April 6, 2012

My wishlist for this year's IPL

Rather than becoming more like the EPL, where a few clubs hold sway, the IPL must look at creating greater competition
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Now that the people from the movies have done what they are best at, even though one of the reigning superstars looked dangerously uninterested, the IPL can focus on what it is best at - cricket. To be honest, I have no problems with a spectacle to get a tournament going, especially if it is a lot of fun before the touring and tension starts, but India's obsession with Hindi movies to the exclusion of all else suggests we are getting increasingly limited in our definition of popular culture.

Eventually, though, the IPL will have to survive and blossom as a cricket tournament. The packaging is important. You don't buy quality wrapped in brown paper, but what it packages is critical. There is razzmatazz around a lot of sporting events, but the NBA is good basketball, the EPL is good competition, and the IPL will have to continue to deliver good cricket, which, to be fair, it largely has so far

Every season brings with it fresh challenges and the IPL will have to retain one of its strongest assets - the unpredictability of results. That means there has to be as level a playing field as possible, which was the foundation on which the tournament was launched. For all its worldwide appeal the English Premiership is almost a cash-for-results enterprise, as the spectacular rise of Manchester City has shown. It means that while there are club loyalties and the EPL is an evolved league that has managed to build a tradition of fan support, it is also clear that no more than four or five teams can even dream of winning it.

All leagues will inevitably produce a division between the richer clubs and their more middle-class cousins, and you can see that happening already in the IPL, with player retention and trades, but the future lies in each club believing at the start that it can win the tournament. Luckily T20 as a format, where possession of short-term skills can be valuable too, allows for closer games, but it is still a worry. I would love to be proven wrong but it is difficult to see a winner at this stage that doesn't come from the best four of last year.

One way to create greater competition is to let home teams produce wickets that give them the best chance of winning. Clearly you cannot have bad wickets or those that limit good cricket, but the basic element of cricket, to be able to win on different surfaces, must be retained. If you only prepare flat batting strips, and one ground resembles another and they all look like hitting ranges, you will get the equivalent of the white shirt and the blue shirt in male fashion. An executive may get away with wearing identical suits every day but cricket cannot survive on identical pitches. We cannot let that happen, we must not.

What we love is a cricket match, and everything that that beautiful expression stands for, not a batting festival. Cricket, even T20 cricket, cannot look like the last reel of a Hindi movie, where the good guys (the batsmen) are beating the daylights out of the bad guys (the bowlers).

In fact given the current alarming preference for taking all pace of the ball (in itself a contrast to what some feared - that the slow bowler would have no place) I would be delighted to see a few games where the ball flies off the track a bit. One of the great sights of last year's IPL was to see Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma letting it rip for the Deccan Chargers, and then to discover that the batsmen didn't quite enjoy it.

So I am looking forward to a few things this year. Good pitches and good outfields; boundaries that are where they should be, not merely at arm's length; young kids coming through and surprising us with their audacity; tickets competitively priced, so that everyone can come to the ground and have a good time.

And since we are all sentimental folk somewhere, I would like to see Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly giving us moments of joy. They are at different stages in their playing cycles, but you still want to cheer them on while you can.

Harsha Bhogle commentates on the IPL and other cricket, and is a television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • chamni96 on April 9, 2012, 8:16 GMT

    Look at the Champions league T20. That was a good way to highlight who is performing and who is not. The top 4 teams in IPL where nowhere near competing with other t20 teams around the world unless they grab players from them.

  • IndiaNumeroUno on April 9, 2012, 8:08 GMT

    Harsha... can you please explain what is EPL?

  • IndiaNumeroUno on April 9, 2012, 8:06 GMT

    Thanks Vilander - don't know which country you come from.. but I'm sure India is leaps and bounds ahead in economic growth... remember that next time you come around with a begging bowl.

  • teja454 on April 8, 2012, 4:50 GMT

    Very True Harsha! But wat about a team which has the potential off the field but not on the field. Look at DC a good team, which can beat anyone on a given day, but also could be beaten by any other team day or night! And how is it that you make the team competitive? Make good pitches! Look at Visakhapatnam pitch, just a belter of a track, yielding sixes and fours at will! and hyderabad is no different too! C'mon IPL make it a brand!

  • cricket4every on April 8, 2012, 1:41 GMT

    Why we talk about wickets, Yes there should b good wickets. But every team has a squad of 30 players. they have spinners, fast bowlers,all rounders. if a captain and coach cant read the wicket. they need to educate themselves than to blame wicket. You have the option to select from 30. So keep your composition as suc, that you should use your best available resources.

