Lets get this out of the way, I like the Indian Premier League. For 2 months, I don’t have to come home and think about what to watch on TV, its like enjoying EPL or Champions League, with a few moment of brilliance reveling in mediocrity. Now that my personal opinion is out of the way lets take a look at India’s gift to the cricket world, The IPL.
Started in 2008 as an answer to the rebel I.C.L, the IPL adopts the T-20 mode of cricket and applies an EPL kind of charm to it. As of the 2013 season, there are 9 city based franchise teams taking part in the league. During the league stages, each team plays the other in home and away games (hence making for 16 games for each team); the top 4 then compete in an NBA like playoff, with the 2 qualifying teams then playing the final. Chennai Super Kings have been the most successful team in the IPL, making it to the playoffs every time, and winning the tournament twice (they are the only team to do so). The top 4 teams then take part in the annual Champions League competing with other T20 league champions from across the world.
|Chennai Super Kings||R||SF||W||W||R||W/R|
|Kings XI Punjab||SF||GS||GS||GS||GS||GS|
|Kolkata Knight Riders||GS||GS||GS||PL||W||GS|
|Royal Challengers Bangalore||GS||R||SF||R||GS||GS|
|Pune Warriors India||DNP||DNP||DNP||GS||GS||GS|
|Kochi Tuskers Kerala||DNP||DNP||DNP||GS||DNP||DNP|
Legend:W = Winner; R = Runner-up; SF = Semifinalist; PL = Playoffs; GS = Groupstage; DNP = Did Not Play; TBD = To be Decided;
Like famous football leagues around the world, IPL allows its franchises to have foreign players in their teams (restricted to a max of 11), however only 4 of them can be part of the playing XI on a given day. Players can be acquired by a franchise through 5 means; In the annual auction, signing domestic players, signing uncapped players, through trading (In the trading window, the player can only be traded with his consent), and signing replacements. There are salary caps, and spending caps on each franchise, but the finances easily run into the millions each year. No one is off limits, and as a foreign player, all you need is a No Objection Certificate from your respective board to be eligible for the IPL.
Again like NFL, IPL allows for television-timeouts (poularly known as Strategic Timeouts) and hence place no time restrictions on the end of an innings. The umpires/match refree and other officials are usually international names, with some Indian domestic names also included. In 2010, IPL became the first sporting event ever to be broadcasted on YouTube live, and its brand value is estimated at US$2.99 billion in the fifth season. The IPL is not only the premier tournament in India today, it is one of the biggest tournament taking place in the world right now. Make no doubt about it, the IPL is as much about money as it is about cricket. It is a money making behemoth which displays India’s fanaticism for Cricket and BCCI’s stronghold over it.
For anything this big, there are bound to be controversies, and IPL has a bunch of them. The standoff between the English/Wales Cricket Board and the BCCI (who for all intent and purposes own and organize the IPL) is well documented. So is the ousting of ex-chairman of IPL Lalit Modi for “individual acts of misdemeanor”. Then there are the numerous spats that BCCI keeps having with its different franchises about payments. The saddest and perhaps the most dangerous of them all is that of Spot-fixing, which had plagued the league last year (leading to the suspension of 5 players), and has resulted in the arrest/suspension of 3 players this year (one of them an Indian test cricketer).
The IPL is almost at the end of its 6th edition. And through these 6 years what has been the most consistent trait of this tournament has been its refusal to budge. People tend to take a very crisp stand on the tournament (it is either the best thing to happen to cricket, or it is the parasite eating away), but none of this has made IPL or the BCCI bat an eyelid. The tournament starts in March/April irrespective of any international cricket going on (unless it involves India), it refuses to be denied payments, ready to banish and suspend franchises which fail on their promise, it refuses to share Indian players with other T20 competitions mushrooming around the world.
Good or bad, IPL is still cricket, and just like Test and One day cricket it has its good and bad days. IPL today attracts the biggest names in cricket from all over the world. It makes cricket boards change their future tours programs so that their players can take part in the tournament. It gives the fan to see dream combinations like Virat with Ab Devillers and Ponting with Harbhajan. It makes ICC and ECB (and as a cricket fan of the 90s this is most sweet) swallow a hard pill. It also allows lesser known names to display their talents along with the best in the world.
On a personal level, I see IPL as the future of Cricket. I see it toning down, but never stopping, I see it having enough teams to operate in 2 tiers, and I see it stretching to a longer program like EPL. I don’t see it replacing Test cricket however, or even One Day cricket for that matters. I do see the number of international matches dropping, but I see their importance increasing because of this.
Hate it or like it, the Indian Premier League is here to stay (at least I hope so). And with this, I bring my first ever series about anything to a close. Please comment and share your views, and tell me if you would like more such series, and what would you like them to be about.
This is the 4th part in a series on Indian Domestic Cricket. Find the other parts here:
Part 1: The Ranji Trophy
Part 2: Irani and The Duleep trophy
Part 3: Vijay Hazare, Challengers and other One-day Domestic Tournaments