Thrills, spills, yawns
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 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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 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
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|
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