The IPL is currently constrained by the window it occupies in the world cricketing calendar, out of which, from certain angles, it appears to be mooning. The signs are that the rest of world cricket may soon be unceremoniously defenestrated, the calendar and its windows demolished, and a 364-day-a-year greenhouse erected in its place.
May 25, 2009
W : World
A place the IPL seeks to conquer. It is a big place with lots of sport already in it. The IPL will be competing with history and tradition, but in response it can offer Lalit Modi the elemental clash between batsman and required run-rate, and as many marketing opportunities as there are words in a commentator's head. Can the world resist that alluring triumvirate?
May 24, 2009
The vain search goes on for a format of cricket at which Australians are not genetically disposed to excel. Masters of Test cricket for much of the last 132 years and almost all of the last two decades, habitual winners of 50-over world cups without breaking sweat, Australians were dominant in IPL season one and have continued to provide crucial performances in IPL 2. In the inaugural IPL, Australia gave the world the highest-scoring batsman, four of the six centurions, the six top batting averages, the best allrounder, and the winning captain. This year, without providing such dominance, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist are topping the run charts, the latter having won a semi-final for the Chargers with a seismic 85, Brad Hodge and Dirk Nannes have excelled, and several of their best players have not even played. The inescapable conclusion is that Australia Over-33s are probably the best Twenty20 team in the world. The likelihood is also that if someone gave Richie Benaud a sharp cup of coffee, an energy snack and a Chennai Super Kings shirt he would probably take 2 for 20 and hit a quickfire 40.
May 23, 2009
F: Future of cricket
The IPL has made cricket tradition quake in its old leather boots and tatty woollen cap. Once the undisputed pinnacle of the game, and rightly viewed by its supporters as one of humankind's greatest creations, Test cricket now finds itself threatened by its brash all-action descendant. Music audiences moved from Mozart to Minogue, and drama fans shifted from Bertolt Brecht to Big Brother. Is cricket's support really on a similar journey - and if so, where will it end? After a golden era of many great players and much great cricket, the Test game has faltered at the wrong time - inept administration, crass scheduling, ferociously tedious pitches and low-calibre bowling attacks are proving ineffective responses to the financial and cricketing crashes, bangs and wallops of the IPL. Will Twenty20 ravenously gobble up larger and larger swathes of the cricketing calendar? Will the IPL season become as bloated as its baseball cousin? Can Test cricket compete? Will it even try, or will it continue to ignore its problems as it has for so long? Does 50-over cricket really want to exist anymore? Can Twenty20 sustain and increase its early popularity, or will a diet of undiluted action have the same effect on the cricket-watching public as a diet of undiluted jelly babies has on a child? Will the novelty of novelty wear off? Twenty20 may have grabbed the attention of a new cricket audience, but can it grip its soul?
May 21, 2009
U: Unlucky to Miss Out
The IPL cash juggernaut must have caused some degree of tension within some international teams' dressing rooms, as certain players have filled their financial boots on their actual or hypothetical prowess at Twenty20, whilst others remembered they were Alistair Cook, Neil McKenzie or Brendan Nash. Some might have considered themselves unlucky to miss out - surely Monty Panesar could have sat in the Delhi Daredevils dressing room just as effectively as Paul Collingwood. But those who were most unlucky to miss out are unquestionably players who, through no real fault of their own, were born in the wrong era. Bradman would, one suspects, have been a useful top-order batsman, Kapil Dev could have commanded a tidy fee (particularly if Eddie Hemmings was playing for one of the other teams), Viv Richards' mighty bat would have made the dancing girls earn their money, and Sobers could probably have formed an entire franchise himself, played one against 11, and done at least as well as the Kolkata Knight Riders. Sobers' auction value would no doubt have been eye-watering, but not all of the bygone greats of the game would have been so keenly fought over. Computer simulations suggest that Geoff Boycott, for example, would have sold at IPL auction for $6.99. Yes, he would be hard to dismiss, but might prompt some unwanted dressing-room tension with team-mates after carrying his bat for 17 not out, marching off the field and announcing to his colleagues: "Well, you can't score runs in the pavilion. Sorry, dug-out. The point stands." And Sunil Gavaskar, whilst unquestionably worthy of icon status, would have to adapt to Twenty20 more rapidly than he did to one-day internationals. He famously batted through a 60-over World Cup innings for an unbeaten 36, leaving India an agonising 203 runs short of victory with just seven wickets in hand. Under the Duckworth-Lewis method, that is equivalent to a Twenty20 innings of 5 not out. Would a franchise owner want to risk that?
