Peripherals shed, IPL is focused heavily on cricket
An abiding memory of this IPL is an Election Commission banner of Rishabh Pant urging people to vote. That demonstrates Rishabh’s star power among young voters. It also confirms cricket’s deep connect with India. IPL is Indian cricket’s grand festival. Elections, the bigger festival that celebrates India’s democracy, come every five years.
Since it started, IPL has been disruptive in a positive way—it changed Indian cricket, Indian sport and much more. Designed as a league where opportunity shook hands with talent, IPL is sport spiced with entertainment and glamour. High quality cricket smartly packaged and home delivered at prime time, the formula is eye-catching in every sense. It was no surprise that IPL took off like a rocket. Fans loved the format and the excitement it generated. Families sat together at dinner in front of television sets and consumed cricket. India was gripped by a cricket viral which meant streets were deserted in the evenings and anxious producers postponed film releases for six weeks. Sure signs IPL had conquered the box office.
Twelve seasons later, IPL’s dream run is uninterrupted. Its journey thus far has seen more ups than downs, in terms of cricket and commercial success.
All matches are almost sold out and every other game is decided on the last ball. IPL has grown to create a special slot for itself in the Indian summer, placed strategically between class 12 board exams and the monsoon.
IPL today is more cricket than commerce, having discarded the peripherals it never needed. There is less noise now. The notorious after parties are gone. Cheerleaders still go through their routine but theirs is a tired performance, an item number which lost its fizz long ago.
Team owners who earlier grabbed media attention took a dignified backseat. SRK continues to create a flutter, waving imperiously from his corner box at Eden Gardens, but the days of celebrities exchanging high fives and hugging players near the boundary are past. There is all round understanding that IPL is about players and brands, fan loyalty and engagement.
Cricket remains the core, and this season saw power-hitting reach an altogether new high. Andre Russell muscled the ball with astonishing ease, scoring at a strike rate of 204, which was achieved by smashing every third ball to the boundary. Death overs were carnage in most matches, and such was the domination of bat over ball that even Ishant Sharma finished a game by hitting a last-ball six.
In the middle of this madness, leg-spinners held their own. If 40-year-old Imran Tahir was an absolute star, so was Rahul Chahar, age 19. Rashid Khan is still a mystery for most batsmen and Shreyas Gopal/Amit Mishra/ Piyush Chawla were attacking options for captains.
IPL again pushed exciting young Indian talent to the fore, none more impressive than KKR’s Shubman Gill. Clearly, he is one for the future given his sound technique, match awareness and calm presence in the middle. Riyan Garg, a 17-yearold school kid, showed plenty of skill and composure in pressure situations. While new talent came through, IPL was harsh on some who were heroes yesterday. Yuvraj, Raina, Rayudu and Yusuf Pathan have all had better IPLs and going forward could switch to more rewarding roles in team dugouts or TV studios.
THE INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE TODAY IS MORE CRICKET THAN COMMERCE, HAVING DISCARDED THE PERIPHERALS IT NEVER NEEDED. THERE IS LESS NOISE NOW. THE NOTORIOUS AFTER PARTIES ARE GONE AS WELL.