Something strange happens to our old enemies as they prepare the leave the field. Age strips them of their armour, and as it does, they become something else, something different. Their power fades, and from underneath it comes the fuller man.
The blindness has been ours rather than theirs of course. Cricket is a game built on nostalgia of one kind or another: for what was, and for what might have been.
The IPL's fusion of high commerce and eye-melting spectacle may be designed for the future, yet corners of it are filled by the past. It's a happy by-product of the competition's need of fame to power its expansion that it has become a benign and accepting old folks home, an annual reunion for semi-retired warriors. There's Adam Gilchrist, chin a little sharper now and some grey in his stubble; Here comes Brett Lee, bowling an unplayable leg-cutter to a kid who was six years old when he made his Test debut; Over there is Murali, that weary arm looking ever more slender and tortured after many thousands of overs. Big Jake Oram's arrived, patched up and wobbling in to bowl. There are more, too: the noble and eternal Dravid, bristling Brad Hodge, those Hussey brothers...
Till now, they have been small pools eddying in the river, hidden by the flow, but this year they have a headline act in Pondulkar, that irresistible pairing at the top of the Mumbai batting order. It doesn't matter that they haven't yet got many runs, or that one half of the duo is still a fully engaged international cricketer. Instead, it's just enough to see them together in an arena with some meaning. Ten years ago, they might have done some serious damage, too, but the IPL didn't exist then, and anyhow there's something uplifting about watching Ponting in particular searching for method in a format that, in his orthodoxy, he initially disdained.
Two men who will have a combined age of 78 before the tournament closes have given it exactly the kind of widescreen, technicolor glow that softens the bellowed commentary, that leavens the sponsored inanities, that connects thrusting modernity to its past.
And if that weren't service enough, they give it heart. Their epic careers trail behind them, and we all have our memories vested in those. They are champions brought back to the pack by age, old men in a young man's game, the last light of the comet's tail. It's almost impossible to watch them walk out and imagine that once, there were hundreds of thousands of people urging them to fail, because nothing befits them more than success.
That's the pull of nostalgia, and in the IPL, it pulls harder than anywhere else.
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