Some feared it would tear at the very seams of international cricket, while others thought it would bring a welcome change to the most popular sport on this subcontinent. Proponents of Twenty-20 matches pushed for the game, saying it would draw in new audiences, especially women and children, while purists remained skeptical of what it would do to the players.The Indian Premier League’s inaugural edition did all that and much more.
|Adam Gilchrist of Deccan Chargers in action during a T-20 match.|
It was a heady mix of cricket, business and Bollywood — with cheerleaders, acrobats, and pop singers thrown in — that created a new, and hugely successful, format of entertainment.
The change that IPL brought to the way cricket is played, and consumed, cannot be underestimated. For evidence, look no further than Manpreet Gony — a small town club player, who transformed into a national hero. While his bowling was an instant hit in the Twenty-20 format, his marketability was certainly helped by his good looks, something that went perfectly with the image of this tournament.
The selectors might deny it, but IPL helped Gony force his way into the Indian team. It’s another matter that he only played two one-day international matches in Pakistan, where success was elusive and he went out of favour.
IPL was an event that made the impossible possible for Gony, just as it did to the fortunes of many others.
Manpreet Gony, 25, was a medium-pace bowler for JJS Club in Chandigarh, earning a pittance in stipend. His cricket was going well, but it took two coincidences — Punjab’s Luv Ablish joining the banned Indian Cricket League and the Chennai IPL team’s original choice, Sudeep Tyagi, being injured, for Gony to get a crack at the IPL nets.
“It’s pure destiny that I am here today,” said Gony, who now has a Grade D central contract from the Indian cricket board, or BCCI, worth Rs 15 lakh annually.
With the Chennai team doing well, and Gony putting in strong performances, a star was born. “To be a star, you need to play at the highest level. Yes, I am happy that I have made a beginning, but the tough part will follow now as I try to build further,” said Gony. “Fame and money is fine but I am only one season old in first-class cricket.”