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Tuesday, 3rd April “So you really watch it? All of it?”
Yes it’s true. My name is Andrew Hughes and I have an IPL problem. It isn’t the same problem that most English people have with the IPL. Those three letters don’t provoke me to derisive nasal sounds or to mutter dismissively about “Indian domestic cricket” from behind the county pages of the Times.
No, my IPL problem is that for a few weeks every spring it takes over my life, but I can’t talk to anyone about it. I am the only English person I know who watches the thing. Incredulity is the most popular reaction when I tell people I’m looking forward to the IPL, followed by benign amusement and then concern for my state of mind.
It seems there is a divide between those of us who love it and those of us who don’t; a gulf as wide as any that separates groups of humans. I don’t understand why cricket lovers wouldn’t want to watch the IPL, just as I don’t understand why anyone would want to vote for Newt Gingrich or eat their steak rare. We might as well be different species.
But isn’t there a lot of hype with the IPL? Well, yes, there is, and a good thing too. Anticipation is part of the pleasure. A big sporting event without the hype is like a carnival without candy floss or a Hollywood blockbuster without a car chase in the trailer. The IPL hype doesn’t usually last beyond Ravi’s first commentary stint, but I wouldn’t be without it.
In fact, Test cricket could do with a dose of IPL glamour, instead of limping apologetically from one two-match series to another and trying to make a virtue of its Victorian snobbery. The Test ranking system is a good thing, but where’s the publicity? An annual photograph of a sheepish-looking captain holding a sort of a mace is not exactly a crowd-puller
Of course, not everything in the IPL garden is fragrant and appealing. It’s fair to say the rehabilitation scheme under which former international cricketers are retrained as game-show hosts has had mixed results. Then there’s the unpleasant whiff of commercialism. Like sewage, we know it’s part of life, but that doesn’t mean we want to keep looking at it.
And it is a marathon. By halfway, you’ll be flagging. You’ll start forgetting what day it is, who played yesterday, who’s playing tomorrow and whether Punjab are out yet. You may find yourself daydreaming fondly about kidnapping Danny Morrison and confining him to an uninhabited Pacific atoll for the duration of the tournament.
But then the knockout stages come into view and you get the energy to keep going. By this time the birds outside your window are starting to sound like Shastri, you’re hitting sponsored boundaries in your sleep and even though bloody Chennai are in the final yet again, you still wouldn’t miss it for anything.
It is the greatest cricket show on earth and so, for the next seven weeks and five days, from the mythical realm of Row Z, I will be bringing you the view of the English franchise-addict: an outcast in his own land, braving the group stage with just a remote control, a bottle of gin, and a copy of Shane Warne’s Official IPL Colouring Book.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I think the opening ceremony’s starting and I really don’t want to miss the parade of unicorns or Elvis singing the IPL anthem or the 20-foot high diamond-encrusted replica of Virat Kohli’s finger…
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73