Saturday, April 19, 2008

on the indian premier league

I am not a cricket enthusiast and I have learnt to be grossly outnumbered in this. So I give in and watch the game when everyone around me is watching cricket or when something as interesting as the Indian Premier League is on. So here is an outsider's perspective on this recent phenomena in India - and outsiders to cricket in India are difficult to find.

Cricket aside, the IPL appears to be an interesting experiment. It promises to bring out new team dynamics as teams are multi-national. This will also be apparent when the same players play against each other in the international matches - only, how?

Yesterday I had a tough time trying to figure out which team to root for - Calcutta or Bangalore. I have grown up in one, and made the other my adopted home for a long time now. But it wasn't so difficult making a choice in the 2nd innings. Why was the Bangalore team playing this like a test match? And the funny (and ironic) part was the Vijay Mallya-starring advertisement that kept cropping in the middle of Bangalore getting routed jingling "jeetenge hum shaan se" (we will win gloriously)!

But this seems to be a larger problem. In international matches there is (usually) no question of forming loyalties and cheering for your home team. Here, it is difficult. States or cities don't really have a strong enough identity. I don't think many Indians can clap when Sachin gets out regardless of which team he is on. This might make it difficult to get people to stick to watching the matches with enough fervor.

The other anomaly I found was in the team context. Cricket is a game for the masses in India. It is almost like a religion here. Names like Knight Riders will certainly not be appreciated - they sound too much like out of a western comic book. I don't even know what context the team names, or their jingles, have. Royal Challenge (the Bangalore team name) is a Mallya's United Breweries brand. Other than that, they've just tried to blindly imitate the American league sports team names. What sense would Punjab Kings and Chennai Super Kings make to a majority of the cricket watchers? And even the jingles that the teams have adopted are a little outlandish, perhaps only appreciated by small, fragmented sections. To make my point, the Delhi Daredevils were showing videos from night clubs with loud thumping music in the background.

The Twenty-20 format is extremely skewed in favour of batsman. Cricket has become a game of just swinging your bat as hard as possible. No, really. With 10 wickets in hand for a span of 20 overs, a batsman is not obliged to stay on for more than 2 overs. They should seriously consider reducing the number of available wickets to 4 or 5.

So, in one stroke, the IPL has eliminated the loyalty angle, made the context farther removed for most people, and has taken the sport out of the game. Is this the beginning of the end?

But then, as has been very famously said: "The market for something to believe in is infinite".


Divyakant Bengani said...

I agree with your saying that loyalty is going to be a major issue with the IPL. In a Mumbai - Delhi match, will Delhi-ites be rooting for Mohammed Asif to get Sachin out? I, for one, would be very surprised.

Here's something interesting - the betting on betfair for the first match, only on the result (not top run scorer etc) was over £2M, which is a lot of money. Call me a cynic, but could it be possible that the results to these games might be doctored so that everybody makes some money?

Finally, the way the BCCI is running this tournament has pissed me off royally. I, for one, would love to see this event fail so that Lalit 'f**ckin' Modi gets a bloody nose. His arrogance with the image rights has been mind-boggling.

Whether this event will succeed or not, I don't know, nor do I claim to know. What I do know is that a lot of people (franchise owners, Sony MAX) would have a lot to lose if it wasn't a success. The players, well they're just laughing all the way to the bank.

Umang said...

It is a zero-sum game, so the matches cannot possibly be doctored so that "everyone makes money". If there is and match fixing, I would expect it to be so that a handful of people make a lot of money. No one would go to all the trouble to guarantee outcomes beforehand out of philanthropic considerations.

Divyakant Bengani said...

Obviously the person losing money would be your average punter - the team owners, players and the bookies would all make money - the average punter, not so much :-)