Writing about a topic that gets discussed often is a challenge as you are always bringing up points already said. Well, it’s the IPL that I want to talk about. That makes the task even more demanding. IPL, the great Indian Premier League, Within 5 years of its arrival on the scene, It has been discussed and written about more than even the English Premier League at least in the media. We can say that it polarizes opinion like anything. I recently had a discussion with a friend who lives in Bangalore about the IPL. On a casual note, I just asked him whether he had been to any of the IPL matches in the city. The fourth-right friend of mine responded strongly saying that he hates the whole system of the IPL and its structure or the lack of it.He spoke about how the people of this country are cheated by some greedy corporates who are willing to milk the game to the maximum for their own benefits. He is a guy who always has a straight forward opinion on things and when it is about nationalistic issues he leaves nothing untold. So it was not surprising for me to hear that from him. In his opinion, the IPL is a money making machine which runs for up to 2 months in the hot Indian summer and just makes a fool of ordinary Indians. Then I had to mention about the kind of support this year’s IPL had received all over India. That’s the most important factor in this business of IPL, the support from the public, the masses.
The way the Indian public received this year’s tournament was heart warming to see or heart breaking depending on which side you are. Crowds packed the grounds and they cheered for their stars wearing the coloured clothing of the franchises. The commentators and the broadcasters too were on a no holds barred mission to make the IPL the flavour of the season. They roared to the maximum decibel levels and the DLF maximums and the Karbon kamaals were made sure to be heard at regular intervals. Yet, I believe that IPL on TV is not appreciated the way it is at the grounds by the public. But at the end of the day, all is well with the IPL, yes indeed all is well with the IPL, the business, the money making entity, the extra innings’ played by Bollywood stars on cricket fields, everything falls in place and it is here to stay.
I had my reservations about the long term success of the IPL from the beginning. But this year even after two of the most disastrous tours of Indian national team, people are ready to spend their evening watching this unscripted drama that takes place in their city centers. They took their children to the grounds and cheered for Chris Gayle and co. If their team won, they were happy, if not they were not dispirited and just took pleasure in uploading the pictures taken from ground zero on Facebook and lived the next day as any other. What people wanted was some entertainment and the IPL did indeed provide it. We Indians do love to party and when a Cricket match near your home town provides it, why give it a miss. Going back to my dear friend, this is where the cheating happens according to him. To him the whole business is a murky deal. Another way of making black money white and we are the falling preys of this extravaganza. Now, this is not the first time these sort of allegations or doubts of credibility are expressed by people and you must be wondering where I am going with this. I nodded to all of the things said by my friend but the thing that hurts me about the IPL or cricket in general has a far different context to it than its internal corruption and politics. My biggest worry is best described by these 3 contrasting images.
Now, these images do tell a lot about how the Indian cricket fans have evolved over the last decade or so. Eden Gardens once used to be this theater where around 90,000 thousand people turn up for a test match in a day. For someone who familiarized with the game in the 1990’s watching a match played at Eden Gardens even on television used to give goosebumps. I again have to go back to the lines by Rahul Dravid during the scarcely attended test match in 2011. “I remember coming here in the 90s . it was 100,000 people, 80,000 people watching a game of cricket. In some ways, it is little sad. There was a magic about this ground when the atmosphere was electrifying with 80-100,000 people cheering”.
When I read this there were a lot of mixed emotions bubbling inside. It was so nostalgic that it brought a smile within me. But suddenly I realized that there was a kind of admission in his words that this place will never be anything like it was in the 90s. Now that was the order of the times that we live but it is painful for all who have that emotional attachment to the game. If anyone happens to read this piece and starts to wonder what this emotional attachment is, then I’m sorry for ruining your valuable time.
The large turn up at Eden Gardens for the welcome party of the victorious Knight Riders team proved one point. Indian fans are not detached from the game of cricket. They will go to watch a game, but they would rather have it as short as possible. I only hope that nobody comes up with a Hong-Kong 6’s style tournament in India with all the international stars. The IPL provides a chance to see the best of the International stars giving their very best and it all happens inside 3 hours. So why should you waste your time and money on Test matches. There is no definitive answer to this question that I can give. This is no place for a Test vs T20 dissection. This is just a portrayal of how times have changed in our country with regards to the fascination to the game of cricket. I do watch the IPL because it still cricket but does it have the soul of cricket, I doubt so. I would rather not have the IPL if that leads to a change in attitude to Test cricket from the people and the administrators and larger attendances for test matches. Hoping to go to watch India’s next test match and without offering any real solutions to the problems that the game faces in our country that ends another post on cricket.