"I see the IPL becoming bigger than the NFL, the NBA, the English Premier League."
The third season of the IPL kicked off yesterday and as befits the most modern of cricket tournaments, I tuned in via YouTube (and ITV4) to see what all the fuss was about. All the hype created around the IPL, mainly by Lalit Modi, suggested that it was going to be the biggest thing since The Beatles. It isn't and as far as I am concerned it is more akin to Kula Shakar then the four moptops from Liverpool.
Firstly, supporters plus the global TV and internet audience had to contend with the opening ceremony, which dragged on for an hour. I don't particularly enjoy opening ceremonies and this wasn't the Olympics or the football World Cup; although doubtless Modi feels he can surpass both.
But what about the cricket? The opening match saw the reigning champions, Deccan Chargers, taking on the perenniel underachievers, the Kolkata Knight Riders in Mumbai. Given that this was a 'home' match for Deccan (security concerns mean that they can't play in Hyderabad), the fact that the ground was 70% full is not too bad I suppose. Although I would guess that the first games of the season for the New Orleans Saints and Manchester United would be sold out long before the actual game.
I actually enjoyed some of the cricket. It was good to see Chaminda Vaas show that T20 isn't just about batsmen hitting boundaries by taking two wickets in the first over. I also enjoyed the unbroken 131 partnership between Owais Shah, who surely will be in England's World T20 squad, and Angelo Matthews, which saw the Knight Riders post a competitive 161/4. It was also good to see Adam Gilchrist teeing off - especially as it wasn't against England. But overall the game was a bit of a damp squib with Deccan throwing the game away after the lightning start provided by Gilchrist and VVS Laxman.
As my first experience of the IPL, I'd say it was ok but not great. I can understand why the tournament is big news in India where the combination of bollywood razzmatazz, clever marketing and the participation of India's biggest cricket stars makes it an appetising proposition in cricket's biggest market. But as for Modi's global ambitions, I just can't see it competing successfully with the international game over a long period; the Champions League seems the best chance of doing that.
Modi reminds me of Tony James, the bass player in Sigue Sigue Sputnik. James created a hype around the band that enabled them to score a massive deal from EMI and masses of press coverage before they had released a record. When they finally did, Love Missile F1-11 was propelled to the top of the charts. Then everyone realised that Sputnik were not the second coming and their fall was as dramatic as their rise. Will the same happen to the IPL?
I will continue to tune in especially to the matches of my adopted team, the Delhi Daredevils, but my overall impression is that test cricket is not as in danger as I thought. Perhaps I should add a caveat to that though given the boredom that is the 2nd day between Bangladesh and England so far zzzzz.
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