I have, for the last few weeks or so, been somewhat disenchanted with the IPL. So much so that I seem to be slowly disengaging with the tournament.
To start with the positives first, I do believe that the IPL has got several things right. Some of these are:
- The format is right.
- Limiting the number of teams in the competition to 8.
- Having home-and-away games.
- Having a limit of 4 on the number of overseas players that can play any game for a team.
- Having and enforcing a salary cap.
- Insisting that each team include at least 4 young players. Although some of these young players haven’t got too many games (and in some cases, none at all), the experience would be truly wonderful for these young guys.
- The IPL is attracting huge crowds to all games.
- Apart from the odd glitch here and there, all matches appear to be well-run and managed.
So, given that there are lots of things going well for the IPL, I shouldn’t really be knocking the comp. And I am not really doing that. I just feel that the IPL has become a wee-bit tired and we are now in the business-end of the competition! I thought I would share some of my own views here and see if there is some resonance — not that there needs to be any at all!
There are a few reasons for my disengaged state and although I may not put my finger in all of them, here is a starting list.
Is it only me or does everyone else feel that the IPL has been going on ever since time began? While I laud the home-and-away format that the organisers have gone with, any tournament that goes for nearly 50 days starts to resemble the previous installment of the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies: long, dreary, taxing, somnambulism-inducing. Major sporting events around the world have to get over in 2-3 weeks flat. To retain interest, excitement, engagement and involvement over a 50-day period calls for a lot, particularly when country-based, nationalistic and emotional-connections are not involved! A suggestion to the IPL commission would be to have two matches per day on all days of the tournament. Perhaps the tournament could then be squeezed into a 3-week time-frame. Yes, this would mean more cricket more often for the individual teams, but in these days of bloated wallets in India, a bloated bench-capacity should not be a problem! The IPL could increase the salary-cap to $7m and get teams to stack their bench with 20 players who could be rotated in and out of games!
Difficult to form geography-based connections with teams:
I am a Tamil-speaking guy who has lived much of my life in Bangalore. Yet, I feel little connection with either Chennai Super Kings or Bangalore Royal Challengers. At the moment, I am supporting Rajasthan Royals because because of the fairy-tale story and romance that surrounds it! This is not something that the IPL can “fix” easily. This emotional-connection arises either through geography, style-of-play (Liverpool’s style of play Vs Millwall’s style of play, for example) or player-affinity. These things will take time to evolve and are necessarily organic in their context and construction. But unless the IPL starts, supports and grows strong fan-clubs and unless players are deeply connected to specific teams, team-connections and emotional-attachments will take some time to establish. In the absence of such strong attachments, I am merely watching the games to ascertain who is playing well and who is not. I can’t see myself biting my nails in anxiety or anguish if (say) the Chennai Super Kings needs 6 runs off the last over!
On Too late:
This is a peculiar-to-Australia problem. The games start way past midnight. I did watch a few games and I do catch replays. But to do that in a systematic manner over a 50-day period is calling for a bit too much!
Cricket has not been that great/gripping:
Not many may agree with this statement, but after the first week or so, the cricket hasn’t really been that gripping. Yes there are, no doubt, flashes of brilliance every now and then — like a great catch (like the one Chipli took the other night). However, I haven’t really seen sustained brilliance from a player or a clutch of players. They come and they go! Perhaps it is the Twenty20 format that induces this feeling of mediocrity. However, even in the Twenty20 World Cup, one sawa sustained excellence from the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Umar Gul and Misbah-ul-Haq (to name just a few). This seems to be more pot luck than demonstrably sustained excellence!
Other minor issues:
Any tournament needs a fairy tale that grips the attention and engages. The emotional level has been, in my view, somewhat consistent. One has not seen a large bloke from Bermuda running in to bowl to a rampaging Matthew Hayden and getting him bowled! One has not seen an unfancied Team Australia march on to the quarter-finals (as it did at the Soccer World Cup). The only “fairy tale” in this competition is perhaps the strides made by the Rajasthan Royals. They were written off even before a ball was bowled. However, they are the first team to make the semi finals!
I probably switched off the moment the team names were announced! Apart from Delhi Daredevils and perhaps Kolkata Knight Riders, the other names are duds by my reckoning! So much so that I begin to question the imagination (or lack thereof) of the people that chose these names! I can’t, for the life of me, see the Chennai Super Kings stick like Manchester United or Chicago Bulls. How lame is a set of names in which there is a Royal or a King stuck either as a prefix or a suffix to all names? Surely, the advertising gurus could have done better than that lame set of names?
Anyway, these are my thoughts… What do you think?