While the Supreme Court intervention into the sleaze surrounding the betting scandal, the imminent upheavals in the BCCI, and the uncertainty surrounding the present IPL Season is grabbing headlines today across media, that for us is grist for another windmill, and the content for another upcoming issue. However, it would not be wrong to say that the IPL was probably the best thing that has happened to Indian Cricket. We open the innings here at NRI Achievers with the positive side of the IPL (the Indian Premier League), the billion dollar baby of the BCCI …
Six years ago this multi-city extravaganza was planted as a seed in the nursery of Indian Cricket by Lalit Modi. Now no more a part of IPL or BCCI, it looked like another B–grade Xerox of the NBA (National Basketball Association) of the United States, or the Barclays Premier League from England. But after six years of competition and the seventh one on the horizon early this summer, the seed has ostensibly grown into a full-fledged tree. Not only is the popularity of the league at an all time high, but the monies involved have also expanded geometrically. Yuvraj Singh, for example, was snagged by the Bangalore franchise for a staggering 14 Crore INR in the latest IPL auction recently.
Let’s go back to the start and trace the trajectory of this IPL journey. When the league started in 2008, there were mixed thoughts as to what it is all about, whether this league system will benefit anyone from the players, the mega-rich owners, the BCCI, and most importantly, the fans of the game. The idea was akin to that followed in European football, but with the trend there is a century old, the question cropped up whether Indian cricketers were mature enough to play divided by teams pitted against each other, and still continue to come together for the national team. This league was not just about Indian players, it was a global stage where the biggest cricket names of the world were also part of the whole big money-minting idea. This was the emergence of the new face of Indian sporting, a face of hope for the budding cricketers where they got a stage to showcase their talent and rake in tons of money. It was also seen as a sign of upward mobility and a reiteration of the growth of cricket in India.
IPL with all its glitz, glamour and moolah has not just been about the extravagant razzmatazz. In the last 6 years, it has become an integral part of the lives of Indian public, and has its own share of fans and critics alike. IPL has now managed to become a household name in homes, offices, colonies, towns, et al. IPL like tournaments are being played at each and every level. With every tournament name and concept inspired from the IPL, it has become the flavour of the nation for the T20 version of the game. To give you an example of such tournaments I did not have to look too far. There is an IPL type premier league being played in my office within colleagues every year!
IPL’s success and the windfall for the players involved has given a turbo boost to the millions of budding cricketing hopes in the country. Now the ones who can’t dream of donning the Indian national cap may well afford to be a part of IPL. Being a part of IPL will, if nothing else, makes sure that the player will earn decent amounts of money. Critics say IPL is not cricket but I have a different opinion, IPL may not have the tenacity and passion of one day cricket nor the technical brilliance of test cricket, but it sure4 offers you something else. 3 hours of pure entertainment. It offers you the biggest sixes, the most brilliant catches, the fastest balls bowled, and edge of the seat finishes. By the end of all your nails are history. So thinking on these lines I do get a thought that isn’t this cricket. This is “Cricketainment”. For 2 months in the year, every evening is fun and drama, not thanks to Saas Bahu soaps, but due to IPL, where the story is by no means clichéd, but every game has thenpotential to give a high to any cricket fan. And the game of the night before is usually the topic of discussion on the breakfast table the next day.
Now we do understand what IPL has done to India, Indian cricket and the people of this cricket-frenzied nation. The success of the league in India can also be put down to the fact that many Indians consider cricket almost a religion. The broader picture suggests that IPL has not only inspired Indians but has also inspired other cricket playing nations to have a league of their own. The Bangladesh Premier league is one such example. The edition of IPL that was played in South Africa also helped the country in multiple ways – spurt in tourism was one beneficial side-effect. The game also garnered humungous amounts of money for the game in South Africa. Along with the boards and the countries, the number of foreign players who love IPL has also grown every year. IPL has given a different avenue to players from Indian and abroad alike. It has become a veritable melting pot of different cultures – you not only share the dressing-room with players from around the world, but you also share an important two months of the year. The exhaustive itinerary ensures that players and teammates spend a considerable amount of time together. It’s those unguarded moments spent with each other that provide access to the personality behind the player.
The franchises have also provided players today with the best physios, the best coaches, and playing along and against the world’s best, evolving into the best platform for any aspiring youngster out there.
The gap between first-class and international cricket was huge in the past, and IPL has managed to bridge this gap elegantly, albeit in the shorter forms of the game. Javagal Srinath, one of India’s bowling greats, has this to share with a budding aspirant: “Test cricket is the real test of your character, temperament and technique, Test is the ultimate honour… you know there are not even 300 players who have represented India since we started playing Test cricket.” Srinath was trying to drive home the point of Test cricket’s importance and relevance. “Exactly! If only 300 have played in 80 years, what are the chances that I’d get to play for India one day?” the youngster shot back. “More than 150 Indian cricketers get to play in the IPL every season and the money they earn is much more than Test cricketers make in a year.” This is the mindset that IPL has given to youngsters who are vying for the exposure to get into the eye of the selectors.
And when we throw in an eclectic mix of cheerleaders, starlets, stand-up comedians and the like amidst all the players, the franchise owners, the money and the glitz, it has all the ingredients of a gala carnival, and justifies the label of “Cricketainment.” A one-stop-shop offering some heart-stopping, amazing and scintillating sporting action that doesn’t cease to enthrall audiences. So, perhaps its time for us to stop punching the IPL bag and make peace with it, because you either love it or you hate it, but you sure can no longer ignore it.
Just one little word on the this season’s IPL. It was to be played in phases, and had seen a sea-change in the outlook of the teams. The franchises from Punjab and Delhi had made a strong point via some smart-buying that they are seen to mean serious business. The biggest gainers as players were Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, and Mitchel Johnson who have raked in multiple Crores as they change franchises. The auction is done, the venues have been decided, so come this April the rollercoaster ride is on the agenda once again. And this ride is just about 3 things — Cricketainment, cricketainment and … cricketainment. But as a cloud descends on the BCCI and N. Srinivasan, and the Supreme Court suggesting sweeping changes in the administrative setup, not to mention it’s recommendation that both Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals be excluded from the league, uncertainty does reign. Lets wait and watch …