Thoughts on the IPL - Part 1
The Indian Premier League
got underway last week. While I haven't been able to watch games in their entirety, I've been able to watch some significant portions, which included some brilliant performances.
I think the jury is still out on whether spectators (and TV audiences) will root for a specific city-based team. There're only 8 cities (and states) represented. So which team does a cricket fan in Kerala support? Will he/she go for the team with the maximum number of Malayalis? What about folks in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh? I'd come close to having dual allegiance, to the Chennai Super Kings and the Bangalore Royal Challengers. Yet, I find it hard to support only these teams and none else. Maybe there're several other people like me, who're more than happy to enjoy every game (as long as it is rivetting stuff), regardless of the teams in action.
I'd anticipated that Hyderabad, Delhi and Punjab would be the 3 teams to beat, but turns out that Hyderabad's bowling resources are pretty scarce & unidimensional and Punjab isn't firing either. It's not as though the points table
will continue to remain the way it is. There're bound to be changes as players move in & out and as the squads 'gel' better.
In contrast to a lot of people who're hopping mad about this format of the game and the blurring line between sport and entertainment, I find it hard to be condescending of Twenty20! If anything, I am quite excited about it. I'm more than willing to give it a chance, including the cheer-leaders and film star appearances. I don't expect the film stars to turn out for every single game their team features in.
Yes, there're definite ways to tweak it to make it a more level playing field between bat and ball, but that's a problem that exists in the 50-over format anyway. On this blog, we've touched on some suggestions earlier: Allowing only 6 players to bat in Twenty20 games
(Steve Waugh said the same thing!
) and increasing the per-bowler overs limit to 15 in ODIs
or encourage wicket taking by allowing one extra over per wicket taken. Most of the ICC's rules are batsmen-oriented. Besides, what's the big deal about 11 players/batsmen or artificial stuff like 4 (or 10) overs per bowler
The one thing I've figured out over the past 2+ decades of following cricket, especially over the last decade, is that if you don't respect a form of the game, you're unlikely to do well in that format. England's administrators, selectors and players kept disrespecting one-day internationals
and they've more than paid the price. As Scyld Berry points out in his Editor's Notes
in the 2008 edition of the Wisden Almanack, other than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, England are the only Test-playing country never to have won a global one-day tournament.
The beauty of following a tournament like the IPL is watching McCullum or Sehwag play some jaw-droppingly astonishing shots, Pollock plugging away ad nauseum ad infinitum, McGrath bowl a bouncer to Symonds after Symonds smacked him over mid-wicket, Warne showing us that he's still good enough to make it to the Australian team, Asif & McGrath combining for a seam-bowling master-class, etc.
There's also the beauty of seeing people like Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman
, Venugopala Rao, Sreesanth, etc. more or less appear like fish out of water in this format. I just don't understand how someone like Laxman can captain a Twenty20 side which has Afridi, Symonds, Gilchrist and Gibbs in it! If he weren't captain, his name would never
be in a squad of 20!
The other thing that has struck me is the quality of the fielding, especially from the Indians in the tournament. The likes of RP Singh, Munaf, Kumble, etc. are always going to look stupid, but as was the case with the Indian Cricket League
, a lot of the Indian players (who haven't yet turned out in internationals) have fielded much
better than I'd expected. Perhaps the contributing factors were the support staff made available to the teams and the peer-pressure that comes with fielding alongside Ponting, Symonds, Gibbs, Afridi, de Villiers, Dilshan, Yuvraj, Kaif, Raina, Rohit Sharma, etc.
To me, there's no doubt that the IPL will be successful. What the BCCI and ICC need to do are:
- Revoke the ban on the ICL and recognize that tournament.
- Encourage team strategies to focus on ensuring that local players who've never played internationals (or haven't played enough of them) take upon themselves more responsibility. There are foreign players in the English county cricket system as well. The idea is that the domestic players don't just assume that the star recruit will do the job, because there maybe a few games where the star player is unavailable!
- I haven't yet watched the games from the stadium, but it'd be awesome if the in-stadium facilities like food, drinks, toilets, seats, etc. were revamped totally to make the stadiums far more spectator-friendly than they are right now. Since the franchisees get a share of (or all of) the gate revenue, they really have an incentive to encourage more people to watch the games from the stadiums.
- Figure out how on earth Sunil Gavaskar managed to get onto the SET MAX commentary team!
Labels: icc, india, indian cricket league, indian premier league, ipl 2008, twenty20