The crazy beauty of the IPL one loud night in Bengaluru

Daz­zled and deaf­ened by a wall of noise in a jam-packed sta­dium

Sunday Times - - Sport Cricket/soccer - in Bengaluru By TELFORD VICE

● 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

Pic­ture: Reuters

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...

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