Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Some thoughts on the IPL

If Test Cricket is a Kurosawa, Bergman or Satyajit Ray movie with deep plots, complex characters and sometimes tragic endings and if ODIs are more Jerry Bruckheimer or Scorsese then the IPL 20/20 format of the game is pure "dishoom-dishoom" Bollywood.

It is a spectacle engineered to be entertainment with the sad result of not actually being entertaining….at least "not entertaining to me"

Those of us who grew up watching and playing a game where clunk of bat on ball was rewarded with a smattering of applause as it crossed the boundary line and the opposition slip fielders saying "nice shot old boy" are in for something of a shock.

IPL is NBA meets Rio Carnival…..every shot is celebrated in a similar manner to the citizens of Ayodhya cheering Rama's return with Sita from Lanka. There is a mad euphoric quality about the whole deal. Firecrackers go off, people break into unbelieveable merriment for any edge through the slips that goes for four. There is no strategy other than to hoick the ball around.

If the ODI version killed the outswinger then I can safely say that the 20/20 version of the game has killed every other ball except - short of good length on off and middle and slightly leaving the batsman. Any other trajectory is pretty much hit (or attempted to be hit) to the boundary. This version has effectively also killed the maiden over. (In fact I recommend a rule change that if a bowler bowls a maiden his team should get an extra 5 Runs) Even an astute practitioner of the art of bowling like Glenn McGrath is happy to only conceed 10 runs or so an over.

The on field interviews are funny. (This is where the TV commentators actually ping the on field captain who has some device in his ear and is asked for his realtime comments). The articulation of some of the team captains make Azhar sound like Barack Obama.

The Cheerleaders are also rather wooden. Pretty girls wearing skimpy outfits and carrying pom poms (and a few guys albeit without skimpy outfits - Thank God)but unlike the classic US version they are very un-athletic. There are no pyramids, no back flips and actually not much cheering either (its probably the 40degree C heat) other than an anemic wave of a pom pom during aforementioned edge through slips.

Ok so enough of the slamming what is good about the IPL?

Well for the first time in crickets history it allows very good first class cricketers to make a decent living even if they do not have the chance of representing their country. (A decent first class player with very little test representation or none at all can probably earn about 1 crore ($200K USD) a year not including endorsements).

It does bring people who are international rivals onthe field together on the same team. That dynamic is fantastic. For example who would ever have thought that Ponting and Saurav would ever be mates.It also reprsents the future of cricket.

Old fuddy duddys (like me) lovers of the classic version of strategy and patience are out. At least with the ODI version there was some method to the madness. Some skill and concentration and technique required of the batsman to best a bowler if he had his tail up.

IPL is cricket not just for the masses but for the masses of the sub Continent. Like Bollywood movies it is escapism of the most absurd degree.

The success of the IPL is also symptomatic of the larger rise of India and its integration into the world. The Indians have learned marketing from the Americans and they are now running with the concept. In a few years the IPL will be bigger and richer than any US or European professional sports league.

The baton is being passed and we are watching the transition. Indians work hard and now have disposable income. They want to spend that income and what better way to spend it then on the ultimate Indian obsession.

2 Comments:

Blogger James said...

Soon even having to endure 20 overs will be too much for the attention challenged fans to endure and it will be ten or five over cricket. I personally don't like this form of the game because the abundance of games only dulls the memory and to me cricket is a game steeped with history. The players used to be the heroes. Who will remember the current players names? Even the team names are not memorable to me. I cannot imagine that the current players will stick in the mind like the great masters of the past. I think that there can definitely be too much of a good thing and 20-20 might be just that.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Stewart_Colbert said...

The ultimate success of the IPL depends on a successful administration of the game amidst the enormous amounts of money injected in by the IPL. Unfortunately almost all of the money in cricket in general and in the IPL specifically is coming from Indian sponsorship and viewership in India. Already we are seeing rifts betw the ICC and the BCCI and the 10 or so other cricketing countries. BCCI being an archaic cricketing administration without any professional sports administrators is bound to be a poor stewart of the game. I don't see a happy balance of rest and revenues for the game and the fans in such a scenario, unless 50 over ODI's are killed in favor of the 20-20s. Test cricket will survive since the whole concept is different and relative unhurried but ultimately building to a finale over 5 days. People like it and are in no hurry for a result. 20-20 is the to-go option for a restaraunt, Tests are the sit-in fine dining experience. ODI's have no place in this setup.

11:53 AM  

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