IPL 2012 May 21, 2012

For the love of the game

By M R Sharan, India

By M R Sharan, India

Even before Mukul Kesavan wrote his piece damning the IPL in the Times of India, I knew of everything that was wrong with it: the conflict of interest issues, the chaotic rule changing, the inclination to turn a blind eye to some teams’ excesses, auctions gone awry and the shameless pandering to an entertainment-crazy country, often at the cost of cricket.

"This is not cricket", I would tell myself and tune in to watch hours of uninterrupted ‘not-cricket’. Later, I would simulate results and future points tables in my head and tease out possible scenarios, mentally salivating over clashes I couldn’t care less about. Still later, I would sit on ESPNcricinfo, go over the match report, the scorecard, click arbitrarily on players’ names and scrutinise their profile pages. My eyes would run down the ‘Recent Matches’ column and I would calculate batting and bowling averages in my head. The next morning, over breakfast, someone would mention the thrilling last-over finish of the previous night. I would shrug my shoulders nonchalantly and say: “Whatever”, and then add in the same don’t-give-a-damn tone, “The winning team’s net run rate has moved into the positive for the first time in five matches.” I couldn’t care less.

But last evening something happened. Yet another match-fixing/corruption accusation was made and vehemently denied by players who were soon summarily banned. It irritated me no end that while the players were black-listed and dismissed immediately, hardly anyone dared question the franchises who apparently paid excess money (above the 30 lakh limit) to get players on board. Any bribe requires the tacit compliance of two parties: clearly, the Governing Council’s justice system believed that punishing the weaker party (the player) would somehow absolve the stronger one of its crimes.

The unfairness of it all made me rant to my parents about the IPL’s other ills and, suddenly, it was obvious to me: I did care. Why did I care? Why, despite everything I knew about the IPL, did I still faithfully keep a tab on the tournament?

A decade ago, when the local cable guy was the only TV service provider, a series of local channels had mushroomed in the University town I grew up in. One of these telecast a tennis-ball cricket tournament: there were only a couple of cameras; the field was brown - not a blade of grass grew anywhere (diving was out of the question); teams that had travelled anywhere between a hundred metres and a couple of hundred kilometres participated with great gusto; fast bowlers bent their arms up to sixty-four degrees; agricultural swipes over deep mid-wicket and deep square-leg were favoured methods of scoring; and a Tony Greig imitator did commentary in patchy but hilarious English.

One would assume it would be a one-time-watch, just for the absurdity of it all. I watched the whole tournament. I didn’t root for any team, didn’t particularly care for the players, but I watched nonetheless, faithfully tuning in every day. There was something about the sport, about the drama, about the magic of viewing cricket on TV, about the sheer beauty of watching ball strike bat, ball beat bat, ball hit wicket, hands pouch catches, hands spill catches, hands slap hands in celebration; something about current runs-per-over, required runs-per-over, runs-per-hundred balls, batting orders, bowling figures, fielding placements, something about all of this that made me watch the sport, irrespective of context or technique or morality; something primal, something addictive, something beautiful.

This is why I watched the IPL, despite its tainted character, its stinking secrets. I will not miss it when it’s not there, but when it’s on TV and the world is watching and all it requires of me is a click of the remote, it simply is too mouth-watering a prospect to ignore. Because the IPL, beyond all the glitz and the glamour and the corruption and the madness, is still about bats and balls and wickets and boundaries.

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fanedlive on May 28, 2012, 2:16 GMT

    I watch IPL because it is India's Premier League. IPL has matured over five years. Imagine how big IPL would be in 10 - 20 years - bigger than EPL, NFL and NBA.....

  • fanedlive on May 28, 2012, 1:25 GMT

    Having read comments from people, love, hatred. igony for the very own IPL. Its ture that u can hate it, u can love it but can't ignore it. Coming back to cricket in IPL, we have seen heroics of great player clearly overshadowing the underrated players, yes it is cricket, only good players who can adjust themselves will shine where ever they go. Saw some wonderful fielding, great fast, spin bowling. The power hitting and inventive batting... Saw people flowing with cricketting buzz... What do u expect more from IPL... Its just about cricket, the blitz and glam are for those people who wants to enjoy cricket as it is difficult for them to understand the bits and pieces of cricket. Saw the teams panicking in crunch situation and some helding their nerves to pull out a win... ues its cricket as we see at international level. Why people are so upset by the money these cricketers draw.... Its their hardwork what is paying them, its not just their glam look or some ramp walking paying them.

  • fanedlive on May 27, 2012, 13:29 GMT

    Nice article. reaction to IPL is like kids or lovers. Kiss and make up

  • fanedlive on May 27, 2012, 8:12 GMT

    Whenever kids play on the neighbouring streets I find the games quite interesting - lots of artificial rules like can't hit on the off side ( because there is a house with a glass window and an angry mistress there!) , short boundaries ( hit above the bowler and it is a DLF maximum!), scuffles etc etc. I see IPL as a glorified/extravagant version of this street cricket, cricket in any form is interesting.

  • fanedlive on May 26, 2012, 4:36 GMT

    The temptation is there but emotional involment is missing after 10 i feel sleepy but it was not the case if INDIA were playing can watch whole night , even yesterday inclined to watch WI-ENG test rather than DD-CS.

  • fanedlive on May 25, 2012, 13:14 GMT

    I fully agree to your views.

  • fanedlive on May 25, 2012, 8:50 GMT

    Truly said. This is human nature to criticize what they see. When T20 is on, they say this is not real cricket. when Test cricket is on, they say it's boring. As matter of fact, as the writer said, a true cricket fan loves to watch the battle in each format, like to dicuss it before and after game is over (or day's play in Test match), and gives his opinion/view on what will happen next". No one can stop this madness. To a level up the 'fans', the cricket 'fanatics' go into argument of wrong bowling change, field placing, a different field placing, or who should bowl next. This is deep involvement of cricket lovers. To me some watch TV screen only so make criticism, others watch the game on the ground thru the screen, they enjoy MOMENTS - be it T20 of Test cricket.

  • fanedlive on May 24, 2012, 20:15 GMT

    I too love cricket and watch IPL( mostly highlight reels ). But it is a guilty pleasure at best. We celebrate mostly mediocre players being bashed all over the place by the world class ones. The crowds appear clueless as to what constitutes good cricket, not sure how many are there just for the "tamasha ". The way the cameras linger over the cheerleaders and focus on the owners is sickening( raise your hand if you are sick of SRK being shown almost non stop ). Surley, no good can come from this in the long term. The IPL is killing cricket as we know it, but it is a runaway train, unstoppable and inevitable !!

  • fanedlive on May 24, 2012, 14:51 GMT

    Good work, Sharan! Some "professional" cricket journalists could well do to emulate your form.

  • fanedlive on May 24, 2012, 13:21 GMT

    We are all cricket jukie. We live, eat, drink, sleep, watch, talk but not play cricket. We are cricket addict. We watch cricket to see India lose against England but we love backing India. Like now there are games we like talking about it. Cricket keeps us high.

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