IPL 2012 April 4, 2012

Will the IPL revive itself or continue to wear out?

By Aamod Desai, India

It is that time of the year when you have a live cricket match every day, when popular VJs discuss and analyse games instead of the more familiar cricket hosts, when you and your friend don’t necessarily cheer for the same side … The IPL is round the corner, promising to be its usual self – extravagant and glamorous. Along with the cricket, this year the big focus will be on whether the IPL brand can revive itself after a below-par performance last season.

With a poor international season (for India) preceding this edition and no home matches for the previous four months, the levels of interest and following should rise – at least top the abysmal stats for last year. The availability of a majority of India’s international players would also encourage the franchises and the tournament organisers. Seventy-six matches and two months – that is the extent of this edition. It appears to be too long, raising questions regarding the fatigue factor for players and the boredom factor for followers. But, like we have seen over the first four seasons, that is not so much of an issue unless your side isn’t winning.

All that said, for a meal to be judged well, the main course has to be up to the mark. The starters and desserts could add to the experience, but they cannot substitute for the quality of the main. The cricket has been key to the IPL’s success: the apparent equal distribution of talent and ability across all teams ensures that no team starts the tournament as an underdog. In the lead up to IPL V, there have been several swaps, new buys and much tweaking of team composition. It would be very interesting to see how the teams fare with their new look squads, and how fans react to these changes.

For India’s big names, it is another test of fitness and mental toughness following a long, international season, made more draining by the fact that the team hasn’t won too much. The timing of the IPL has been criticised, for it occupies what was once the off season for India’s players. A couple of injuries to key players here, and the tournament is in for another good dose of bashing.

Also, do not forget that this is World Cup year. The bigger picture suggests that this edition of the IPL is an indicative standard to gauge form and ability leading up to the World Cup Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September. Most of the overseas players will have this at the back of their minds. And, as India’s Twenty20 form hasn’t been the greatest since that memorable win in Johannesburg five years ago, the national selectors, the media and the public would be eyeing the IPL from this perspective as well.

Broadcasters, advertisers, investors, team owners and the BCCI would be hoping for a ‘profitable’ season, the fans would be hoping for a close one in terms of the results. A glossy opening ceremony is being planned for, but the success of the tourney, or the lack of it, will ultimately boil down to the competitiveness of the participating teams. This edition has the potential to go both ways – the brand could revive itself by replicating the zest with which began or it could continue to wear out. Which will it be? Come Wednesday, the answers will begin to roll in.

Nikita Bastian is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo