Delhi Daredevils v Kings XI Punjab, IPL, Cape Town April 19, 2009

Wasted time

Victor Brown
The time-out as it has been presented is nonsensical enough. But when rain is in the air, as it was at Newlands on Sunday, it becomes a self-defeating fiasco and a triumph for sheer greed over the paying public

So, which is it to be? Cricket or commercials? Because the IPL cannot have it both ways. When the sun is out, the time-out as it has been presented for public consumption - as a chance for the teams to talk tactics - is nonsensical enough. But when rain is in the air, as it was throughout Delhi Daredevils' clash with Kings XI Punjab at Newlands, it becomes a self-defeating fiasco and a triumph for sheer greed over the paying public.

That's because the time-out isn't about tactics at all. It's about money. Lots and lots of it. For those watching on TV, the seven-and-a-half minute hiatus is split equally into three parts: a token nod to tactics, in which viewers get to watch the two teams thrillingly form a huddle or practise their catching; a commercial break; and a chunk paid for by the highest bidder at, reportedly, $1m a pop. Commercialism, then, outweighs cricket by two to one, a ratio that may well capture the IPL's very soul.

Back to today, then, and the self-defeating fiasco. Play began an hour and 40 minutes late because of showery clouds floating in over Table Mountain, at which point the game had already been reduced to 12 overs a side. With rain seemingly ready to fall at any minute, every over was at a premium. Yet, astonishingly, the time-out wouldn't budge. So off trooped the players after six - six! - overs, wasting the equivalent of nearly two overs in the process. When the murkiest of showers interrupted play after only 11 balls of Delhi's reply, the rigidity of the time-out system was exposed.

Cricket has often had a stubborn relationship with its scheduled breaks. No feast, it seems, is more immovable than lunch, although on one of the few occasions on which it was shifted by half an hour in a county championship, Nottinghamshire's George Gunn allowed a ball to hit his stumps, and marched off declaring: "I take my lunch at 1.30."

But while George's thoughts were with the hole in his stomach, the IPL is concerned with the depths of its pockets. Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni, opposing captains in the tournament opener yesterday, both provided non-committal verdicts on the time-out, but then neither side was affected by it one way or the other.

Kings XI Punjab may not be so sanguine. After a rollicking start from Karan Goel and Ravi Bopara, Goel fell the ball before the scheduled six-over break. This, naturally, was not the system's fault, but Bopara may have felt differently when, to Daniel Vettori's first delivery after the time-out, he was absent-mindedly caught plumb in front. Vettori proceded to concede just one run off the over and Punjab's sprint was chopped off at the knees.

"We had the momentum and we had 7½ minutes to lose it," said Tom Moody, the Punjab coach. "It was the perfect time for Daniel Vettori to come on and secure the momentum back in favour of Delhi. But there are going to be days in this tournament when it works in our favour too."

Quite what Moody and his captain, Yuvraj Singh, were supposed to have said to their batsmen is unclear. "Keep hitting the ball - very high and very far," probably summed it up. Just as ridiculous was the hold-up as the umpires waited for the 7½ minutes to tick over. The players were ready, and the crowd broke into a slow handclap, but TV was dictating terms.

In the end, the game was a non-event. Driven off the field after 1.5 overs, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag returned to find they needed only 30 more off 25 deliveries to get Delhi off to a winning start. They made it with seven balls to spare. The time-out can't do anything about the weather. But it shouldn't make an already damp squib even damper.

Victor Brown is a freelance cricket writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dhairya Guptha on April 20, 2009, 4:13 GMT

    No thrill of watching matches this time. No one interested. No cricket there.Only Money! What happened to cricket? ICC bribed.

  • Karthik on April 20, 2009, 4:03 GMT

    I agree this is a stupid strategy. But then how in the world IPL can afford to pay a million bucks to players. I am sure the players will not and should not complain about this break. After all, it is in their interest. It is the audience who are at loss. Or maybe not. They can probably use this time to switch channels and see what is happening in their favorite soap opera or use this break to grab a bite or something.