  • Vilander on April 7, 2012, 17:36 GMT

    why are we comparing IPL with a football club championship ? football is a bigger sport, and cricket is largely played only by south asians. Lets not get carried away here please, India is still a third world country so lets just watch and enjoy IPL.

  • on April 7, 2012, 15:10 GMT

    Its the good spinners who are under threat. Slow bowlers will always be in fashion as long as there are batsmen like Gayle, Sehwag, Pollard, Yusuf who like to the ball to come on to bat. Ashwin, Sharma & company may live happily ever after in the days of IPL.

  • on April 7, 2012, 5:43 GMT

    @jasif A lot of Indians care about the IPL. It is the only place where we have Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar playing freely without burden of expectations from the public. We don't mind paying high if they are playing high !

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on April 7, 2012, 2:28 GMT

    @jasif: Same old, same old - who cares about IPL? Yawn! Millions of Indians do care a lot about IPL with billionaires overseeing it. Well, if you don't care, good for you. This multimillion/billion dollar industry is here to stay and millions of Indians are proud of it and rightly so.

  • TRBh on April 7, 2012, 2:18 GMT

    IPL talks about good sporting wickets on day 1 and changes the chennai wicket into an grassy wicket.2 days later we see the wicket in Mumbai turing suare suiting home team.cant understand this logic

  • chamni96 on April 9, 2012, 8:16 GMT

    Look at the Champions league T20. That was a good way to highlight who is performing and who is not. The top 4 teams in IPL where nowhere near competing with other t20 teams around the world unless they grab players from them.

  • IndiaNumeroUno on April 9, 2012, 8:08 GMT

    Harsha... can you please explain what is EPL?

  • IndiaNumeroUno on April 9, 2012, 8:06 GMT

    Thanks Vilander - don't know which country you come from.. but I'm sure India is leaps and bounds ahead in economic growth... remember that next time you come around with a begging bowl.

  • teja454 on April 8, 2012, 4:50 GMT

    Very True Harsha! But wat about a team which has the potential off the field but not on the field. Look at DC a good team, which can beat anyone on a given day, but also could be beaten by any other team day or night! And how is it that you make the team competitive? Make good pitches! Look at Visakhapatnam pitch, just a belter of a track, yielding sixes and fours at will! and hyderabad is no different too! C'mon IPL make it a brand!

  • cricket4every on April 8, 2012, 1:41 GMT

    Why we talk about wickets, Yes there should b good wickets. But every team has a squad of 30 players. they have spinners, fast bowlers,all rounders. if a captain and coach cant read the wicket. they need to educate themselves than to blame wicket. You have the option to select from 30. So keep your composition as suc, that you should use your best available resources.

  • Vilander on April 7, 2012, 17:36 GMT

    why are we comparing IPL with a football club championship ? football is a bigger sport, and cricket is largely played only by south asians. Lets not get carried away here please, India is still a third world country so lets just watch and enjoy IPL.

  • on April 7, 2012, 15:10 GMT

    Its the good spinners who are under threat. Slow bowlers will always be in fashion as long as there are batsmen like Gayle, Sehwag, Pollard, Yusuf who like to the ball to come on to bat. Ashwin, Sharma & company may live happily ever after in the days of IPL.

  • on April 7, 2012, 5:43 GMT

    @jasif A lot of Indians care about the IPL. It is the only place where we have Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar playing freely without burden of expectations from the public. We don't mind paying high if they are playing high !

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on April 7, 2012, 2:28 GMT

    @jasif: Same old, same old - who cares about IPL? Yawn! Millions of Indians do care a lot about IPL with billionaires overseeing it. Well, if you don't care, good for you. This multimillion/billion dollar industry is here to stay and millions of Indians are proud of it and rightly so.

  • TRBh on April 7, 2012, 2:18 GMT

    IPL talks about good sporting wickets on day 1 and changes the chennai wicket into an grassy wicket.2 days later we see the wicket in Mumbai turing suare suiting home team.cant understand this logic

  • nlambda on April 6, 2012, 19:50 GMT

    I just wish it would not screw up our test and ODI team. Have not read the scorecard/commentary of any IPL match so far. Still angry at 0-8 and Sehwag and Gambhir hiding their injuries last year.

  • KirGop on April 6, 2012, 18:57 GMT

    Harshas articles lately seems to miss the point. The natural thing to say is that IPL will fail to stand to the billings. I think IPL will prove people wrong.

    He fell for the EPL-IPL comparison. IPL is too young to have dynasties. His final assertion that IPL winner this year could be from last years final 4 - this will probably be wrong. We shall know in 8 weeks or however long IPL lasts.

