The Champions League may not have matched the buzz of the IPL, especially when the Indian teams exited early, but the IPL's stamp on Indian cricket was very much evident in the tournament.
Cricket, now, is much more than a simple contest between bat and ball — it is an event of mauj and masti packaged, promoted and presented aggressively.
For devoted fans, cricket matches of the T20 kind deliver unadulterated excitement. The crowd loves bowlers being massacred and runs smashed, whether by Pollard or Pathan.
In Bangalore, the only occasion when two Indian teams clashed in the tournament, the atmosphere at the ground was amazing, and all the changes triggered by the IPL were clearly visible. The match started at 8:45 p.m., which caused a bemused Anil Kumble to comment that had someone suggested this five years ago, others would have thought him crazy. Dinnertime start for a cricket game is one of the changes introduced by the IPL.
And when Kumble came on to bowl around 10 p.m. he was presented to his adoring fans as though he was a WWF warrior about to vanquish his opponents.
Which, in a way, he did soon enough — Kumble promptly took two main batsmen out. Proof once again that class prevails irrespective of the format, whether it is a 10-day Test or a short 10-over shootout.
For the fans, transformed completely in the past 18 months by the IPL experience, the match was one huge party. In a T20 situation, they arrive wearing team jerseys, wave flags, respond to the DJ and quickly work out the angle of the crane-mounted TV cameras to make sure they are in the frame at the appropriate time.
Of course, the entire atmosphere is utterly corporate, there is money in the merchandise, in team flags and cheer-sticks, and the food stalls and the liquor. Even cheerleaders, who sway crazily to the music, are meant to display the commercial logos on their dresses more than anything else.
There is hard, tough cricket in the middle but beyond the boundary, commerce rules.
Like cinema, cricket has made the transition from purana single screen halls to modern multiplexes. In this context, a match today is not just a game but an event that is carefully planned, promoted aggressively and presented with style. Every possible commercial opportunity (ranging from parking space for cars to space on player uniforms) must be monetised.
Some feel this in-your-face commercialisation diminishes the purity of sport and injures the spirit of cricket. This is debatable but whether one likes it or not the recent changes in Indian cricket are irreversible. So, just embrace the new trends and flow with the tide.