Many believe the IPL to be nothing but 'hit and giggle cricket' - it is cash-rich, fast, colourful and entertaining. Yet, not really cricket. Players with specific skill set rule the roost while the sponsors and franchises make hay. The audience too seems to revel in its larger-than-life persona. Reason enough for the purists to look the other way. But is it really that flimsy? The league, now in its fifth edition, deserves a closer look.
As incredible as it sounds, an IPL season is make-or-break for a lot of cricketers. I'm not talking about the million-dollar babies, but the Robin Bists and Parvinder Awanas of domestic cricket, who've done so well in the previous Ranji season. The IPL is their big ticket to stardom.
If one really wants to know the importance of IPL in a domestic cricketer's life, you'd do well by being a fly-on-the-wall of a state team's dressing room for a full season. While the world, quite naively blames the IPL for every sin, a young cricketer in India will give his right arm to be a part of it. Since there are no takers for domestic cricket, these players always play to empty stands and the IPL gives them the opportunity to emerge out of oblivion.
In the pre-IPL era, the only way to break into the India team was to do well in domestic circuit. It takes a lot to finish amongst the top-three performers in a season drawn over five months. Since the inception of the IPL though, the selectors have started rewarding performers with the India cap. This fact is not lost on first-class cricketers. Now, whether that is a wise move, is subject to debate.
The best part is that one doesn't have to finish as a marquee players), just impressive performances does the job.
While everyone expects cricketers to play for the love of the game, it's unfair to assume that they would continue without getting reasonably paid. For most first-class cricketers, making money by playing cricket is their only source of income and even though first-class cricket has become lucrative, it isn't a patch on the IPL riches.
(The writer is contracted with Rajasthan Royals)