Instant cricket probably never had it so big. The Indian Premier League (IPL)’s inaugural cricket tournament that kicks off today offers players and spectators alike an opportunity to get a closer look at what is being hailed as ‘the future of cricket’.
And judging by the enormous interest in the opening match between the Kolkata and Bangalore IPL teams, no one’s going to be disappointed. Cricket matches — be it Tests, one-dayers, or the Twenty20 format — have never enjoyed such overwhelming patronage from administrators and celebrities alike, as movie stars, business magnates, and airline tycoons vie with each other to root for their favourite teams.
So what if mercantile interests, rather than any particular fondness for the game, may drive many of these movers and shakers to spin the fortune wheel on a grass pitch. But then who in their right mind would complain when the revenues from selling television production and broadcast rights for the championship alone promise to be a record that could very well be used for developing the game in the country?
Even before the first ball is bowled, though, a few doubts seem to hang heavy over the IPL’s ability to redefine frontiers for Indian cricket.
After all, if India had not won last year’s Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, would the IPL have been cheered so loudly? The kind of money going into the tournament is another intangible, given its potential to undermine the game at the national level, as many players might be keener on playing for the IPL rather than for the country.
There is also the concern that Twenty20 cricket itself — with its emphasis on innovation and fan-friendly format — could eventually harm one-day matches and Test cricket. But there will be some uncertainties in any new enterprise. The IPL is no exception, and there’s no point speculating on what it would do to cricket skills and talent pools for longer versions of the game.
One thing, however, is certain: the IPL is all set to change the way people look at cricket, being a three - hour game with a definite winner at the end. And since that’s what every player and spectator would want, let the slugfest begin.