The crazy beauty of the IPL one loud night in Bengaluru
Dazzled and deafened by a wall of noise in a jam-packed stadium
● The night began amid the twirling ceiling fans, squared dark wood columns, unfancy tables and chairs, and ancient air of Koshy’s, where the waiters are uncles in white coats, where Nehru, Khrushchev and Lizzie, queen of England, have dined, and where it will always be 1940.
An uncle presented a “mixed grill” as if he was serving Lizzie herself. A fried egg glistened atop a curve of sausage, two steaklets — possibly bison in these anti-beef parts — chicken livers, other liver, and a chicken drumstick. Vegetables boiled to within a calorie of their nutritional value bookended one end, apologetic chips the other.
All that, and a couple of beers later, it was time to walk towards the orchestrated chaos at M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Floodlights beaming through the syrupy air served as radar for a squadron of black kites, whose serrated wings and hooked beaks brought swirling death to a smidgen of the myriad flying insects which had an expectation under cover of night.
Down below, all of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) appeared to be shambling gameward. Like the insects above, those on foot were in a hopeless fight with, apparently, all the city’s fossil-fuelled fascists.
An hour earlier, as we passed the team hotel, a thick throng had gathered across the road. Probably they couldn’t spare the equivalent of R150 for the cheapest tickets — the most expensive cost R6 650 — so they waited for their modest second prize: a glimpse of the players as they boarded the bus.
The better-heeled packed the stadium to within sight of its 40 000 capacity to watch Royal Challengers Bangalore play Mumbai Indians, getting through the gates, the metal detectors, the body searches, the turnstiles and narrow passages without pushing and shoving.
Then, as we crested the stairs and saw the neon green field, it hit us. All you could hear was everything all the time. The wall of noise rose repeatedly to an impossible apex on the command of a relentless announcer who scripted the crowd’s every word, right down to the “Ooooooooo . . .” for a play-and-miss.
“It’s the loudest ground in the world,” said a veteran coach on the staff of an Indian Premier League (IPL) outfit. “When they start with ‘ABD’ you can’t hear anything else.”
Alas, AB de Villiers was absent, ill. So the most formidable roar of RCB’s innings came the instant Manan Vohra’s dismissal was confirmed. That meant “Virat! Virat! Virat” Kohli was up.
Eardrums were most in danger in the death overs, when it became clearer with every fitful fielder’s desperate dive to stop almost every smote stroke that Bangalore would defend their middling total to maintain thread-thin hopes of reaching the playoffs.
Round midnight, parents carrying slumbering infants joined the claustrophobic shuffle out of the ground. “Just a bit of panic and we could have another Hillsborough [when a human crush at the football stadium in Sheffield, England, in 1989 resulted in 96 fatalities and 766 injuries],” an Australian among us said.
Police shooed swarming tuk-tuks along Queens Road, one of which had us home and dry, dazzled and deafened, by 1am: “What the hell just happened,” we didn’t ask each other. Could anything like it, exponentially smaller and — merciful gods — quieter, happen in South Africa, where the inaugural edition of the T20 Global League (T20GL) suffered an ignominious failure to launch last year? “I don’t know, but if it does it will work until mediocre players want to be paid more,” the IPL coach said. “I know very ordinary New South Wales players who own three homes.”
Perhaps it was time for bigger ideas: “The Australians might not be too keen because they have the Big Bash, but the southern hemisphere countries should start a T20 equivalent of Super Rugby.” Whatever.
There’s no challenging the dominance of the IPL, a tournament squawked about by 100 television commentators from six countries in five languages besides English. And that in September sold its broadcast rights until 2022 for an amount so massive it defies definition: R310 511 362 687.50. Russell Adams, a South African, knows all that and more. He ended 10 years in cricket in India as RCB’s commercial, operations and academy vice-president last year when he was appointed the T20GL’s tournament director.
“The corporate or business structure in a sport means holding people accountable for delivery based on key performance indicators,” Adams said. “[That involves] quality people and service providers and agencies that go beyond the call of duty to ensure delivery for the No 1 objective: fan experience.
“The success of the IPL is the global appeal of cricket and entertainment, quality world-class foreign players, and a format that works regardless of where or when it is played.”
Don’t be fooled by Adams’ coolly expressed sanity. It was crazy out there. But crazy beautiful.
“When they start with ‘ABD’ you can’t hear anything else Veteran coach IPL outfit
The success of the IPL is the global appeal of cricket and entertainment, quality world-class foreign players, and a format that works regardless of where or when it is played. Russell Adams Former administrator in the IPL
Initially seen as a gimmick when it started 10 years ago, the Indian Premier League has morphed into a commercial giant so big, the cricket world has to bend its back to ensure players get their fair share of the cheese. It's also a wonderful spectator...