How to tell if you're watching the IPL or county cricket
This isn't a rhetorical question. Which are you watching? Do you know? Follow this handy guide if you don't. It will help you distinguish between these two almost identical branches of cricket.
Time of day
Is the match taking place at night? If it is, you are more likely watching the IPL. However, are you sure that it is definitely night-time and not just a particularly cloudy day? The only way you can be certain is by counting shadows. If there are four shadows around each player - one from each floodlight - then you are watching the IPL. If there is one massive shadow, shrouding the entire ground, you are probably watching Surrey.
Hot = India. Cold = springtime in England. It can be difficult to gauge weather conditions from a television broadcast, but there are a few things you can look out for. Headwear is a good indicator. If bright sunlight is glinting off even brighter helmets, blinding you, then it's the IPL. If any player is seen wearing multiple hats, it's probably England. Don't be fooled by broad-brimmed sun hats. Sometimes they conceal a wool hat underneath.
County cricket and the IPL have radically different attitudes to advertising. IPL advertising tends to feature banks, whereas the names of building societies and insurance firms are more commonly seen during county cricket matches. It's a totally different world. Of course both competitions advertise the functional products on which the economies of their respective host nations are built as well - concrete in the case of the IPL and real ale in county cricket.
Is anyone in the crowd dancing? If they are, it's the IPL.
Is anyone in the crowd having a nice sleep? If they are, it's county cricket.
Underwhelming overseas players
Overseas players you're sort of vaguely aware of but who certainly aren't household names are part and parcel of both the IPL and county cricket. If the player in question is a young Australian who can bat a bit and bowl a bit but doesn't yet do either particularly well, then you're watching the IPL. If the player in question is an old South African who can bat a bit and bowl a bit but doesn't do either particularly well anymore, then you're watching county cricket.
Domestic player you've never heard of trundling in and bowling at about 130kph? Check the speed gun. If it reads 150kph, it's the IPL. If there is no speed gun, it's county cricket.
If all you can hear is birds tweeting because the commentator doesn't feel they have anything to contribute, it's county cricket. If a booming voice is trying to pass off thoughtful gems such as "Wow" as insight, it's most definitely the IPL, in which case press the mute button immediately before you put your foot through the screen in despair at the inanity of the modern world.
It's an obvious one. Look at the spectators in the expensive seats behind the bowler's arm. If they have dark brown skin then you are watching county cricket. These are the members. Like birds, these wealthy, retired individuals have flown south for the winter and, unlike birds, they have returned with a deep tan. If the faces are pale, it is the IPL. These wealthy industrialists and film stars have evaded direct sunlight by spending their lives moving from one plush, air-conditioned environment to another.
Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket