IPL November 17, 2010

10 reasons I hate the IPL aka ‘the America effect’

By Gregory Uzelac

By Gregory Uzelac

Here are 10 reasons I hate the IPL:

10. I don’t need to see Warney attempt to relive his glory days on the pitch in between commercials that feature him and Adam Gilchrist speaking atrocious Hindi. 9. It makes ‘sixes’ boring. 8. Anil Kumble bowling some random under-19 player isn’t my idea of fierce competition. 7. Politics play too much of a role (aka “give me Pakistani players!”). 6. I’m tired of thinking the Mumbai Indians are the Mumbai Mastercards. 5. Cheerleaders at a cricket match? I love the ladies, but really? 4. The fact that the Tamils I know root for Delhi Daredevils and my friends from Uttar Pradesh are die-hard Chennai Superkings supporters. 3. Corruption. 2. What the hell is a Knightrider? 1. It’s not cricket!

I enjoy the IPL, I really do. I watched almost every match last season. It’s not necessarily in the cricket that I find my dislike of the tournament nor is it in the Twenty20 format. It is in how this Twenty20 money-fuelled circus is run. Personally I blame my home country and I think it could learn a few things from ‘real cricket’.

I’m not talking about fixing the conduct of a team or artificial enhancements or sex scandals. All these can be found in the world of cricket too, but they are simply more prevalent in America’s ‘big three’ – baseball, basketball, and American football. What I am talking about is how we treat sport here in the US. As much tradition as there is to the ‘big three’, I simply have not found an equivalent to ‘the spirit of cricket’ among the ranks of their players and fans.

Think about it: even if it doesn’t concern the actual game, when something is a little off, the phrase “that’s not cricket” most certainly applies. Cricket is rich in etiquette, prestige, grace and passion. Cricket without these things simply isn’t cricket. Does that make it baseball?

Quite obviously, no. Still, I have seen many “that’s not cricket” moments in my time, on pitches across the globe, and the IPL is often on the verge of causing an utterance or two. However, that sportsman’s attitude that stands out in cricket still drives middle-aged men to leave their homes on an early Sunday morning and spend an entire day wilting in the sun, fidgeting with and hitting a little leather ball. It is also that same attitude, or more appropriately, devotion, that has encouraged me since I was fourteen to disregard age, ethnicity and cost in order to stand in the same outfield as that middle-aged man.

We cricketers love our little game. We love it to a point that it might even be bad for our health. US cricket attests to this. If not for the dedication to cricket brought over by immigrants from all over the world, the sport would not exist here. People would simply have assimilated and taken up baseball or some other ‘American’ sport because it was easier to access, and I’ve seen this happen sadly. What is so unique about cricket is that while there is an Englishman in some hollowed out countryside hauling his kit into the boot of his car to head over to the pitch down the road, a Brooklynite is waking up twice as early, carrying equipment, which is in half as good condition, to his team-mate’s car so they can drive together to a pitch in New Jersey – a whole other state – for a match that will give him nothing more than satisfaction. Two men separated by so much, but united by passion for the game.

Maybe it is because we take our local teams more seriously than national teams in the US (it’s only when famous NBA players are used in the Olympics that we support the USA basketball team). However, cricketers’ passion has meant that for a long time fame and fortune have been out of the picture when moving up the ranks of cricket’s system. When cricketers retire, they retire so they can be with their families or continue the love of the game, not exploit their reputation. Even those select cricketers that make it onto the television screens in Mumbai and Sydney (Tendulkar and Warney per say) don’t carry themselves with the same smugness that money-grubbing athletes in America often do (Williams sisters much?). That has started to change though…

With the match-fixing allegations against the Pakistani trio still fresh in everyone’s mind and the IPL approaching its fourth cycle, I can’t help but think the American obsession with money in sport is starting to ruin our beloved game. Look at the West Indies. Shame on Gayle, Bravo, and Pollard. These boys have raw talent that could bring back the glory days of Walsh, Sir Viv and Lara, but instead they focus on money. West Indies Cricket isn’t in shambles because of a lack of talent, it’s in shambles because of a lack of drive and the only people that still have the passion that led to the greatest sports dominance in history are not supported well enough. I have a lot of faith in the squad currently in Sri Lanka because I feel captain Sammy and his boys are bringing that passion back ever so slowly.

The common misconception is that only Twenty20 will succeed in the US. That is false. Twenty20 is cricket for people with ADD or who have a train to catch (I guess that is why New Yorkers are so good at it). However, the American cricketers I know all agree: cricket doesn’t need flashy colors, dancing cheerleaders and ads being stuffed down our throats every ten seconds to make it enjoyable. Cricket is our beautiful game and we will play it to play and nothing more.

Gregory Uzelac is an American cricketer from New York City, currently studying in the Midwest