June 1, 2008

Thrills, spills, yawns

Cricinfo staff
How has the IPL been received outside India?
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Love it or hate it, you can't ignore the IPL. If you're in India, that is, where wall-to-wall coverage of the league is the order of the day. What has the reaction to cricket's new sensation been like in the rest of the cricket-playing world, though? We asked our correspondents to tell us how the tournament has gone down in their parts of the world.



The telecast times have helped in places like Bangladesh. Not so in Australia © AFP

Pakistan


The reaction to the IPL has been massive, as it was for the ICL, which suggests the format more than anything is one Pakistanis love. The tournament has been followed by just about everyone who has even a fleeting interest in cricket and has actually attracted many more who wouldn't normally watch the game (my sister and mother, for example). The fact that Bollywood is involved - and Bollywood is massive in Pakistan - has helped. Shah Rukh Khan's team has been popular, and not only because it has four Pakistanis playing for it.

The matches have been telecast on cable TV (GEO Super) and so rural audiences have probably missed out, but urban Pakistan, where cable penetration is high, has been able to watch. Viewership, from what GEO says - and certainly from the ad rates - has been big. GEO has managed mostly to prevent cable operators from beaming other channels that are not legally aired in Pakistan and which may be telecasting the tournament, such as SuperSport or Sony. GEO also has a dedicated weekly show for the league called Inside IPL, hosted by a hottie and featuring one cricket guest and one celeb.

All the big newspapers have given matches coverage. Two newspapers, Jang and Express, have actually sent a correspondent but all the rest, including The News and Dawn have had substantial coverage.

The performances of Pakistani players have been followed, though as a team the Lahore Badshahs in the ICL generated greater interest. Mostly, the performances have been lamented, the general feeling being that the true value of Pakistani players internationally has been revealed in the IPL. But Sohail Tanvir has brought much-needed cheer with his bowling, and Shoaib Akhtar as much cheer as ridicule. Osman Samiuddin

Australia


In Australia the IPL is a yawn. It is telecast on free-to-air television, but for those watching it involves sleepless nights as in most places the weekday game begins near midnight. For the traditional cricket fan, or those more interested in the winter football codes, it's now a big-hitting bore.

During the first two weeks there was interest in how the A-list Australians were going, but once they left, Shane Warne has been the only player who can earn more than a couple of paragraphs in the papers. And it's hard to remember if anyone from another country has been mentioned since Brendon McCullum's opening. In the past week many people have asked if the tournament is still going.

Conveniently for Channel 10, the free-to-air broadcaster, the games are staged out of ratings times, so the only judgment on how many people are watching is that the IPL is winning its time slot. Peter English

New Zealand


A quick recent vox pop survey at an Auckland club cricket season-end function showed little knowledge of the results, or details of scores of matches in the IPL. Pay-as-you-go Sky TV has carried occasional highlights packages in the 7-10 am watching hours - not highly popular times during a workaday week. There was also competition from the Stanton tournament highlights from West Indies. In comparison, the ICL got no coverage at all.

Brendon McCullum's amazing opening-day century did get some mileage, but the various Twenty20 circuses were overshadowed by the ups and downs of the New Zealand team in England as they drew the first Test they might have lost. By the time New Zealand lost the Test they should have won easily, the one at Old Trafford, the long-suffering public turned most of their attention to the final stages of the Super 14 rugby tournament. Don Cameron

West Indies


The IPL has all but done in Test cricket for certain sections of West Indian fans. Test cricket has lost much of its lustre on account of the West Indies team dawdling in a slump for more than 15 years, and Twenty20, by contrast, has been captivating, what with the Stanford tournament and the recent WIPA excitement hanging in the air.

 
 
Big cities, everyone has heard their names. But Rajasthan Royals? And King's XI? Some people even wrote to newspapers and telephoned radio stations to protest the lack of a city called Deccan
 

In the West Indies, live Test cricket is not available on television unless it involves the home team, and with recent series shortened, there is no sustained interest anymore. Cable television offers the chance to watch games in the rest of the world, but mainly if the regional sports channel, SportsMax, airs them.

The IPL matches have been broadcast on one of the free-to-air channels in Trinidad and Tobago - but only the matches on weekends. For those with cable coverage, more games can be had, though. Radio and newspaper coverage has been regular, but fairly superficial, relying mainly on paragraphs lifted from online reports.

The interest was fairly high when West Indies players such as Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle were playing, but now that they are back home for the Australia series, it has tapered off.

People generally seem to like it, but it has not provoked the angst and passion that Tests do - which is probably the best thing in its favour: at least there is more joy than pain in this arena for West Indies. Vaneisa Baksh

Bangladesh


If the IPL's organisers were expecting their billion-dollar enterprise to have an immediate impact worldwide, they should be encouraged by the results. In Bangladesh, viewership figures would definitely have been a great deal higher if there was a reasonable Tigers presence in the tournament, but with only Abdur Razzak getting a contract that hasn't been the case. Nevertheless, cricket fans have watched in numbers, and speculated about how the likes of Mohammad Ashraful and Tamim Iqbal would have fit in.

The telecast has been available on normal cable channels, and the timings have made a positive difference: the late-evening starts have allowed people plenty of time to get back from work before tuning in. There has also been considerable coverage in the local print and electronic media, and live updates have been available via sms.

The event has caught the popular imagination, with cricket buffs, college and university students organising their very own "PL"s. Still, it is too early to predict whether the IPL will have a serous lasting impression here or just be a fun-filled annual picnic. Rabeed Imam

Zimbabwe


The IPL has received minimal interest in a country reeling under economic and political crisis. The average cricket fan in Zimbabwe does not know about the existence of IPL, and even if he did, the late-afternoon telecast times make it tough for him to tune in, as he is still at work then.

Given the mediocrity of its programming, it would be folly for anyone to expect the country's only television station, the state-controlled ZBC, to beam the IPL. The few Zimbabweans who can afford the Wiztech decoder enjoy a highlights package of the games, but not full coverage. Those with access to Supersport, Zimbabwe's privileged class, however, speak highly of the IPL, saying it provides a refreshing alternative to the 50-over game, which is slowly becoming stale.



Big in Pakistan: the Kolkata team has been a draw across the border because of Shah Rukh Khan's involvement © AFP

As for the print media, it has virtually ignored the tournament, despite the participation of Zimbabwe's own Tatenda Taibu. The inclusion of Taibu ahead of in-form players such as Elton Chigumbura and Keith Dabengwa has been questioned as well, by the likes of local cricket commentator Dean du Plessis. "Because we are a small nation, people don't look at facts - they just pick the guy whose name fits," du Plessis said. "A good example is Andy Flower, who was selected for a World XI in 2000 alongside Neil Johnson. Johnson got in because his ODI record was good. They picked Andy because his name was Andrew Flower and he had a Test average of just under 50. Surely Zimbabwe's best ODI batsman then was Murray Goodwin. Nobody did any research. They just said, "Zimbabwe? Ah, Andy Flower, pick him!" Steven Price

South Africa


South Africans - at least those who have the means to subscribe to the satellite supply offered by Supersport - enjoy more live sports television coverage than almost any other nation on earth. More Premiership football games than anywhere else, the golf majors, tennis majors, and everything else, from triathlon to hockey and underwater basket-weaving - if it exists. And every IPL game.

Consequently, sports watching is an addiction that afflicts many who cough up the £30 monthly fee, and the IPL has attracted healthy viewership. But unlike Premiership soccer, or anything else for that matter, the IPL has been a peripheral sport in most homes, not actively watched but merely glanced at from time to time.

"I love the vibe and energy, it's good to have on in the background, but I don't know who to support, that's the problem," says businessman Gary Mulder, a travel agent in Cape Town. The problem for South Africans, clearly, is the naming of the franchises.

Knowledge of Indian geography is, at best, extremely limited here, so it was no surpise that that the Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians attracted the greatest support - especially with Shaun Pollock captaining Mumbai. Big cities, everyone has heard their names. But Rajasthan Royals? And Kings XI? Some people even wrote to newspapers and telephoned radio stations to protest the lack of a city called Deccan.

By and large South Africans have enjoyed the inaugural season of the IPL, but they didn't, in any way, "connect" with it. Most still weren't sure who the SA players were representing until they actually saw them or heard their names mentioned.

It looked pizzazzy on TV, it was fun, and it was a fabulous thing to have on TV in bars for the after-work drinkers, because the timing was perfect - the late matches finished around 7.45pm. But unless some thought is given to marketing or, more relevantly, personalising the teams and the tournament, it may struggle to establish a foothold, even in the most established sports-addicted market. Neil Manthorp

Sri Lanka


Overall, the reaction has been positive. The after-office hours starts to most matches have meant that people have been able to tune in. The games are available free on the local MTV channel and also on cable and viewership has been very good. The form of the Lankan players has been followed with great interest - especially Sanath Jayasuriya for the Mumbai Indians. However, newspaper coverage has been restricted since the leading news agencies are not covering the tournament due to disagreements over conditions for accreditation laid down by the IPL. Sa'adi Thawfeeq

 
 
In England the interest centres less around the quality of the competition, which has been hard to judge given the paucity of the coverage in the national press, but more on the money been thrown at the players - which has generated huge column inches
 

England


The IPL has had a massive impact on English cricket, even though Dimitri Mascarenhas is the country's sole representative in the tournament, and the coverage (on the little-known satellite channel, Setanta) has gone almost unnoticed, seeing as it is available only to those few who have already paid up to watch the occasional Premier League football match.

The interest centres less around the quality of the competition, which has been hard to judge given the paucity of the coverage in the national press, but more on the money been thrown at the players - which has generated huge column inches. Most of the elite players in England, most notably Kevin Pietersen, have expressed a burning desire to take part, and as a direct result of their dissatisfaction, the ECB has found itself cosying up to Allen Stanford and his visions of an even more lucrative English Premier League.

Stanford's proposed multimillion-dollar winner-takes-all fixture in Antigua is the most tangible evidence of the IPL's upheaval, but there are other offshoots as well, such as the proposed reversion to a three-day county championship - a measure that would increase the days available for a Twenty20 extravaganza. Having invented the format, England has once again found itself being overtaken by the rest of the world, but this time there seems to be a will, for better or worse, to muscle back onto centre stage. Andrew Miller

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • MOHAMED on June 3, 2008, 11:36 GMT

    I felt that the IPL was a resounding success in Sri Lanka. My wife who always thought Cricket was a big bore and never followed Cricket before was a major fan along with my daughter (9 years). We had trouble in sending my daughter to bed during the week days due to the matches finishing late. My wife would call me up at office to remind me about the days match. Most of the people I spoke to and discussed the previous days play had positive comments to make. Looks like the lethal "saline" drip is being administered for test Cricket followed up after sometime for the 50 over version as well. Good show...cant wait for the next dose.

  • hayden on June 3, 2008, 7:24 GMT

    peter English i couldnt agree more!!! in Australia the only interest shown were in the cheerleaders at the first match and how the Aussies did! after all its football season! anyone who says they are from Australia and loved it obviously has sub continent heritage.

  • Ravneet on June 3, 2008, 3:45 GMT

    I reside in Australia, the IPL was shown at midnight and I stayed up and watched the majority of the matches. IPL is best thing that ever happened to cricket. I loved the IPL, it had everthing and lacking in nothing. I was addicted to it. I cannot wait until IPL comes back on.

  • Vikram on June 2, 2008, 16:20 GMT

    liquid.tension , I took no offense and I absolutely did not mean to imply that because India has a large population my opinion is right. In fact if you knew anything about India, you would know that we rarely agree on anything as a nation. The eyeballs are yours and you can choose what to do with them. But the IPL is certainly more than a show, it is also players toiling hard and fans following devotedly in 50 degree heat, it is officials and organizers ensuring that the spirit of the game is followed, it is also a new source of livelihood, if only for a few 1000s in a country that desperately needs new sources of livelihoods.

