Warm up game for IPL? IND-SA 2nd Test

2008 Apr 07 by Suresh Menon

Why rack your brains over such delicate perceptions and trained appreciation of a nuanced game when a hoick over midwicket requires no varied analysis or reveals no subtexts.

If the Indian team is using the tour of South Africa as preparation for the IPL Twenty20 tournament, then we might as well bid Test cricket goodbye right here and right now. Media coverage of the tournament starting on April 18 is already extensive, and has pushed the home series into the shade. For once the media are not particularly fussed that Sachin Tendulkar is out of the Test series - there are no graphic descriptions of his injury, no experts telling us that he is growing old or that he is still young.

Column inches and TV time are focused on the future of Shoaib Akhtar and what Shah Rukh Khan thinks of his likely absence from the Kolkata team. It is difficult not to develop a sneaky respect for the IPLʼs publicity machinery. The manner in which non-events are passed off as ʽnewsʼ, launches are highlighted, and the connection between sport and entertainment is harped on suggests that it has grabbed the fans by the eyeballs already.

Sport is no longer about bums on seats, but about eyes riveted on the screen. Indiaʼs moment of glory in the Test series - Virender Sehwagʼs triple century in Chennai - has all but been obliterated by their surrender in the Ahmedabad Test. The moment they were dismissed in 20 overs on the first day of the match, fans seemed to turn away saying that if they wanted Twenty20, there was always Preity Zinta and Shah Rukh Khan.

The squabbles over the pitch preparation - India, well known for their hospitality, once again provided the visitors with a track that suited them rather than the hosts, although that was only partially responsible for the slaughter - have left the fans cold. Perhaps such things are too subtle and esoteric for the average viewer. That India did right by batting first because the pitch was bound to become easier after the morning session is too sophisticated an argument.

Why rack your brains over such delicate perceptions and trained appreciation of a nuanced game when a hoick over midwicket requires no varied analysis or reveals no subtexts. The South Africa series is pushing the ʽundecidedsʼ into the arms of Twenty20 - a push that has been facilitated by the Indian teamsʼ lack of purpose and by the IPLʼs superior advertising and placement of stories in the national media..

That the same Indians are involved in both forms as players and officials only makes the biases more obvious. The secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India has nothing to say about the pitch preparation for the Test series, but you cannot turn on a TV channel without seeing him talk about Shoaib Akhtar and how the IPL is more loyal than the king. The Pakistan Cricket Board may have no objection to Shoaib playing the IPL, but the IPL has a problem because he is banned. Touching.

At least one newspaper has said that in the short period between the Tests, the South Africans chose to stick to practice while the Indians were busy with shoots for the IPL. Again, wasnʼt this what made the Board angry after Indiaʼs exit from the World Cup in the West Indies? How do they justify it now?

There is an underlying theme song to the IPL. The Commissioner and everybody involved with it have been saying how it will do the Indian first class game a world of good and discover new talent and help newcomers play alongside some of the great names of the game. Yet, in another instance of brinkmanship, the IPL has been making demands on the media wishing to report the tournament. This is India, so everything will get sorted out in the eleventh hour.

But I canʼt help thinking that the media missed a good opportunity to tell the IPL where it got off. Had the media stuck together, the IPL would have had to bow down. Too much money, too much power in too few hands. The worst is yet to come.