IPL 2013 April 3, 2013

IPL: The fascination of the abomination

Peter Miller, United Kingdom
There are plenty of things to dislike about the IPL, but the cricket certainly isn't one of them
21

"The fascination of the abomination - you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate." - Joseph Conrad.

When Conrad wrote those immortal words in Heart of Darkness, his masterpiece deriding cultural imperialism and all its ills, he was without doubt predicting the arrival of T20 cricket, and more specifically the Indian Premier League. The IPL is like a crazy ex-girlfriend. You never want to see her again, but you still check her Facebook status when no one is looking.

I don't want to know the shirt sponsor of the Chennai Super Kings, but I do. I wish I had no idea how much Glenn Maxwell is earning, but it appears in my mind anyway. Like Alcatraz, there is no escape. You want to be able to tell people, "Oh, I never watch it, it isn't proper cricket." But to do so would be lying.

As time goes by, I find myself more in tune with the cadence of Twenty20 cricket. While it doesn't have the ebb and flow of Test cricket, it has moments of the most intense drama. That these periods of high tension are hidden amongst games between two teams where someone finishes third makes them all the more exciting when they do happen. While a Hashim Amla Test innings is finesse and beauty, a Chris Gayle innings is power and bravado. Both have their place, they are two sides of the same ceremonial IPL coin, which is also available to purchase via auction on the IPL site.

So why am I embarrassed about watching the IPL? Why do I hide behind snobbish mockery? For the same reason I would not like to be seen reading a Dan Brown novel on the train - it does not fit in with the picture I have of myself. I like to think of myself as a cricket connoisseur. If you asked me about my favourite innings of all time, I would tell you it was Michael Atherton's marathon 185 not out at Johannesburg in 1995 - a full 645 minutes and 492 balls of gritty determination.

Where the IPL never fails to annoy is the way that those who promote and commentate on the event talk of it as the most important thing to happen in the field of sport. It is a hit and giggle tournament that is there to entertain. It is not an Ashes test, the Wimbledon final or the 100 metres at the Olympics. To give it the same hype as something that a sportsman has worked his entire life for is to patronise the viewer and demean the player.

The thing about the IPL that I find hardest to stomach is the relentless commercialism of the event. If you stand still long enough at an IPL stadium you will have 14 different sponsors bedecking your shirt. There are sponsored sixes, sponsored catches, sponsored "moments of success". The only thing that gets more screen time that Sachin Tendulkar is the car on the boundary that the players are competing for. If the sponsors believe that a newly made millionaire in his twenties is looking for a reliable family car they may be sadly mistaken.

I long to live in a world where sport takes place in a vacuum, where commercial realities are a grubby necessity confined to other fields. This is a dream about as likely to come true as the one I regularly have involving Angelina Jolie, Emma Stone and a hot tub.

So I will watch the IPL. I will make jokes about MS Dhoni and N Srinivasan's relationship and about Tendulkar getting bowled. I will be made nauseous by the commercialism and the faux sincerity. But more than that, I will enjoy the all-too-rare moments of pure drama and try not to feel too superior. I might fail at the last bit.

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Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on April 5, 2013, 10:10 GMT

    I am a conservative, I love Test cricket and I do admit I was skeptical about T20 and IPL when it was first launched. I am now an avid fan of IPL and cricket in all its formats, why? People need to watch the sport and understand, IPL/T20 isnt all bang bang and booming slogs. The same greats of the game in the long version are thse same greats in IPL. I watched tendulkar scoring a hundred of pure finess and class. Murali Vijay constructs his innings in the same way he does in ODI's. Lasith Malingas yorkers are still as effective. Yes the tempo is up a notch but IPL is still great cricket and the players still have fine techniques. Chris Gayle doesnt slog but always looks to go down the ground, he constructs his innings its not fetching leather from the first ball. As for the commercialising of the game, thats part of the sport. The players deserve to be paid, advertisers are making money indeed but that same money is what makes us enjoy rare sights like Sachin & Ricky in one team

  • arvind.panchal on April 4, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    I think the abomination is because there is no respect for cricketing tradition and money seem to have taken over where some people's notion of what public wants dictates the game. Entertainment is taking the center stage. Often at the cost of cricket.

    It is not that cricket connoisseur dont like to be entertained. Yes we do but whatever that comes without really hurting 'the essence of cricket'. Mainly what hurts is that it takes away the balance between ball and bat just because some companies can label a four/six after their company brands. Alas, a dot ball cannot be labelled.

    Perhaps abomination is also there that the 'cricket connoisseur' was never asked for what he/she would like to see. No instead some uber rich decided on what shape cricket should take.