  • Jeremy on June 2, 2008, 12:49 GMT

    My family may be the exception in England because we have Setanta - and not because we "paid up to watch the occasional Premier League football match", but because our cable supplier decided last August to add it to the package we were already paying for - but we have followed the IPL avidly and have loved it. It's been great cricket and top entertainment. Taking part in Cricinfo's IPL fantasy league has further enhanced our enjoyment, and introduced some bizarre twists - for example "I want Punjab to beat Delhi, but I want Sehwag to score well but not against Pathan or Chawla." On reflection we may have taken the fantasy league a little bit too seriously...

  • Marketa on June 2, 2008, 11:25 GMT

    Here's one for you: I have been watching the IPL via internet broadcast from the CZECH REPUBLIC, a country where most of the population has probably never even heard of cricket. I have every reason to suspect I am probably the ONLY female Czech cricket fan. :-)

    But I must confess, I LOVE the IPL! I love the energy, player dedication, I love the quality of the games. There has been some superior cricket played by many of the participants and the teams, and the finals were spectacular. And I am excited to see players from diverse countries, cultures and backgrounds cooperate for the good of the team. Vivat the United Nations of Cricket!

    I am absolutely thrilled about the IPL and I would like to thank Lalit Modi, the organizers, and the players for putting on such a worthy show. I will definitely tune in next year and I can't wait for the games to begin. Go IPL and Indian cricket!

    :-) Marketa

  • Mahesh on June 2, 2008, 10:32 GMT

    sadly, the ipl has generated minimal interest in Australia outside of the subcontinent migrant population....there have been a few people who've tracked the performances of the big name Aussies, but the ipl has largely gone by unnoticed. of course, myself and many others of Indian origin, have been sleeping very little over the last six weeks in order to enjoy the action. to be honest, i was a little skeptical about whether the international players would really be putting their full effort into the ipl, but the quality of the matches has been so high that there's no doubt now remaining in my mind.

    as for the rest of the world, i think the ipl needs Pakistani and sri lankan franchises to capitalize on the massive interest generated in both countries. also, this will help those countries develop their talent as well. just look at the success of the Lahore badshahs in the icl...

  • Khalid on June 2, 2008, 10:26 GMT

    I am a Pakistani living in Saudi Arabia, I watched every match played in the IPL tournament and must admit that India has successfully staged a grand cricket show. They have proved their competence in organizing such big events. The championship was a little bit long and would have been much better if it was squeezed in a 30 days stretch. The closing ceremony was brilliant and the final was really great.

    The IPL will definitely give a big boost to Indian cricket and it has also proved that its a game of youngsters as all the big guns failed. The performances of Sachin, Dravid, Irfan, Ponting, Symonds, Younis, Shoaib, Salman Butt, Zahir Khan and so on was fairly ordinary while the young guns from all over the world grabbed this opportunity and proved their worth. T20 indeed is an entertaining form of cricket and for youngsters as has been proved not only by this IPL tournament but also during the last T20 world cup.

  • zuhair on June 2, 2008, 7:46 GMT

    The reason why so many in Pakistan watched the IPL was the timing. Late evenings are considered family hours here and 3 hours of entertainment fits the package. ICL was no less a hit in Pakistan. But I wonder if anybody still remembers the names of teams other than the Lahore Badshahs, let alone the players who represented. Same will be the fate of IPL. It is a fact that this game is so short lived in the memories that the TV viewers can't recall it when two days have passed. It will soon be forgotten and hopefully we will be watching some real cricket.

  • Michael on June 2, 2008, 6:22 GMT

    Firstly I would just like to give my congratulations to the organizers of the IPL and the Indian supporters for making it so spectacular to watch. Here in South Africa, those that have been priviledged enough to watch the IPL matches have fallen in love with it. Personally I loved the massive crowds and the fairness of the competition. Generally when watching international competitions, one gets the odd bias comment, which isn't to my liking but during the IPL the main objective was to broadcast and watch magnificent Cricket and that we certainly got. The fact that there were numerous South Africans involved helped the IPL's cause here in South Africa. A great tournament and I watched almost every game, the only thing I am worried about is the affect it will have on Test Match Cricket and the popularity of the oldest form of the game. I hope all three forms can coexist.

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