Pe­riph­er­als shed, IPL is fo­cused heav­ily on cricket

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Sport - AMRIT MATHUR Writer is a se­nior sports ad­min­is­tra­tor. View are per­sonal

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.

AL­WAYS SOAR­ING

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.

RUSSELL MANIA

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.

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