  • on April 4, 2013, 4:17 GMT

    Every country has its own domestic T20 tournament being played once a year. As rightly pointed out, IPL has a whole lot of sponsorship involvement that makes viewers go crazy. In a way, it is similar to the NFL league in the US, where movie makers and advertisement unravel their new productions on the eve of the super bowl. I don't see the number decreasing in future, given the limelight of the event across the globe. Nevertheless, how many leagues in the world feature two of the most prolific, legendary players playing for the same team ? Indian Popular League, has done it!

  • crindex on April 9, 2013, 19:27 GMT

    To a westerner IPL may look and sound so wrong and bad . However if one understands Indian psyche there will be more acceptance of this phenomenon. Its called mass psyche. A collective longing for distraction from the daily rigors of life with nowhere to go to except movie theaters and the TV. Hence IPL which is a replacement for Bollywood is so successful. You with accept it and make peace with it or cry foul each time IPL dishes out yet another success.

  • on April 7, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    Test cricket is the purist form of cricket nevertheless that form of cricket is not gonna make the american market, on the other hand t20 has a chance to make it to north america and compete with the american sporting teams for commercial dollars. Cricket fans of the world t20 is here too stay if you asked anyone today if they had a chance to watched a game of test cricket or t20 cricket over 50% would preferred a 3 hours result than 5 days drawn match. been conservative like living in the pass .enough said....

  • Red_Stripe on April 4, 2013, 15:54 GMT

    @Basim Basheer I am sure the Indians who are watching it are genuine fans, however I am also sure that the marketing and presentation is aimed at attracting new Indian spectators. I wasn't suggesting that Indian IPL fans are not genuine fans, I was just suggesting that the focus should be more on the cricket and less on the glamour and celebrity. I certainly didn't intend to throw accusations about, just merely pointing out that as a cricket fan first and foremost the presentation of the game is not to my my tastes. Relax and enjoy the IPL and don't worry so much about how others view it.

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 4, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    That's really special and I loved the opening quote from Conrad. I loathe the trappings of commercialism deeply. Can't stand t20. But admit to liking Dan Brown.

  • A.Ak on April 4, 2013, 13:26 GMT

    India is one of the best places to play cricket. No bad weather to interrupt and fans just love cricket. If ECB REALLY worried about saving cricket, they shouldn't have gone for super rich Sanford T20 in WI. It was a failure and they couldn't bare IPL.

  • on April 4, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    IPL is unique. All true crickets fans will continue to enjoy watching it. ECB and others who try to ignore it , should accept it will not go away but will continue to prosper and thrill !!

  • gptnitesh on April 4, 2013, 12:21 GMT

    In India people are having habit to first like it, after somtime start disliking it and after sometime they start criticizing it. So its nothing new. So do not waste time and enjoy the cricket. how much money is involve, who is owning them etc are not at all our ( Fans) concern. We are here to watch quality T20 and I think IPL is provding the same and every year IPL giving some new faces to all countries like Narain of WI

  • on April 5, 2013, 10:10 GMT

    I am a conservative, I love Test cricket and I do admit I was skeptical about T20 and IPL when it was first launched. I am now an avid fan of IPL and cricket in all its formats, why? People need to watch the sport and understand, IPL/T20 isnt all bang bang and booming slogs. The same greats of the game in the long version are thse same greats in IPL. I watched tendulkar scoring a hundred of pure finess and class. Murali Vijay constructs his innings in the same way he does in ODI's. Lasith Malingas yorkers are still as effective. Yes the tempo is up a notch but IPL is still great cricket and the players still have fine techniques. Chris Gayle doesnt slog but always looks to go down the ground, he constructs his innings its not fetching leather from the first ball. As for the commercialising of the game, thats part of the sport. The players deserve to be paid, advertisers are making money indeed but that same money is what makes us enjoy rare sights like Sachin & Ricky in one team

  • arvind.panchal on April 4, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    I think the abomination is because there is no respect for cricketing tradition and money seem to have taken over where some people's notion of what public wants dictates the game. Entertainment is taking the center stage. Often at the cost of cricket.

    It is not that cricket connoisseur dont like to be entertained. Yes we do but whatever that comes without really hurting 'the essence of cricket'. Mainly what hurts is that it takes away the balance between ball and bat just because some companies can label a four/six after their company brands. Alas, a dot ball cannot be labelled.

    Perhaps abomination is also there that the 'cricket connoisseur' was never asked for what he/she would like to see. No instead some uber rich decided on what shape cricket should take.

  • on April 4, 2013, 4:17 GMT

    Every country has its own domestic T20 tournament being played once a year. As rightly pointed out, IPL has a whole lot of sponsorship involvement that makes viewers go crazy. In a way, it is similar to the NFL league in the US, where movie makers and advertisement unravel their new productions on the eve of the super bowl. I don't see the number decreasing in future, given the limelight of the event across the globe. Nevertheless, how many leagues in the world feature two of the most prolific, legendary players playing for the same team ? Indian Popular League, has done it!

