Better to have loved and lost than to have never watched the IPL
ON SUNDAY I had my first viewing of the future of cricket.
Maybe it is because it is on ITV4 this year or maybe it is because it is has received more media attention from the non-cricketing press this year, but either way I am following the IPL for the first time.
Except the IPL is not the future of cricket.
Kings XI Punjab beat the Chennai Super Kings in a Super Over, after the game finished in a tie.
The Super Over is the future of cricket.
Three batsman versus one bowler, winer takes all after just 12 balls of action.
If Lalit Modi could sell the same amount of advertising for 12 balls, as he can for 40 overs, then I have no doubt that the Super Over truly would be the future of the sport.
The IPL is all about the stars in each time – the four permitted overseas players and the two or three top Indian internationals in each side.
For example the Kings XI Punjab had Ravi Bopara, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Juan Theron as their four overseas players in the game against Chennai.
Bopara, Sangakkara and Jayawardene filled three of the top four batting positions and Theron was their chosen bowler in the Super Over.
Along with their designated Indian stars – Irfan Pathan and Yuvraj Singh – these are the players that the Kings XI revolve around.
This is not test cricket, 11 top quality players are not necessary, and in the IPL most players are simply there to make up the numbers.
In a Super Over team this would be even more the case, with only four players required plus fielders.
This would mean the top players could be spread even finer and Modi could sell even more franchises at more than $300million a piece in exchange for merely a slice of the pie and no assets whatsoever.
But with a Super Over there would be fewer DLF Maximums or “sixes” as they are traditionally known, fewer chances for a Maxx Mobile Timeout or to summarise fewer money-making opportunites.
So Twenty20 is probably the future of cricket after all, at least in terms of getting new fans on board.
The IPL is the ultimate triumph of the Olympic philosophy that “it isn’t the winning that counts, it’s the taking part”.
Never has that been more true than here – no-one’s here to win, they are here for the cash.
Eoin Morgan would far rather fire England to one-day international victory over Bangladesh than fire the Royal Challengers Bangalore to victory in the IPL, although at £134,000 for five weeks it is definitely worth the taking part, even if he has only managed 18 runs in three innings so far (nearly £7,500 per run).
Respected cricket writer Gideon Haigh has also described the IPL as the “ultimate triumph of nationalism: a global tournament in which the same nation always win”.
Modi has freely admitted that he does not consider the IPL’s rivals to be test and 50-over cricket, but that he has his sights set on the NBA, the NFL and the daddy-of-them-all the English Premier League.
The English Premier League and the teams in it are some of the biggest sporting brands in the world, yet it appals most football fans to think of the league in this way.
But the Premier League can learn many lessons from its Indian, cricketing counterpart.
Rather than resent the Premier League’s growing desire to appeal to its overseas fans, especially those in Asia (example – Sunday’s staging of Manchester United v Liverpool, before Blackburn Rovers v Chelsea), fans should just be grateful that the world’s best football league is in their country.
Grateful that a team from their town (assuming their town is either Manchester or London) could possibly win what is now an international football league.
And grateful that Keith Andrews, Anton Ferdinand and Boaz Myhill can find meaningful employment in such a league.
And so it is with the IPL.
Do not worry about whether it is better than test cricket (it is not), or even if it is ruining test cricket (it is not), just be happy that it exists and it is bloody entertaining.