  • on April 6, 2012, 17:08 GMT

    IPL we have the same budget for each team to buy players and I think we have a salary cap but not in the EPL. In EPL, billionaires buy clubs, all of a sudden a club comes into contention. I am not sure we can compare both.

  • cheguramana on April 6, 2012, 17:02 GMT

    well said Harsha ! what we need is good cricket. And that does not come without a contest between bat and ball. Bringing some of the dead Indian pitches to life will be the best thing that happened to Indian cricketers : both the batsmen and the bowlers!!

  • unbiasedfan on April 6, 2012, 16:47 GMT

    Comparing IPL to EPL! If ever there was a comparison between cheese and chalk - Harsha, just in case you don't get it, chalk here is IPL and cheese is EPL.

  • warneythebest on April 6, 2012, 14:19 GMT

    harsha has pointed out one of the basic mistakes in the IPL...lack of good even tracks..that gives the bowlers some advantage too... a biting delivery here and there will keep the batsmen on their toes rather trying to clobber every delivery that comes their way... and of course boundaries need to be kept in the right place!!!! good article Harsha...

  • Gizza on April 6, 2012, 9:34 GMT

    "where the good guys (the batsmen) are beating the daylights out of the bad guys (the bowlers)" this attitude extending in ODI's and Tests is probably the very worst thing in Indian cricket culture. India really needs to one day respect the bowler. No other country hates the art of bowling as much. Maybe this is because India's own Gilli-Danda only has batting and fielding. @Imfunky, Kohli would have become a confident superstar in cricket even without the IPL. Look at his U19 matches. He had the same talent and flair as people like Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh had at the same age.

  • NP_NY on April 6, 2012, 9:01 GMT

    @jasif: Looks like you do care about IPL jasif. Why else would you have cared to even look at this article and comment?! The answer to your question "who cares about IPL anyway?" is MILLIONS. Any more questions or comments, please feel free to share.

  • Imfunky on April 6, 2012, 8:33 GMT

    IPL is just another hype like EPL. Best football happens in Bundesliga and La Liga. Chelsea should consider lucky enough to reach the CL semi final. But people would still watch the IPL for its hype. Having said that , I would always support IPL if it could bring in confidence among the youngsters to play at high level. Virat Kohli's brialliant innings against SL and PAK are the perfect examples of How IPL can change the attitude of a player . I love NBA and La Liga , and so the IPL as well.

  • on April 6, 2012, 8:06 GMT

    Do you have any comments to make on the money power of Mumbai Indians ... do you know the cumulative salary of the players assembled by the MI's. So much for transparency ?

  • on April 6, 2012, 7:42 GMT

    Great article, Well judged. I wanna add to it that players from other countries like Pakistan should not be banned or restricted to play IPL, if u want it global and much competitive games will produce. Its happening now but then you will add more to the games that it deserves. And more over BCCI should include more teams from Srilanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, West Indies, New Zealand in their champions league to add more color and flavor.But I am in doubt of that, coz i know the characteristics of BCCI.

  • on April 6, 2012, 7:16 GMT

    @jasif.. If u dont care about IPL why did u even click this link? In the header itself its clearly mentioned tat its about IPL. The truth is you simply cannot ignore IPL no matter how you feel about it..

  • jasif on April 6, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    useless article....who cares abt IPL anyway??? but thanks to BCCI for giving burnout players to international cricket

  • Vikas_USIT on April 6, 2012, 5:59 GMT

    "one of the reigning superstars looked dangerously disinterested"? You probably meant uninterested rather than disinterested. People performing at the opening ceremony, barring the owners of course, are expected to be disinterested.

  • RashadBanna on April 6, 2012, 5:53 GMT

    Harsha, when you are talking about the IPL, please stick to it rather than comparing it with the English Premier League, which if laughable really. You have given Manchester City's example to show that cash brings success but you forgot to mention that eventually, United's history and heritage contributed to their impending success. The Premiership is won by the team with the highest number of points after 38 games in a competitive league. Don't even dare to compare it with an over-rated tournament like the IPL.

  • johnathonjosephs on April 6, 2012, 5:35 GMT

    What a joke? IPL has become worse than EPL or Big bash. Why? Because there's no competition at all. Mumbai and Chennai will both make it to semifinals and either one of those teams will win.

  • Kumar_dude on April 6, 2012, 5:16 GMT

    I feel Harsha's favourite team is deccan chargers.No surprises,as he spent his school days in Hyderabad.He has some inclination towards this city.I liked his commentary in one of the previous IPL editions : "People in Narayana guda , Kachi guda will be glued to their TV sets ".

