IPL 2012 April 4, 2012

Cricketainment is back; will it win again?

Over the last four years, in terms of number of eyeballs, the mix of cricket and entertainment has won, but it is not getting easier

There is an IPL advertisement doing the rounds that in another era could possibly have been seen as offensive. It shows a circus/carnival, and uses faces of cricketers such as Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Kumar Sangakkara and Daniel Vettori. It is a clever advertisement. Not only does it send across the message of entertainment - even though it might come at the cost of caricaturing cricketers - it also possibly takes the sting out of the usual IPL baiting that uses the term "circus" often.

Other official build-up to the tournament has centred around the Bollywood stars present at the inauguration. We know more of the teams' celebrity mascots than their coaching staff. Sreesanth's band, S36, which will play before one of the games, has been discussed more than his pace or swing. What of the actual cricket then? Oh there will be more than enough of that, and those responsible for the build-up seem to be conscious of that.

Seventy-six matches over 54 days of a format of cricket that can get leave the mind numb when consumed immoderately, a format in which sides can win without taking a single wicket, a format that makes it necessary to involve glamour and other paraphernalia in its marketing. Yet it still works because it is a format whose compressed nature minimises the difference in quality of teams, and throws up more close games than other formats. And despite all talk of fatigue last year, it is the format and the tournament that had people sticking their faces against windows of coffee shops in Mumbai to watch the matches.

Today, this curious creature called IPL is back in our lives, to stay for a while. It is curious because nobody is talking about it, as was the case last year, but it will be the biggest cricketing event over the next two months (Tests in the West Indies will neither have the best possible players nor the viewership). It is an event that doesn't seem to need much marketing to bring people to it, but also seems to desperately need distractions in the shape of cheerleaders, both regular and celebrities, of unbearably loud music between deliveries that makes it tough to talk to people you are watching the match with, the PA man trying to manufacture atmosphere by screaming into his loudspeaker microphone.

The good news for the IPL, though, is that every passing year the PA men will have to worry less about the atmosphere because team loyalty is growing stronger every year. Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians, for example, have stayed stable with their personnel so fans identify with them, and it is no surprise they are two of the favourites too. The other teams that might have been in flux are more settled. Fewer people will wonder this time which team Kumar Sangakkara is playing for, and where Adam Gilchrist has moved, although the IPL will struggle to eliminate such questions for good.

Over the next 54 days, this mix - of youth and experience, of local and foreign, of cricket and tamasha - will try to overcome viewer fatigue, the duration of the tournament, the lack of context, and the fact that many fans are turned off by India's poor show in Test cricket over the last 12 months

Gilchrist is one of three grand old men, under whose captaincy and mentorship three teams will make for interesting viewing. Dravid will try to do what Shane Warne did for Rajasthan Royals. Sourav Ganguly, true to nature, is not only back, he is back as Pune Warriors' captain. Gilchrist will continue as Kings XI Punjab's leader, sans coach Michael Bevan, which makes him both the captain and the coach. Dravid and Ganguly find themselves in similar roles with their respective teams.

That there is still space for the three might have to do - more than respect for their skill - with the fact that they can survive in this competition, that there will be bowlers they can still hit, that even if they are not ultra fit for this young man's format they will not be ruthlessly exposed. It also - especially in the case of Dravid and Ganguly - could have to do with the marketing need of having popular Indian names at the helm.

Not all decisions made by teams can be explained, though. Not least the monies spent to attain the services of certain Indian cricketers. Somewhere the strings had to be tightened, and it shows in the shrinking coaching staffs. Bevan and Royals' Darren Berry were considered luxuries this year. When Warriors' Geoff Marsh left for a national job, a replacement was not sought.

As with the old, there will be the new to watch out for. Andre Russell, Sunil Narine and Richard Levi come with much promise. As does, finally, Australia captain Michael Clarke. In the end it is this mix that works for the IPL. And the possibility that the format brings with it. Over the next 54 days, this mix - of youth and experience, of local and foreign, of cricket and tamasha - will try to overcome viewer fatigue, the duration of the tournament, the lack of context, and the fact that many fans are turned off by India's poor show in Test cricket over the last 12 months. Over the last four years, in terms of number of eyeballs, the mix has won, but it is not getting easier.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vivek on April 4, 2012, 13:09 GMT

    IPL= Indian Party League!! Everyone does it for money. What a joke! This kills Indian cricket.

