IPL paused, but should spring to life again
Cricket is only a sport, the IPL just another event and with lives at stake it had to be pushed back. Given the current situation, it is inappropriate to count the financial loss. IPL is more than money, it is India’s gift to world cricket and if there was an award for cricket’s most impactful innovation since 2000, it would win hands down. In 13 years since it started, IPL’s changed cricket’s grammar and economics.
Forget the glamour and glitz. IPL works because of quality cricket. Fans love the brilliant skills of superstars Gayle/De Villiers/Malinga/Dhoni/Raina and Kohli. IPL delivers astonishing numbers; the league valuation is several billion, all franchises are guaranteed profits and media rights are valued at ~62 crore per game. Teams spend a whopping ~100 crore each year on players and support staff yet everyone—BCCI, teams, players ,broadcaster, sponsors, fans, foreign boards—is happy.
It’s a fantastic television product, smartly packaged live cricket is home delivered through 32 cameras at prime time. IPL has made a profound impact on cricket, dragging it into the world of professional sport and setting it on a new trajectory. It is why the BCCI flag flutters proudly in world cricket.
The IPL formula (of franchises and international players) is photocopied by all nations, repeated with minor tweaks.
IPL’s immense clout is visible in India too. Within BCCI, state units want IPL games not just for the R1 crore per game they receive. The games create a buzz, bring attention and provide amazing networking opportunities. That is why state governments (Assam, Chhattisgarh) go out of their way to attract IPL games.
Team owners are influential, and though there isn’t any formal mechanism to engage them in governance, their (informal) views carry substantial weight.
After 12 successful seasons, IPL is on autopilot, firmly established as part of the Indian summer (placed in the window between exams and the monsoon). Top foreign stars sign up for playing, and in India domestic cricket is an audition to get an IPL contract.
Shane Warne, Kevin Pietersen and Nasser Hussain credit IPL for changing the mindset of young Indian cricketers and fast tracking their development to international cricket.
Ravi Shastri described IPL as the best physio in the world because everybody reports fit. National selectors keep a close watch on players who succeed in pressure situations.
There is a bit of reverse swing as well because IPL puts Test cricket in the shade. Recently, Sunil Gavaskar questioned the wisdom of scheduling India A team’s overseas tours during the domestic season, asking why these don’t happen during IPL. Nobody responded but everyone knows the answer.
Presently it is paused, but hopefully it should be up and running again.
(The writer is a senior sports administrator.)
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