May 20, 2009
An IPL century possesses that rarest of commodities in modern-day cricket - rarity. In an age when Test centuries mean less and less, and the honours-board engravers at Test grounds are retiring in droves with repetitive strain injury, scoring a hundred in Twenty20 will always be impressive. There were just six in the first IPL season, and only one so far in season two (and, a little surprisingly, none by an Indian) (and, a little less surprisingly, none by an Englishman) (and, not surprisingly at all, four by Australians). And if a century is impressive, 158 not out is unquestionably something to write home about - as Brendon McCullum in fact did after his 2008 IPL opening-day explosion. The postcard (recently bought by Cricinfo at auction for $2.5 million) reads as follows: "Dear Mum and Dad, hope all is well back in New Zealand. I'm having a wonderful time in India. It's a lovely country, the people are very friendly, and the weather is great. The food is a bit hot though. Yesterday, I smashed 158 not out off 73 balls in the first ever IPL game, catapulting the tournament even more forcefully into the epicentre of global cricketing consciousness, and carving a niche of immortality for myself and the McCullum family name in the annals of the game, with one of cricket's greatest displays of power-hitting, setting an IPL high-score record that may never be broken (in fact, I'm willing to bet that by the end of next season no one will have even come within 40 runs of it) - a little reminiscent I'm sure you'll both agree of old Charlie Bannerman's 165 not out in the first ever Test match back in 1877, in the 141 years since when, as I'm sure you don't need me to tell you, no one has ever scored more than his 67.34% of a team's total runs in a complete Test innings. All the best to Auntie Gladys and Uncle Horace. Love Brendon. XXXX. PS: I think I might have left the fan heater on in my bedroom when I left. Could you switch it off please. Thanks. PPS: Can you record the highlights off the telly please."
May 19, 2009
V: The V
The area between mid-on and mid-off into which Proper Cricket Shots can be hit, even (occasionally and as a last resort) in Twenty20. Not all shots in The V are PCSs, though - The V can also be the recipient of the misplaced hoick, the mistimed thwack, or the very misplaced and mistimed reverse-sweep. Nevertheless, excessive use of The V is generally regarded as a sign of mental weakness in a Twenty20 batsman.
May 18, 2009
A feeling of exhaustion formerly felt by leading international cricketers, brought about by the unending globetrotting schedule set by the ICC for their subjects. This condition has largely been cured by the application of nice, soothing, million-dollar pay-packets by the IPL. As ever, when a man has to choose between a good snooze and a million dollars, he will ask if he can have both, then say, "Oh, well in that case I'll take the million please. And a cup of coffee too, please. Strong one."
May 17, 2009
D: Duckworth-Lewis method
An obviously unfair system for adjudicating the winner of rain- or apocalypse-interrupted matches, relying excessively on mathematics and science rather than the randomised guesswork that had always served limited-overs cricket well in the past. In the next season's IPL, unfinished matches will be awarded following a dance-off between the two sides' dancing-girl squad - a far fairer way of determining the superior franchise.
May 16, 2009
John Buchanan is a revolutionary Australian coach who, when in charge of Australia, transformed the world's best team into still the world's best team. Famously innovative and unorthodox, as coach of the Kolkata Knight Riders he has found innovative and unorthodox methods to lose almost all the games his team has played. Rumoured to have earmarked a different captain to lead each different kind of defeat. Also rumoured to be planning to turn the Knight Riders into sport's first entirely electronic franchise next year, in an attempt to prove his theory that cricket would be more efficiently played by computers instead of people.
May 15, 2009