This year's edition of the IPL will show if the lower interest in the game has had an effect on the spectators as well as the TV viewing public.
By Sunil Gavaskar
The IPL is round the corner and will no doubt get plenty of comments and from the nature of those, you will be able to tell who likes the IPL and who don’t. The general template created is that those who swear by the IPL have been bought off either by BCCI, franchises, TV rights holders, sponsors of the tournament, whoever. These finger pointers may not realise it but that argument can be turned around on its head by suggesting, nay emphasising, that those who swear at it is only because they are not connected with the IPL in any way and that is why they are being stick in the mud types. Our’s is a democracy and everybody is entitled to their view as long as it is not abusive of anybody. I mean we are in India and not some other country, where abuse is looked upon as macho on the field and off it too in bars and clubs. Cricket is a civilised sport even though some ruffians have invariably been part of it. The short point is that if somebody wants a fight then they should go to Afghanistan. That is what real fighting is about and not on the cricket field where it is and should be only a contest between bat and ball and not who has the choicest of abuses.
Amazingly there will be no such obnoxious behaviour in the IPL even from those who claim that, that is how hard cricket is played. That myth was exposed in the first IPL itself when these so called hard men whose every second word is an abuse of some sort, were seen smiling even when they were being beaten and clobbered thereby blowing to smithreens that theory they always play cricket hard and the reason they indulge in the verbals is to cause mental disintegration of the opposition player.
That by the way is one of the best things that the IPL has brought to international cricket. The players from different countries sharing the same dressing room has meant that there is a better understanding of the cricketing cultures and definitely better realisation of other players however great also being human. The tension on the international arena has clearly reduced after the IPL and you can clearly see from those who indulge in silly behaviour are those who are not in the IPL.
This year’s IPL has a big test ahead of it. India’s performance after winning the ICC World Cup last year has not been up to international standards and therefore interest in the game has gone down considerably. This year’s edition of the IPL will show if that has had an effect on the spectators as well as the TV viewing public. It is therefore a crucial season for IPL. The cricket will as always take centrestage and if it is gripping and there are close finishes then the public will stay interested and ask for more but if the action on the field is not exciting then they may well do something else interesting.
Once again because of the scheduling of international matches, some overseas players will not be available and some will play only part of the tournament. There will be the usual suggestion from the overseas media that more overseas players should be allowed to play in the eleven than the four that are currently allowed. Don’t buy that argument because the very same people will not hear a word about increasing the number of overseas players in their own domestic tournaments and don’t forget that this is India’s domestic tournament. In other countries’ T20 events no more than 2 foreign players are allowed in the playing eleven so if that is good for them then four allowed in the IPL is more than enough for India. The IPL has also brought to the fore many a talent from the catchment areas that each franchise has been allotted and has to look after. That has also been a positive development of the IPL. Of course not all of them go on to do well at the international stage and do find it tough in the longer format of the game - the test matches.
Similarly not all those who do well in Tests can do well in this ultra short format of the game. Michael Clarke, the Australian skipper is not even in his state T20 team. He is the latest to jump on the IPL bandwagon unable to resist the lure and lucre of the most glamorous T20 tournament in the world. He is not available for the first month of the tournamnt but will be joing the team for the later half of the tournament when it will be at the deciding stage. Who knows this tournament could well be a turning point for him in this format of the game.
Yes, he could well be the late bloomer who will turn the tournament around for his team.