While there is a lot of IPL-bashing of late, there is still nothing wrong with the fundamentals of the idea.
Some of the problems were the dictatorial ways in which it was being run (which may change, with Lalit Modi out of the way) and the over-commercialisation (which may also come down since the new management will have to be cautious).
For a start the post-IPL parties have been cancelled. They had two problems: They not only led to player fatigue, but there were reports that they too were sold to sponsors.
The good part of IPL4 is that it comes after the biggest prize of them all: The ODI World Cup. So there will be no talk of IPL leading to fatigue and injuries for a World Cup, which happened this time.
Here are the six things I still like about the IPL…
Exposure for young talent and a global stage
The IPL is the ultimate breeding ground for new talent in India. The Ranji Trophy is passÃ©. T20 has shown that it’s not just about hitting all the time. You require real talent, one of the reasons why Test masters Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis were the leading run scorers in IPL3.
For bowlers, too, it’s a challenge. If you can contain runs here, then you can do so in any form of the game.
Indian batsmen must learn to counter short stuff
Another factor is that if a player makes a century in a first-class match, he may still be overawed on an international debut. Not so here. If you’ve played IPL with its electric atmosphere and international stars, you won’t get stage fright when you play your first Test or ODI.
IPL3 kept out-of-team India players like Robin Uthappa sharp and have proved to be the perfect launching pad for players like Murali Vijay.
International thawing of relations
Remember Andrew Flintoff removing his shirt in India? Remember Sourav Ganguly paying back the compliment at Lord’s? Remember Flintoff sledging Yuvraj Singh to hit six sixes in the 2007 T20 WC? Remember Kevin Pietersen & Co. taking off after the fifth ODI due to the 26/11 blasts? Remember how the English players would always complain when in India?
Now they don’t. Many would rather play for IPL over their country. The blasts at Chinnaswamy Stadium makes Pietersen think differently because it’s his home ground now.
Remember the 2008 Sydney Test in Australia? Indo-Australian ties were at rock bottom. Within months the IPL started and the Aussie players loved it the most. They have been most at home in the IPL among international players.
Also in IPL2, who would have thought that Indian spectators cheering loudly for Pak players would be “natural”? After things settled down, India’s relations with the rest of the cricketing world is getting better and more and more international players are turning out to be Indophiles.
Total time pass and soap opera mentality
For one-and-a-half months, almost every day, you looked forward to watching a cricket match at 8pm. It became a habit. It didn’t matter which team was playing. If you had nothing better to do, you just put on the TV and went about your business. It’s not like a World Cup where there isn’t a match every day and sometimes you have meaningless contests like Bermuda versus Australia.
Here, “every” match is important. Every team can make it to the semis and every team has a star line-up. How many of you still feel that vacuum in the nights after the IPL has finally ended? Contrast this with the 2007 ODI World Cup, when everyone breathed a sigh of relief at its much anticipated conclusion.
An absolutely fertile experimental ground
This is not an official international ICC match, so one can go ahead and experiment!
For one it has finally brought the club culture to the big league. What’s wrong with that? Andrew Symonds is the first cricketer to have chosen club over country. More avenues for cricketers then!
No team can be called favourites
Another unique thing was the introduction of cheerleaders. They are highly popular in the US and have proved a big hit here too, controversies notwithstanding. From now on the ICC can request changes of rules and innovations to be carried out at the IPL first to see how the world takes them.
More career avenues for cricketers
In the olden days in any given year, 15-20 players would play in at least one international match. They would get all the limelight, glory, money and sponsorships. The rest sat out totally in the cold and watched from the sidelines.
One national magazine even did a story on the high incidence of player suicides among those who never made it to the national team. The IPL has changed all that. More than a hundred Indian players who have never played for India have been part of an IPL franchise squad. Thanks to the IPL, India suddenly has a much larger and happier talent pool.
The off-field drama
In international cricket, most of the off-field drama revolves around team selection and ego tussles. Not so in IPL. Wherever you look, there is drama. Right from following which business house would get which franchise, to its naming and the player auctions, the IPL is news all around. No other sporting tournament creates the kind of national buzz that the IPL creates.
The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger