IPL January 30, 2010

The British summer pastime that is the IPL


The IPL will go where no Twenty20 cricket has gone before: into the British consciousness © AFP

So the IPL will be available to British viewers on YouTube. Like a Sreesanth celebration jig, this is both cheering and yet at the same time a little unsettling. Last year, I watched the IPL on Setanta, that yellow-hued disaster zone masquerading as a sports channel. Sadly, Setanta, with its plastic studio, nervous presenters and no-thrills approach is no longer with us. So that’s a step forward.

But YouTube? YouTube is fine if you want to watch homemade videos on how to eat crisps, trailers for films you aren’t interested in and grainy, wobbly footage of computer games playing on someone else’s television, but is this really the setting for live sport? If several million people access it once, will it cope? Will IPL watchers be forced to put up with five minute buffering pauses between the delivery of Munaf’s slower ball and its arrival?

Still, you can’t fault the logic behind this attempt to ensure that everyone on the planet gets to see a little bit of the IPL. I don’t often quote Lalit Modi and I may never have cause to do it again, but this sentence is worth repeating.

“It is about broadening the fan base, after that, everything follows.”

Now read that again, slowly and let the full wisdom sink in. Pay particularly close attention if you work for the ECB and you spend most of your time trying to persuade people of the absolute necessity of keeping English cricket hidden away where most people can’t see it. Fan base. Broadening. Get it? Perhaps this is why the IPL is a global television event, whereas the Friends Provident T20 (stop chuckling, please, there really is such a thing) isn’t.

Of course, this cutting out of the studio-based middle man will not go down well in some quarters. One of the features of YouTube is the opportunity for free and largely uncensored expression that exists beneath each uploaded video. Perhaps we might start to see unsolicited cyber outbursts from disgruntled SKY microphone jockeys who had hoped to land the IPL presenting gig:

DGowerOBE: LOL, did u see that shot? ROTFL! If that shot was a wine, it‘d B like a really ordinary Chateauneuf de Pap. MayB a 1997 or a 1986!
Athers185notout: No it wouldn’t
DGowerOBE: Ur jus disagreeing 4 the sake of it
Athers185notout: No I’m not
Nass1999: Leave it guys
DGowerOBE: It’s got nuthin to do wit U, big nose
TheBumble: This IPL is Gr8!
Athers185notout: No it’s not
DGowerOBE: It’s pants. Isn’t it, Bob
MrBobWillis: Since all human endeavour is essentially pointless, I would have to say that this entire tournament has been an utter disaster from start to finish and I’ve hated every minute of it, quite frankly.

But whether it is on YouTube, Sky, The Shopping Channel, or even beamed directly through our dental fillings via Lalit Modi’s personal satellite, the IPL has become as essential to the British springtime as the smell of ripe manure, the Cheltenham Festival, scattered snow showers, the optimistic deployment of three-quarter length shorts and coming up with plausible reasons why the lawn cannot be mowed. Roll on March 12th.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England