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Sizzling IPL Could Soon Fizzle
Could India’s Twenty20 Fiesta Be Sustained?

By Orin Davidson
April 26th, 2008

One year ago the International Premier League (IPL) cricket competition was nowhere on the horizon.

In fact it was not even thought of.

Now, after being foisted upon the cricket world like the emergence of a monsoon storm out of nowhere, the IPL Twenty20 series is up and running, with players enjoying windfall salaries and the organizers hoping to create an overnight success.

It remains to be seen though, whether the IPL will take the world by storm or even the Indian public for that matter,

Created as a counter to the International Cricket League (ICL), by the ruling body for cricket in India the Board of Cricket Control, the IPL has attracted all of the world’s best players, recently retired and active, with the exception Brian Lara and a few others.

Indian fans are fanatical about international 50 overs one-day cricket, and were only recently introduced to the Twenty20 version, which is why starting a competition, the magnitude of the IPL event must be considered a risk, given the millions of dollars invested.

Despite the recruitment of world stars Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Herschelle Gibbs, Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis among others, there is no guarantee the competition will develop raging interest in India, much less the world at large.

Twenty20 cricket is not about individual performances, rather it creates excitement generated by runs scored collectively by the same number of players that comprise 50 overs and Test squads, in teams over 20 overs.

In actuality the games are too truncated to allow earth shattering individual batting and bowling displays.

And unfortunately, those ingredients make cricket the appealing attraction it is to the millions of fans around the world, more so in India,

Like baseball, statistics are a key component of the game, but none of note is possible in matches only 20 overs long. Fans revel in batsmen scoring big centuries and pulling off amazingly huge wicket hauls, which is why Lara and Sachin Tendulkar, two of the biggest scorers of all time and Warne, the game’s best spin bowler, were three of the game’s most popular names in the last decade and perhaps in the history of the game.

Brendan McCullum might have blazed an eye popping 158 runs off 73 balls for Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL’s opening match, but such performances would be as rare as a Bollywood superstar not emerging every year.

The reality is that Twenty 20 cricket has seen only three centuries scored since being introduced at any level, and apart from McCullum’s epic and Andrew Symonds’ ton yesterday (Friday April 25). the other centurion Chris Gayle will be missing in action from the IPL, being hobbled home in Jamaica with a dramatic last minute injury

Centuries are a prized achievement in cricket, but you stand a 100-1 chance of seeing another one in the IPL before its six- week run is over.

By that time a number of the international stars would be missing from the IPL, which is sure to further diminish the competition’s appeal.

Ricky Ponting, Symonds and the rest of the Australian superstar contingent will be missing, they having to report for the national team’s next international engagement, Chanderpaul and company from the West Indies will also be gone as will be McCullum and his New Zealand compatriots.

So instead of you having the competition building up into a crescendo of action with all the best players available at the end, the opposite will be the case.

No disrespect to Tendulkar, Mahendra Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and the Indian superstars, who will be there, but the IPL will be simmering instead of boiling, at the climax with the absence of those foreign big name stars.

The exodus will be a huge turnoff to the fans especially if their team’s chances of winning hinged on the foreigner’s preliminary performances like McCullum has already done.

It leaves you to wonder whether the BCCI organizers were thinking straight when they decided to build the event into an international parade of stars, distributed among the eight teams.

Did they think the lure of their big dollars would’ve influenced those players into reversing their national team’s priorities as New Zealand star Shane Bond did for the ICL?

It did not happen this year and is doubtful of ever happening in the future.

Further, the BCCI should not expect to reverse the culture of the sport. In India and every place else around the world, cricket’s popularity is founded on country versus country rivalry.

Club competition is good but it mostly looked upon as a breeding ground for national team players.

Indian fans would much rather see Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Dhoni play as a team taking on Ponting and his compatriots or Mohammad Yusuf and his Pakistani comrades, as they have known it to be from cricket’s creation.

A collection of local stars with foreign types, playing for eight city teams in six weeks of competition will not cut it.

It is no wonder Australia’s cricket chief James Sutherland is already questioning the sustainability of the IPL.

He surely would agree with the above, and being head administrator of the most successful team in the world, he knows the score.

Therefore, to those overnight millionaires and other rich players cashing in presently, they are best advised to enjoy the windfall while it lasts.

Because it is likely to stop raining cash their way, sooner rather than later.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage

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