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IPL Season Two – time to deliver

April 14, 2009

Grand opening ceremonies, more Bollywood star power than an awards function, primetime coverage and all of cricket’s big names. The IPL has everything. Or does it? The PR machine has been in full swing now for over a month to the point where I’m experiencing ‘IPL fatigue’ with a week to go for the event to begin!

If it’s not about the “four-captain theory” and the ensuing celebrity-wars, it’s about what the cousin of the hairdressers to the guy who lives nextdoor to Ishant Sharma’s lookalike likes to eat for breakfast.

All acceptable though, like the pains of opening the stiff plastic wrapping that encases most expensive electronic gadgets, if the product is lip-smacking. But is it?

 

Going by last season, the answer is not straight-forward. Given that the teams have undergone significant reshuffles, what establishes loyalties? Is it purely geography with every Bengali being by default a supporter of the dubiously named Knight Riders, or is it player fan following with die-hard Yuvraj Singh fans supporting the other ten kings by association? I don’t recall die-hard “paint the team colours on face” kinda support from any of the people I saw follow the IPL last season.

Most people seemed to watch it with the kind of involvement one has while watching a long-running soap opera, interested, but far from captivated.

 

Last season, everyone had their favourites, but was any Mumbai-ite really torn up about the Mumbai Indians losing more than they won? I wonder how many in Bangalore are beating the drums looking for a turnaround this season. Its one thing when a team with its back to the wall fights back. Here it was just a question of a millionaire’s shopping trip to get some glitter in the form of KP and Ryder. It took me a couple of viewings of the new Mumbai Indians commercial to realize that Zaheer Khan had been moved from the Royal Challengers to the Mumbai team.

 

One could argue that the format is only finding its feet but to be successful, they need passionate followers and for that to happen, they will need firstly continuity – teams revamping lineups every season is hardly going to resonate with fans. The newsprint devoted to the individual team owners keeps might be a deterrent to people taking to teams as their own.

 

The other thing is competitiveness of the cricket. Team changes have to be more than a function of how big the team owner’s ego is and consequently how much they’re willing to fork out for the big names. The IPL’s biggest selling point, in my opinion is, ironically, its Achilles’ heel. Almost all T20 games are close, with the shorter duration ensuring that the final runs are invariably scored in the final couple of overs. However, it might’ve become evident to viewers, that this doesn’t necessarily mean better cricket. Huge swipes across the line and inside edges trickling to fine leg for the winning runs will get boring after a while.

 

Teams will need to develop personalities that go beyond shiny outfits and big names.

Different strategies will need to on view and some changes to rules might be called for, in order to make things unpredictable for viewers. The IPL will have to count on more than tabloid journalism to sustain interest. This is the big test.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2009 6:50 pm

    That’s right, because you started seeing through the tournament last year that in some groups, interest waned. The IPL needs to form some real bond with supporters to retain their interest. National sides have patriotism, but what can the IPL bring to the table?

  2. April 15, 2009 9:49 am

    Right Amy. After the excitement of the first couple of weeks, all the games merged into a frenetic blur. I for one partially saw many of the games, but have hardly any memorable cricketing moments from the lot. Quite in contrast to the recently ended India-NZ tour. At the end of the day, the cricket has to be of high-quality.

  3. April 18, 2009 4:03 am

    Things like international player limits and mandatory breaks after 10 overs only will cut down on the quality of the cricket :(. My only problem with the IPL is that they are pretty much shameless when it comes down to the idea that the league is there to make money at the expense of the quality of competition.
    However, the thing these days is that even in India, there are plenty of people who don’t really care about cricket who will watch the IPL anyway who might not watch standard international games. All the junk about movie stars and the like hurts them with real fans but helps bring these people in. Really they are geniuses, only at making money, not producing quality cricket.
    The one thing that props the league up is the synergy with international cricket. International cricket builds the stars, so the league doesn’t have to focus at all at promoting its talent and can instead focus on promoting a contest between all the big names.

  4. April 20, 2009 11:34 am

    Ron, your point about how the IPL is almost parasitic in nature in not having to invest in developing the game but only to monetize the reputations of the world’s leading cricketers is bang on.

    However, I disagree with your point about not limiting international players (read as players who’re already playing international cricket for their country). Personally, am getting a l’il tired of watching the big names do their thing. It’s more exciting to watch young unknowns (irrespective of what country they’re from) compete with the big boys. Problem is currently, the core of all teams is built around the big names while the unproven ones are support-acts.

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