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Why compare the ICC World Twenty20 tournament with the IPL at all? Anyone who knows and understands his cricket would give his right arm for the bigger, mature and more accomplished contest of the two. Of course, grumbles about the Twenty20 World Cup being a bit humdrum are growing. No doubt, the ICC version comes across as the plain-Jane of the Twenty20 format, especially after a dekko at the swankier IPL. The reasons though, could not be cricketing but purely commercial and logistical.
Timing The World Twenty20 is happening on the heels of the IPL, which is certainly quite an overdose of this format. However much you like the sport and the format, there's bound to be some viewer fatigue. Devout followers will still watch, but even they would choose their games. People who started following the sport only because of the IPL are most likely to give it a miss.
And it's not just the timing of the tournament but also the timings of the matches which are detrimental to its following. To cater to the Indian audience, matches start at 9.30 am local time. But is it fair to expect the locals and tourists to flock the stadium? For example St Lucia, where India played their league matches, is a small tourist destination. How can you expect the tourists to wake up and be at the ground at 8am for the morning match? With hardly any live audience the atmosphere in the stadium goes for a toss. Unfortunately even starting that early isn't solving all the problems. The second game starts at 11 pm IST and which means the match goes on till 2.30am. Regardless of how good the match is, most of the Indian audience will turn off their TV sets after midnight during weekdays.
Following Since the IPL is an Indian tournament with Indian players involved in every game, a decent turnout in every stadium is guaranteed. But that's not the case in the West Indies. Yes, they might come in droves to watch their home team in action, but one cannot blame them for not turning up to watch an India-Afghanistan game.
For me, another thing that is not exactly working for the World Twenty20's is that all the matches are day games. The idea of donning coloured clothing and playing with the white ball was to add to the visual appeal. And that appeal can truly manifest itself if the matches are played under artificial lights. While you can have an odd day-game in coloured clothing, having all the games during day time is a dampener.
What we should be talking about is the cricket, not the paraphernalia. Obviously, we've been somewhat blinded by the glitz. But if comparisons are inevitable, then the World Twenty20 sweeps it away hands down - firstly, there's no bigger honour than representing your country and no bigger charm than rooting for your country. Secondly, the quality of cricket played in the World Twenty20 is definitely a lot better than that of the IPL, for obvious reasons. The clash is always amongst the equals and you're always bowling to or batting against a quality bowler which is equal to quality cricket.
I'm sure that the charm won't be wasted on the followers only if the timings and the venue is more appropriate.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.