  • crindex on April 9, 2013, 19:27 GMT

    To a westerner IPL may look and sound so wrong and bad . However if one understands Indian psyche there will be more acceptance of this phenomenon. Its called mass psyche. A collective longing for distraction from the daily rigors of life with nowhere to go to except movie theaters and the TV. Hence IPL which is a replacement for Bollywood is so successful. You with accept it and make peace with it or cry foul each time IPL dishes out yet another success.

  • on April 7, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    Test cricket is the purist form of cricket nevertheless that form of cricket is not gonna make the american market, on the other hand t20 has a chance to make it to north america and compete with the american sporting teams for commercial dollars. Cricket fans of the world t20 is here too stay if you asked anyone today if they had a chance to watched a game of test cricket or t20 cricket over 50% would preferred a 3 hours result than 5 days drawn match. been conservative like living in the pass .enough said....

  • Red_Stripe on April 4, 2013, 15:54 GMT

    @Basim Basheer I am sure the Indians who are watching it are genuine fans, however I am also sure that the marketing and presentation is aimed at attracting new Indian spectators. I wasn't suggesting that Indian IPL fans are not genuine fans, I was just suggesting that the focus should be more on the cricket and less on the glamour and celebrity. I certainly didn't intend to throw accusations about, just merely pointing out that as a cricket fan first and foremost the presentation of the game is not to my my tastes. Relax and enjoy the IPL and don't worry so much about how others view it.

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 4, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    That's really special and I loved the opening quote from Conrad. I loathe the trappings of commercialism deeply. Can't stand t20. But admit to liking Dan Brown.

  • A.Ak on April 4, 2013, 13:26 GMT

    India is one of the best places to play cricket. No bad weather to interrupt and fans just love cricket. If ECB REALLY worried about saving cricket, they shouldn't have gone for super rich Sanford T20 in WI. It was a failure and they couldn't bare IPL.

  • on April 4, 2013, 12:42 GMT

    IPL is unique. All true crickets fans will continue to enjoy watching it. ECB and others who try to ignore it , should accept it will not go away but will continue to prosper and thrill !!

  • gptnitesh on April 4, 2013, 12:21 GMT

    In India people are having habit to first like it, after somtime start disliking it and after sometime they start criticizing it. So its nothing new. So do not waste time and enjoy the cricket. how much money is involve, who is owning them etc are not at all our ( Fans) concern. We are here to watch quality T20 and I think IPL is provding the same and every year IPL giving some new faces to all countries like Narain of WI

  • Red_Stripe on April 4, 2013, 11:49 GMT

    I love cricket in all its forms, i love watching the likes of Gayle, McCullum and Pietersen, however i have real trouble stomaching the IPL. I think my biggest beef with the IPL is the way its broadcast. Its the constant referrals to products i have no interest in and camera shots of people in the crowd i have no clue who they are. This is such a turnoff! The target audience is predominately Indian, possibly trying to attract new Indians to the sport which i understand, however us genuine fans of the game just want a focus on the cricket itself. I might flick it on for a little while but as soon as i hear the term DLF maximum i will be reaching for the remote.

  • ladycricfan on April 4, 2013, 11:13 GMT

    Test matches are real cricket. T20 is time pass, if you want to watch it. Brendon McCullum and others who play T20 , bring their skills into Test matches. They score faster, field athletically in test matches. If it wasn't for McCullum's and Fulton's T20 type knocks on 4th day, Eden park test v Eng would've ended in a boring draw. As it was , they were able to declare early and what a gripping final day it was.

  • on April 4, 2013, 11:10 GMT

    Moments of rare drama? Did you not watch last years final or the 10 last ball finishes?? 19 Last over finishes, how much drama are you looking for? Seriously if it was English Premier League and we had domestic English players lined up alongside the overseas players we'd shout from the rooftops about it. It's a brilliant tournament and most of the criticism of it to me smacks of jealousy.

  • BRUTALANALYST on April 4, 2013, 10:56 GMT

    Do we really need these patronizing articles about the IPl every other week, the sad fact is T20 and IPL are the future maybe England the ECB and ICC should look closer to home why little interest in Tests around the world after they sanitized the game allowing helmets and reducing the number of bouncers losing the excitement and battle between bat and ball that made the game great !

