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IPL success boosts World Cup

AN unprecedented auction in Mumbai last year transformed the face of cricket between the first two Twenty20 World Cups.

After eight city-based franchises had bid against each other for the world's elite one-day cricketers, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni emerged richer by US$1.5 million before a ball had been bowled in the new Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 tournament.

With players chosen by bids, not selectors, and the competition neither organized nor controlled by the world governing body, the three-hour version of a game stretching to five days in traditional test matches was aimed primarily at India's vast television audiences.

The IPL was a direct result of India's success with a team of tyros in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa two years ago. India beat Pakistan in the final and the entire subcontinent fervidly embraced the new game.

Dhoni will lead India in the second World Cup starting with England versus the Netherlands at Lord's in London tomorrow and all the signs point to a highly successful tournament packed into 16 days.

Crowds have flocked to the preliminary matches this week, blessed by glorious weather, and yesterday's warmup game between India and Pakistan at the Oval sold out.

The players, too, seem enthused by a game which is essentially cricket as it is still played by schoolchildren and club enthusiasts.

Early predictions that 20 overs a side would not allow for any subtlety or variations have been refuted.

"Test cricket is about the mental side," England Twenty20 captain Paul Collingwood told The Wisden Cricketer magazine.

"As a batsman you apply yourself to make a barrier in front of the wicket. I seriously think 20 overs is more skill-based. It's a fantastic game with immense pressure. You couldn't keep up that intensity for a whole day."

One consistent theme emerging from the captains' news conference at Lord's last Sunday was the impossibility of predicting a winner in a tournament featuring the nine test-playing sides plus Scotland, Ireland and the Netherlands.

"In a tournament like this you can't relax, whether you are playing the strongest side or the weakest side," said Dhoni. "It's a cruel game, the moment you relax, that's the biggest mistake."


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