  • on April 6, 2012, 4:32 GMT

    My wishlist for this year's IPL. 1) Boundaries should be shifted outside the stadium 2) Bowlers should be allowed to bowl two bouncers an over. 3) Bowlers should be allowed to switch bowl like Batsman. 4) Bowlers should be allowed 25* elbow tweak 5) Pitches should have more grass and bounce like Wanderers and Perth or should be under prepared for Doosras and Teesras to turn like Shane Warne's leg breaks. 6) Wicket keepers should be allowed stand beyond 30 yards circle 7) Retired International players players should be allowed a by-runner. 8) If the match is interrupted by rain, teams should be allowed to do throw downs instead of bowling so that mandatory twenty overs are completed thick and fast. 9) All IPL matches should be played with 4 wickets instead of three. 10) Finally Commentators should cry every time a glorious six is hit. For some reality check, imagine the likes of Viv Richards, Botham or Kapil Dev playing in T20 IPL.

  • on April 6, 2012, 4:11 GMT

    You are spot on Harsha. In fact without too much of the filmy stuff, IPL can reach globally. Otherwise, you can't expect people of other culture to lap up a cinematic culture from India. Plus it is about Cricket first and then the rest later. It is India's greatest chance to show the world that we can get a great brand to the market. This can only be possible by respecting tests and ODis and collaborating with other countries.

  • sneeky55 on April 6, 2012, 4:10 GMT

    fantastic article, but sizzled out towards the end. Fair point, just like international cricket today, the more competition the better

  • SidCricIndia on April 6, 2012, 3:50 GMT

    This is such a well written article!! Harsha, you're the best!

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on April 6, 2012, 3:40 GMT

    Love those three or hate those three, but one can't ignore those three.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on April 6, 2012, 3:40 GMT

    Love those three or hate those three, but one can't ignore those three.

  • SidCricIndia on April 6, 2012, 3:50 GMT

    This is such a well written article!! Harsha, you're the best!

  • sneeky55 on April 6, 2012, 4:10 GMT

    fantastic article, but sizzled out towards the end. Fair point, just like international cricket today, the more competition the better

  • on April 6, 2012, 4:11 GMT

    You are spot on Harsha. In fact without too much of the filmy stuff, IPL can reach globally. Otherwise, you can't expect people of other culture to lap up a cinematic culture from India. Plus it is about Cricket first and then the rest later. It is India's greatest chance to show the world that we can get a great brand to the market. This can only be possible by respecting tests and ODis and collaborating with other countries.

  • on April 6, 2012, 4:32 GMT

    My wishlist for this year's IPL. 1) Boundaries should be shifted outside the stadium 2) Bowlers should be allowed to bowl two bouncers an over. 3) Bowlers should be allowed to switch bowl like Batsman. 4) Bowlers should be allowed 25* elbow tweak 5) Pitches should have more grass and bounce like Wanderers and Perth or should be under prepared for Doosras and Teesras to turn like Shane Warne's leg breaks. 6) Wicket keepers should be allowed stand beyond 30 yards circle 7) Retired International players players should be allowed a by-runner. 8) If the match is interrupted by rain, teams should be allowed to do throw downs instead of bowling so that mandatory twenty overs are completed thick and fast. 9) All IPL matches should be played with 4 wickets instead of three. 10) Finally Commentators should cry every time a glorious six is hit. For some reality check, imagine the likes of Viv Richards, Botham or Kapil Dev playing in T20 IPL.

  • Kumar_dude on April 6, 2012, 5:16 GMT

    I feel Harsha's favourite team is deccan chargers.No surprises,as he spent his school days in Hyderabad.He has some inclination towards this city.I liked his commentary in one of the previous IPL editions : "People in Narayana guda , Kachi guda will be glued to their TV sets ".

  • johnathonjosephs on April 6, 2012, 5:35 GMT

    What a joke? IPL has become worse than EPL or Big bash. Why? Because there's no competition at all. Mumbai and Chennai will both make it to semifinals and either one of those teams will win.

  • RashadBanna on April 6, 2012, 5:53 GMT

    Harsha, when you are talking about the IPL, please stick to it rather than comparing it with the English Premier League, which if laughable really. You have given Manchester City's example to show that cash brings success but you forgot to mention that eventually, United's history and heritage contributed to their impending success. The Premiership is won by the team with the highest number of points after 38 games in a competitive league. Don't even dare to compare it with an over-rated tournament like the IPL.

  • Vikas_USIT on April 6, 2012, 5:59 GMT

    "one of the reigning superstars looked dangerously disinterested"? You probably meant uninterested rather than disinterested. People performing at the opening ceremony, barring the owners of course, are expected to be disinterested.

  • jasif on April 6, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    useless article....who cares abt IPL anyway??? but thanks to BCCI for giving burnout players to international cricket