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

"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

  • Matrix 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.

  • Dummy4 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....

  • James 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.

  • Michael 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.

  • Arul 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.

  • Dummy4 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 !!

  • Nitesh 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

  • James 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.