If, despite my best efforts over the last few months, you still think cricket is not for you, let me introduce you to the Indian Premier League. Despised by the old guard who prefer their games spread over five days, and their trousers white, the IPL is the faster, louder and wackier version of the game made for the 21st century. Since the inaugural season in 2008, it’s gone from strength to strength and is now valued at 3.03 billion U.S. dollars. There’s some serious money to be made from flashy sporting events, and those Indian businessmen who realised this early enough are more than comfortably off these days.
Personally, I’m still a Test cricket person, but I do enjoy the IPL. And here’s why:
- Nevermind your country, pick your players! IPL is a franchise league — there’s an auction each year, and each team goes for the world’s best players. There’s a lot of money to be made from sponsorship deals and prize money, so the world’s best players make sure they’re available. Everybody wins, and Americans don’t have to grumble about not having their own national team — just pick the team with the best colours, or shortest sleeves (muscular forearms!), or whatever. Or do like me and go for the biggest number of Australians.
- You will only need three hours. It’s a Twenty20 tournament, meaning each team will get only 20 overs (120 balls) to score runs. This way, there’s no time for strategies; if you want to win, you better start hitting that ball! Fast cricket can be super exciting — there were some games in 2008 that almost made me go into early labour. And the basic rules are much easier to understand when you’re having fun watching the game.
- It’s on TV. No excuses. ESPN.
- It’s on YouTube. No excuses! Gocricket.
- They’re all there. If you’re too retired to play, you’ll still go for the money as coach, advisor or mascot. Thus, we all get the chance to see Shane Warne again (OK, bad example), or Sachin Tendulkar. But it’s not only the players. Bollywood is there!
- No boring old men. Don’t let anybody tell you that Test cricket (or indeed any cricket) is boring. It’s the famous ex-player commentators and their self-absorbed name dropping and borderline racist jokes that make you want to smash your TV in. Just as well then that those guys wouldn’t want their names sullied by the glitzy IPL. Good riddance, I say. Give me the local people any day.
- See some great Indian players you will not have heard of. The IPL rules state that each squad has to feature at least 14 Indian players and six under-22s. It is a domestic league, after all, and although most foreign viewers will be initially attracted by the big names, there is plenty of time to discover some new talents. As a general rule, Indians are pretty obsessive about cricket, and playing in the IPL must be every boy’s dream, so those talents will keep coming. (And one day, girls will get their chance too. Because this shit is really not representative of women and cricket in India.)
- When in doubt, watch the crowds. Those poor Indian people — no doubt paying hefty prices to see their idols, while a handful of oligarchs line their pockets. But man, do they make it worth it! In Test cricket, the occasional dressed-up person is a typical British eccentricity, but anything goes in the IPL. Although there’s no need for costumes; watching the audience’s sheer joy of being part of the spectacle is entertainment enough. They do love their cricket.
- Learn something. To fill the breaks, they will occasionally try to educate you and tell you about the places the games are being played in. Most of the time though, you get views of Shahrukh Khan or a cheerleader. Just ignore and Google some more info on Rajasthan.
- Ogle an Australian. There are plenty, but may I recommend this one:
There you have it; lots of reasons to enjoy the IPL for what it’s meant to be: a flashy, exciting sports show. I could have made a list of things that are wrong with the format, as I’m sure other people have done elsewhere on the Internet. In a way, it’s the exact opposite of the things traditional cricket stands for, but that’s not a reason not to watch it. If it helps kids to get into the game, and Test-deprived obsessives to catch some live action, it’s good enough. Just look at it this way: It’s not cricket, it’s Twenty20, and it’s here to stay.