    Bottom line is, it is business. And if cricket or any sport has to expand, this is probably a good thing. Eventually, people will get used to it. In my opinion, this might even be emulated at other place.

  • David on April 20, 2009, 3:49 GMT

    IPL organizers are money greedy. It makes no sense to lose 15 valuable minutes in which 4 precious overs could have been bowled. Its nonsense.

  • Gower on April 20, 2009, 3:46 GMT

    Lot of silly comments here. Let's step back and get a little rational. IPL is transformational precisely because it is able to monetize cricket. And monetize it also for the benefit of cricketers. While football/tennis/basketball/baseball players routinely make millions (in US at least), cricket has been a game of paupers. Because of IPL kids can now aspire to play cricket and get rich as well which is a great thing. An average Indian cricketer who was previously consigned to spending his life in the backwaters of Ranji Trophy and then look for another career suddenly has more opportunity. An unknown, 20 yr old kid who knows nothing else but to play cricket can now earn $25,000 because of IPL. IPL is able to pay him partially because of the ads you see. If it will take another 30 mins of ad to pay another 10 Kamran Khans $25,000 each, I will gladly bear it. And I hope the owners make a lot of money in the process - they deserve it. I don't believe in pseudo-socialistic anti-greed crap.

  • Nikhil on April 20, 2009, 3:07 GMT

    I think it is only the hype that is sustaining IPL. Look at the body language of the players themselves. They look jaded and bored. Playing because they have to play. Only the 'non-regulars' look all enthused and raring to go. The regulars look like they are better off at home. These 7.5 minute breaks are probably to remind to viewers to think if they have something better to do. I am giving the IPL a fair shot but have been disappointed so far.

  • Manoj on April 20, 2009, 2:37 GMT

    Time-out after 10 overs (10 overs !!???) is ridiculous. This is not basket ball, football or hockey. It is a relatively pretty gentle game in terms of physical fitness, endurance and athletic ability, even in 20-20 format. This IPL tournament is actually putting me off. Coz it seems to be more about the owners whims and fancies and egos. Some of them like KKR owner have actually made statements like 'I put in the money so i'll do what i like'. Its not much different than the Stanford guy.

  • Joben on April 20, 2009, 2:19 GMT

    THE BEST OPTION: just record the match and then u can forward all the ads and bullshit. I know it isn't live, but at least u will waste less of your life watching commercials.... Not to mention the flexibility of watching it whenever U LIKE. But I agree...this tactical time out bullshit should be removed - it is the main thing ruining the matches!

  • Dheeraj on April 20, 2009, 1:07 GMT

    It is ludicrous that IPL is becoming an American capitalist based enterprise. This is outrageous.. soon it will be synonymous with Super Bowl with timeouts every ball, and those catchy 30 second ads. Does cricket really need this? Why must India emulate everything that USA does? Is there no originality in the organizer's minds?

  • Rajasundram on April 19, 2009, 23:10 GMT

    Time-out is to make cricket resemble Bollywood. Remember the dance-sequences just as the plot gets exciting! That's what time-out reminds me. It looks like there will be a time-out even if there is no cricket. The sensible thing to do would be to reduce time-outs just like the overs and the fielding restrictions are reduced - but no one is going to do that because all that the franchises care is MONET and MORE MONEY. The cricket is just the means to earn MONEY! It is a pity - but that is the stark reality of the situation. Having paid vast amounts to 'buy' the players and spent money to oil the publicity machine - they have to get it back - hence time-out is vital. The captains, players and the paying pubglic who would rather watch the cricket than the cheer leaders, have a part to play, by telling their owners how they feel about it. I hope xommonsense prevails and that the time-outs are reduced proportionately. Siva fron Singapore

  • Ram on April 19, 2009, 22:55 GMT

    All I can see is people bitch and moan... I mean cricket and any sports for that matter thrives on commercials/sponsors. The sports gear they use, the fees everything is paid by sponsors and they have the right to use the alloted time..People who comment on how the game is being killed by IPL are either ediots or lack basic common sense.. Overall, IPL is a success.. and I still enjoy watching it..

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