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Impact of the IPL – Part 3

May 18, 2008

Impact on the basics of the game

The final post on the ‘Impact of the IPL’ series means to look at the impact to the game of cricket itself. Being opposed to the new format of the game just on account of the fact that it is a new format is, to borrow a line from the movie ‘I Robot’, “banning the internet to keep the libraries open”. You could use several lenses to judge whether the advent of 20-20 and the franchise format of the Indian Premier League is good or bad for the sport. Through the lense that counts ‘eyeballs’ or considers ‘diversity of viewers’ as its key factor, the IPL is an unqualified success, so say primetime TRPs. My view of the impact on the game is based on what happens to the basic skills that constitute the game; bowling-batting-fielding. Many observers have chosen to refer to the last time that a new format, 50-50 cricket came to the fore, and the verdict has been that it has helped raise fitness and therefore fielding standards, made batsmen more attacking and bowlers more innovative with slower balls and yorkers. Since it is impossible to isolate these effects from natural evolution, flattening of pitches and improvement in outfields, I choose to take them as given and look ahead at the IPL.

Bowling (– – –)
Purple caps for the highest wicket taker are all good but barring a very small number, most games have been decided by raucous hitting by batsmen than by wicket-taking blitzes by bowlers. Even top-class test bowlers have looked relieved to finish having conceded 7-8 runs an over while a slew of slow-medium bowlers now flourish on account of the fact that they do not have the pace to come on to the bat and induce erroneous shots from batsmen to add to their wickets columns. Spinners (because they rely significantly on beating the batsmen playing attacking shots) have it worse than the pacemen on account of the smaller grounds and the better bats causing mishits to sail over the ropes.
Most franchises will most likely want one genuine wicket taker but are more likely to want to bolster their batting stocks with competent hitters who can turn their arm over.

Batting (– – )
Yuvraj Singh set the benchmark for 20-20 hitting when he swatted 6 sixes off Stuart Broad in the 20-20 world cup. Little it did matter that atleast 3 of those were not off the middle of the bat and yet managed to clear the fence. The newest credo is, “have bat, will swish”. So in the midst of some crunching drives and pulls by top-class batsmen, there are a host of under/top/inside/outside edges that skitter away to the fence because the scoring area in cricket, unlike in baseball, is the whole 360 degrees. So, does it really matter that Rohit Sharma caresses 3 boundaries in an over, all off the middle of the bat, all deftly placed drives through the covers and midwicket, while Swapnil Asnodkar manages the same run tally, one between his back leg and leg stump through fine leg, a hook that is several fractions of a second late resulting in the ball looping over the wicketkeeper and another thick outside edge that beats deep thirdman?
The margin between truly skillfull batsmen with complete techniques that can play different lengths, lines, conditions and those that can belt the ball when it is pitched in a certain area at a certain pace will shrink dramatically making the game far poorer for the viewer.

Fielding (+ + +)
At first sight, one could go “Aha! there’s no way the IPL is bad for fielding”. Yes and no. This format cannot tolerate slow movers because of the need to save as many runs as possible in the field. But a large part of that requirement is negated by the smaller fields and the quicker outfields that mean that anything that gets through the infield, races away for four. So you have lots of Jonty Rhodes lookalikes, diving at everything in sight, but few who can cover turf quickly enough to chase shots. Having said that, the difference in the standards between the Indians/Pakistanis and the Aussie/Kiwi/Springboks has been evident in the basics of catching and ground fielding.
There is likely to be an increased focus on the fielding drills and an overall improvement in standards as batsmen of similar caliber strive to differentiate themselves on the field.

The bottomline is that while the IPL will, for now, garner enough interest to power it for the next few years, a gradual erosion in the basic skills will reduce the long-term viability of the game as it will face serious competition from other organized sports.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 21, 2008 1:52 pm

    Money wise IPL is gr8, but then the standard of cricket may well go down……… already cricket was consider batsmen game……. IPL is reinforcing that claim.
    Cricket is going through exciting times…….. it will be fun to watch what happens nxt……….. Will IPL eventual manage to reach the statue of EPL or will it erode the rich fiber of the game ?

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