IPL 2017 April 23, 2017

Hating and loving the IPL

Rahul Misra
From planning to protest against the IPL to becoming fans of the league

Cheerleaders at the cricket? Say it ain't so...? © AFP

In the middle of the previous decade, cricket fans in India were introduced to a new spectacle. The BCCI, in all its wisdom, paraded its top brass on television and proposed the Indian Premier League. Supposedly perfect for an evening out with friends and family, the matches would finish in three hours. You know, like baseball.

I still remember the disgust with which my circle of friends discussed the new competition. Our beloved game was being demolished, sold to the television gods for prime-time revenues. What about the battle between bat and ball, we asked, our collective voices high-pitched with indignation. What about the delicious build-up to the final hour? Imagine our horror when we realised that the game blessed by WG Grace and Ranjitsinhji would now have cheerleaders.

We couldn't have been more annoyed if our quiet neighbourhood pub was being replaced by a screeching karaoke bar. Or if our favourite local fish-and-curry restaurant was demolished for a fast-food joint. Might as well tear up Eden Gardens and put a shopping mall on the pitch.

We felt we were being betrayed. After a few beers, we even drew up plans to raise banners of protest outside the BCCI office. But then we were a bunch of couch commentators. Talkers, not doers. By the next morning, our indignation had given way to a headache and a hangover, but our decision to boycott stood firm. Or so we thought.

One of the chaps in our group was more of a football fan. Every set of friends has at least one of them. He couldn't stand Test cricket, thought draws after five days were a colossal waste of time, and believed David Beckham was a greater sportsman than Sachin Tendulkar. Always the odd one out, he couldn't understand why we were so fussed. From his point of view, cricket was finally becoming a tad interesting.

He was the one who secretly got us tickets. After raining our anger down at him, the rest of us looked at each other and shrugged. It was a Mumbai Indians match. Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya in the same team, opening the batting together. We couldn't really resist that, could we?

So when the day of the match arrived, all of us grudgingly headed to the stadium, promising ourselves we wouldn't enjoy it. It probably took about five overs for our resolve to fly out of the stadium like those huge sixes that the batsmen unleashed. By the end, we were dancing the bhangra in the aisles while the cheerleaders twirled their pom-poms.

Ten years have passed since then. I no longer live in India and that circle of friends has spread to different parts of the world. Last month, I saw a tweet from that football-loving friend praising Cheteshwar Pujara's 525-ball vigil against Australia. I buzzed him and imagine my surprise when he said it was the best match he had ever seen!

If it wasn't for the initial taste of the IPL, perhaps he would never have gotten converted. T20 is cricket's teaser, that free cocktail that gets people in the door and encourages them to hang around for the seven-course dinner. They come in for the sixes and stay for the maiden overs.

As for me and the rest of my friends, we have enthusiastically supported our chosen teams for the past decade. Let's just say that while we enjoy our quiet beers, that doesn't mean we can't sing a mean rendition of "We are the Champions" on karaoke.

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Rahul Misra is a techie in the office and a freelance writer everywhere else. He is convinced he has memories of India winning the World Cup in 1983 even though he wasn't even two years old back then. He can be reached on Twitter at @rahulmisra722.

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  • cricfan3893497110 on April 30, 2017, 5:21 GMT

    This I P L 2017, What's going on, I can't understand. All Big Teams, All Big Players Failed. I'm Watching every Match Of I P L, I can't looks Spirit in Teams,and in Players,Which is must required in Cricket, Spirit Label is very low. I am not Sure, and I don't want to tell, but I am thinking,So many Matches of This I P L, like prejudice or Fix Results they have,because no fighting spirit I look in all most Matches. RCB, Gujarat, Punjab,Delhi not going Well, but they have Big Name of the players.Anyway Cricket is Cricket, I like I P L too much.

  • Pras on April 24, 2017, 20:38 GMT

    @SERGIOU and @LEGGIE, Totally agree on cheerleaders; they can be dispensed with... However, I personally like T20s, although I grew up in the era of tests. With IPL specifically, it is boring for many purely because of too many matches. If each team was to play with other teams just once instead of twice, that would make it much more interesting! But then that would reduce BCCI's income in half... In the end, its a capitalistic economy (yes, even for sports) and as long as there are people watching these games, they will be there...

  • Sudhakar on April 24, 2017, 13:23 GMT

    Share the same views as @SERGIOU. Too many matches, and no place for cheerleaders - IMHO. Another change I would love to see is the IPL being played in November and December - the two best months for playing in India. This season also brings bowlers into play. Otherwise in Indian summer conditions, there is too much of slogfest - making it a little boring.

  • Sergiou on April 24, 2017, 12:48 GMT

    I am not a big fan of IPL. They can do without cheerleaders. Heck, all the T20s should be without cheerleaders. T20 itself is a absorbing game, we don't need any distraction or rather attraction. IPL has way too many games. I personally lose interest, it is difficult to follow which team is on the top and such. This is why I just watch the playoffs. Fewer game but tense and meaningful ones. Like RCB getting all out 49 would mean nothing in the run of the tournament because they will win a lot of games and overcome any runrate or points issues. But come playoffs that would have been a different story all together.

  •   Cricinfouser on April 24, 2017, 11:01 GMT

    From IPL to Test cricket, wow, that is amazing! Can almost be compared to a draughts player graduating to a grandmaster at chess! Good for him!!!!

  • Brishni on April 24, 2017, 6:46 GMT

    How can one not like Innovation & the primal instinct of adapting constantly to succeed? That is the essence of T20 cricket that the IPL has captured and showcased so wonderfully. And in the bargain it has breathed new life into ODI Cricket which was at risk og going stale.

  • sam on April 24, 2017, 3:20 GMT

    @CricfanSSV And also IPL gives recognition and confidence to perform on big stage to Indian domestic cricketers. The best thing that has happened though is that national selectors are looking beyond IPL when they are choosing national teams. It took more than 7-8 years but at least that is happening for the last couple of years. Both Faeez Fazal and Abhinav Mukund do not play IPL but got chances in Indian Team recently. Yes, both failed but still it indicates selectors are not too biased by IPL performances when selecting national teams. IPL performance should only mean selection in T20 national team and nothing more.

  • Subbu on April 24, 2017, 0:54 GMT

    The only reason to support the IPL is to give cricketers some much-needed financial security. As a spectator sport, it has simply become a game of big hitting. Boring.

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