  • Dummy4 on April 4, 2012, 12:08 GMT

    @Bhadra Sreejith-How do i know they did not make best efforts?can you imagine any international batsman playing an international game after 4 months layoff and injury without proving his fitness/form via practice/domestic maches.it happened in the case of Sehwag in the last test in England.and can you imagine a touring party with NO reserve opener resulting in utter disarray of batting line up.it happened with iNdia in England.Can you imagine a strike bowler jogging his way to the team with bulging stomach only to limp off on the first day of an important test series and the wicket keeper completing bowling duties.it happened with India at Lord's..and so on a lOT of things i can list..and i am a die hard Indian but NOT a die hard supporter of Indian players' actions.If all of us are like that it will spell doom for the game we all love so much..

  • Satish on April 4, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    @Posted by on (April 04 2012, 10:32 AM GMT) : India is the only nation who plays most number of tests - In fact, most tests.. No fan is happy that we lost test away and happy we play well in home.. But will you guys be happy if we start losing in home too? Atleast we can maintain supremacy in home which SL and SA failed to do in last couple of years.. It happens.. Winning and losing are part of game.. Just because Indian cricket team lost in a couple of series, i won't stop watching the game itself.. I am not a guy who will watch ONLY my team wins.. Just love the game and support our team when they play.. If you think there is no talent and skill for T20, you are absolutely wrong.. May be not upto tests but still t20 requires lots of abilities of different kind..

  • Dummy4 on April 4, 2012, 10:32 GMT

    Now I know why Indians are performing so badly in Test cricket which is the pinnacle. Looks like both players and spectators have no stomach for attrirional cricket which is more like long lasting relation whereas IPL is like a one-night stand. So the general public has fallen head over heels on this kind of fiasco (tamasha). The spectators have no appreciation for quality of Test cricket and players also find it easier to play wham bham game which does not require much of talent or technique.

  • Satish on April 4, 2012, 10:09 GMT

    People do have short memory.. If we remember the recent drubbings after the fourth IPL, then why not remember the team which won the World cup, Test no.1 and virtually unbeatable in home when IPL was in full swing for first three seasons.. Let us not confuse test and IPL as Cpt.Meanster says.. Test cricket is full meal and T20 is a dessert.. But while not hungry, you can have cake and chocolate for fun but not full meal for fun.. No one can stop anyone from taking cake/candy..

  • Dummy4 on April 4, 2012, 9:58 GMT

    @Dinker Rkn How do you know that they have not given their best efforts? Maybe they did but they just could not make it. You win some, you lose some. Sometimes you have extended bad patches, which is what's happening now. It's easy to support your team when they're winning, less easy when they're losing. This is when you separate the true fan from the fair-weather fan.

  • Dummy4 on April 4, 2012, 9:38 GMT

    i personally think that this season will be a bigger hit than the previous four...the indian team has had a lean run upto this season so it is their best oppurtunity to once again win the faith of their fans...but without being harsh to indians,i think that the indian players are more interested in playing for their franchises than the indian team....u can almost sense it when u see some of the comments from some of the players like sehwag,harbhajan etc....who seem a lot more excited in playing this fromat... i am not saying that they shouldnt play ipl...they should...but they should also play with the same spirit while representing their country

  • Satish on April 4, 2012, 8:37 GMT

    One advantage of IPL is, you never need to worry about the team that wins or loses.. All we see is cricket.. If Dhoni's team loses, we can be happy Sachin's team won.. No need to have any emotional attachment over the game anymore and it makes us enjoy only the game and nothing else.. Doesn't it look good when we have no emotions and just enjoy the cricket and what more if it is a T20 game starting at the end of the day and sit with family and enjoy in TV.. Yesss.. IPL is cricketainment at best..

  • Dummy4 on April 4, 2012, 8:26 GMT

    @SSRajan--we should back our team when they are down and out only if they have failed despite best efforts.Can this be said about our team's performances in England and Australia.I am not going to state the long list of factors which would make it difficult to term the Indian cricket team "professional" forget pride and support.They definitely seemed to be on paid holiday in England and BCCI's and players apathy certainly contributed to it.and what about that no show in Asia cup.what has Indian cricket achieved due to Sachin's 100 hundreds?(knew such a thing existed only after he started chasing it).india's dismal test showings will only drive Indian fans more towards mini formats and ultimately Indain cricket will lose...there is no effort to promote all 3 formats of the game by BCCI and that should be criticized.

  • Sundararajan on April 4, 2012, 7:53 GMT

    @Sherry Roy: Don't have a cricket team to be proud of? Are you proud of your team only when they win? That is a shame. It is people like you that makes us fans disillusioned. I AM proud of my team, win or lose. People like you kick the team wen they are down. They need the support when they are losing, to gee them up. Your ilk does not do that. Don't ever say you love cricket when you are not even proud of your own team.

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