  • on April 4, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    Michael athertons gritty innings??? Test cricket needs T20..THATS THE TRUTH..OTEHRWISE IT CANT SURVIVE AS IT DRAWS IN not much audience or money to survive on its own. Especially when innings like atherton or Cook happends were the only measure of quality if that of `patience`..will anyday swap it for an AMLA 50. England plays a very boring type of cricket and they are not ready to move on from it. Sure i like and appreciate test cricket only if its skillful..not patient and gritty

  • Sultan2007 on April 4, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    I guess a way to think of T20 cricket is that its not quite cricket but another game played with a bat and a ball with skills similar to those of cricketers. There really is no point in comparing this form of "instant" cricket with the "real" game. Having said that, I am not quite certain whether the commercialism is quite as misplaced. It is the new reality that most importantly, pays the players the wages that so attract them to the event. I suspect if the English could slap together such a financially attractive proposition, thats where the players would flock to. Remember the 60's and 70's when County Cricket in England was the most (possibly the only) professional league in the World. Also, lets not forget that commercialisation has been attempted in England (T20). Oz, (Packer) and even the Windies (the million dollar payout). It just so happens that India is a much larger market and the IPL venture is therefore more sustainable

  • philvic on April 4, 2013, 9:03 GMT

    Actually, the cricket is the chief reason to dislike the IPL. 20/20 is a vacuous boring format and the IPL is the true encompassment of all that is vacuous and boring. The chief advantage of the IPL is to give the true cricket fan a break from cricket and keep us wanting more of the real stuff.

  • on April 4, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    I agree with you Peter - IPL has nothing to Investec Test matches...

  • ZenosXI on April 3, 2013, 18:06 GMT

    Thanks guys. Hope you enjoyed it.

  • RockcityGuy on April 3, 2013, 17:09 GMT

    Well put,sir...:-)

  • on April 3, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    The thoughts of almost every reasonable cricket supporter perfectly put in words there. We know its a circus, we hope we would not watch it, but in the end, we all do and rather enjoy it. But its sports entertainment after all, not just cricket.

  • on April 3, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    The thoughts of almost every reasonable cricket supporter perfectly put in words there. We know its a circus, we hope we would not watch it, but in the end, we all do and rather enjoy it. But its sports entertainment after all, not just cricket.

  • RockcityGuy on April 3, 2013, 17:09 GMT

    Well put,sir...:-)

  • ZenosXI on April 3, 2013, 18:06 GMT

    Thanks guys. Hope you enjoyed it.

  • on April 4, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    I agree with you Peter - IPL has nothing to Investec Test matches...

  • philvic on April 4, 2013, 9:03 GMT

    Actually, the cricket is the chief reason to dislike the IPL. 20/20 is a vacuous boring format and the IPL is the true encompassment of all that is vacuous and boring. The chief advantage of the IPL is to give the true cricket fan a break from cricket and keep us wanting more of the real stuff.

  • Sultan2007 on April 4, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    I guess a way to think of T20 cricket is that its not quite cricket but another game played with a bat and a ball with skills similar to those of cricketers. There really is no point in comparing this form of "instant" cricket with the "real" game. Having said that, I am not quite certain whether the commercialism is quite as misplaced. It is the new reality that most importantly, pays the players the wages that so attract them to the event. I suspect if the English could slap together such a financially attractive proposition, thats where the players would flock to. Remember the 60's and 70's when County Cricket in England was the most (possibly the only) professional league in the World. Also, lets not forget that commercialisation has been attempted in England (T20). Oz, (Packer) and even the Windies (the million dollar payout). It just so happens that India is a much larger market and the IPL venture is therefore more sustainable

  • on April 4, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    Michael athertons gritty innings??? Test cricket needs T20..THATS THE TRUTH..OTEHRWISE IT CANT SURVIVE AS IT DRAWS IN not much audience or money to survive on its own. Especially when innings like atherton or Cook happends were the only measure of quality if that of `patience`..will anyday swap it for an AMLA 50. England plays a very boring type of cricket and they are not ready to move on from it. Sure i like and appreciate test cricket only if its skillful..not patient and gritty

  • BRUTALANALYST on April 4, 2013, 10:56 GMT

    Do we really need these patronizing articles about the IPl every other week, the sad fact is T20 and IPL are the future maybe England the ECB and ICC should look closer to home why little interest in Tests around the world after they sanitized the game allowing helmets and reducing the number of bouncers losing the excitement and battle between bat and ball that made the game great !

  • on April 4, 2013, 11:10 GMT

    Moments of rare drama? Did you not watch last years final or the 10 last ball finishes?? 19 Last over finishes, how much drama are you looking for? Seriously if it was English Premier League and we had domestic English players lined up alongside the overseas players we'd shout from the rooftops about it. It's a brilliant tournament and most of the criticism of it to me smacks of jealousy.

  • ladycricfan on April 4, 2013, 11:13 GMT

    Test matches are real cricket. T20 is time pass, if you want to watch it. Brendon McCullum and others who play T20 , bring their skills into Test matches. They score faster, field athletically in test matches. If it wasn't for McCullum's and Fulton's T20 type knocks on 4th day, Eden park test v Eng would've ended in a boring draw. As it was , they were able to declare early and what a gripping final day it was.