitter looking –though having more retired players - Chennai Super Kings romp home with enough balls to spare in the twentieth over. The Rohit Sharma-led team began like they have done in many a previous IPL – losing their inaugural game. Their sloppiness in the field aided by rather inexplicable field placings, Jasprit Bumrah’s inability to bowl the yorker which he is renowned for and a collapse by most of the batters helped ease CSK’s passage to victory

Of course one has to hand it to Mahinder Singh Dhoni’s captaincy while making his bowling changes and field placements. Piyush Chawla’s audacious spinning spell which tied the MI batsmen in knots, deserve a mention. The fielding was sharp and catches the Chennai Super Kings held their catches. The ball seemed to chase Faff du Plessis in the outfield who accepted two mishits by the Mumbai Indian batsmen and one strike near the ropes, which he lobbed back on the playing field to catch.

On the batting front there was the reborn Ambati Rayaduand supportive Faff du Plessis, who helped stabilize the CSK innings – after two of its batters Shane Watson and Murli Vijay – departed cheaply. Once he got his eye in, Rayadu thumped the ball all around - and over - the ground – hitting three maximums – and scoring a brisk 71. Du Plessis was steady as she goes accumulating runs at regular intervals, and then came Sam Curran with his hurricane six ball 18, just when the match seemed to be getting a tad tight for the CSKs.

Sharma and his men appeared to be helpless bystanders and just watched the ball going past them to and over the boundary or for doubles and triples. CSK’s victory broke its five match losing streak against the MI.

Sharma, on his part, has to go back to the planning board, after what can be best described as a pedestrian performance by his team against an older side. He himself needs to hit the treadmill as his waist line showed. More of the top order need to get amongst the runs, the fielding needs to be polished, and the bowlers need to get more time at the nets, turning their arm over with the evening-dew-laden slippery ball.

The lack of stadium attendees – while we wanted to see a sea of faces painted, smiling, energized, disappointed, praying fervently – was felt, but only marginally. For players on the field, many found it strange and they expressed it as such, without the constant roar of the tens of thousands of cricket lovers. But in this age of Covid2019, sport has to be revived without fans in the stands, life has to go on with social distancing to prevent the SarsCov2 virus from finding more victims. Dhoni expressed this best when called on during the post-match presentation. He nearly walked up to the presenter but was told to step back, reminding him of the two-metre distancing rule that needs to be maintained. Dhoni was apologetic but expressed that it felt strange, different to be doing so.

On television and OTT, Star Sports used some tricks, like canned audience roars, screams and yells, fans and sponsors representatives popping up on giant sized screens placed in the stadium from their homes. As did videos of the cheerleaders doing their routine during exciting moments of the match, Then the Disney Star India fans too shared their Instagram reels – short video clips by fans commenting on cricket, the IPL and their experiences while watching at home. The commentators of course added to the excitement by being higher pitched than they are prone to be so early on in the tournament.

Around seven million viewers on Disney + Hotstar at peak is a good number, considering the streaming service has put the IPL telecast behind a pay wall. The adverts on it and on Star’s channels were a-plenty, whether TVCs or banners or offers popping up. Of course that means good revenues. That should come as good news for the TV broadcast industry – which like many other sectors – is struggling with a poor five-month period of clamped up ad spends.

And it’s good tidings for sports and for cricket buffs, who number hundreds of millions in India. As Dhoni said during the pos- match presentation: “It’s great that cricket is back after so long. For us and for the devotees. It takes a lot for those behind the scenes. We can be critical. But it takes a gigantic effort to put it all together. A big thank you to all them.”

Indeed. Cricket and IPL fans echo his sentiment.

(Today’s match between Delhi Capitals and Kings Xi Punjab at 7:30 promises to be another cracker.)

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