April 30, 2012

The fans have voted with their wallets on the IPL

The tournament now has a following independent of the Indian team's performance

It is no exaggeration when I say that the atmosphere at Feroz Shah Kotla the other day, during the Delhi Daredevils v Mumbai Indians game, was similar to those seen during World Cup matches in India. It was, of course, a big-ticket game involving some of the biggest names in world cricket, but the atmosphere for other IPL games played at the Kotla and other metro venues this year has not been too different. I'm not saying this because I am now a contracted commentator for the IPL, but because it is something I have seen for myself: IPL 5 is a big hit.

I don't understand the game of TRPs and ratings; I just look at what's out there to see and draw obvious conclusions. Fans have come in their throngs and they have made a lot of noise, suggesting that they are having a great time in the stands. I keep getting frequent requests for free tickets to IPL games. That's the simple yardstick I use to judge the success of an event.

The IPL has seen some terrific matches this year, and some individual performances have been simply breathtaking. We are seeing the attacking game evolve further, where sixes hit with reverse sweeps and switch hits landing in the second tier of the stands are not as rare as they used to be. (I have a problem with the switch hit and its legality, but that is a subject for another day.)

A strong point of this year's IPL has been the intensity shown by the foreign players, especially the big global stars like Kevin Pietersen and AB de Villiers. One only has to see the intensity on the face of a de Villiers as he faces up to a bowler, or Pietersen's body language on the field, to realise that these guys are not holding anything back - they are giving their all for their franchises.

As for the fans, they react to the intensity of the contest on the playing field, and feel content that they are getting full value for their money spent. They are now feeling increasingly assured that they have bought tickets to games where they will not only see their favourite stars in action but see them giving their best. Sadly, as a cricket fan you did not get that feeling when you watched the Indian and Sri Lankan teams play recently in the Asia Cup in Dhaka, an international tournament. Maybe there is a lesson there for the administrators.

IPL 5 has also thrown up another message for followers of Indian cricket. Many felt that the recent Indian debacles in England and Australia would have a negative impact on this year's IPL, since the success of the IPL depends largely on how Indian fans react to it, and Indian fans were a depressed lot in the weeks prior to the IPL. But as Santosh Desai recently suggested on ESPNcricinfo's Time Out show, Indian cricket fans seem to be actually flocking to IPL games, taking solace in the fact that India cannot lose, come what may.

What has also emerged from the success of IPL 5 is the knowledge that Indian cricket fans have now started following the IPL as an independent event, separate from the international cricket that India plays. This should delight all those who have invested in the IPL; it's a happy learning for them that the success of the tournament is not dependent on how the Indian team performs at the international level. The IPL's success depends on its own performance.

This year's IPL has also established once again that the T20 format and the time when most matches are played (8pm to 11pm) are the tournament's two fortes - and also the two main weaknesses of mainstream international cricket.

This piece is not about glorifying everything about the IPL, so let me now come to a bit of criticism. With every advancing season, the more successful the IPL becomes, the more challenging it will be for the BCCI to sustain its Test cricket. With all its mass following and the money it generates for the players, the undeniable fact remains that the IPL is not good preparation for Test cricket. And we have seen over the years that the image and stature of a country's cricket are defined by its team's Test performances. The IPL may help India become a better 50-overs team but not a better Test team.

This is what the BCCI has to be mindful of. As it watches the IPL go from strength to strength, the board has to ensure that its Test cricket does not become weaker in the process. It is possible: India can have a strong Test team along with a vibrant IPL. More on that in my next piece on ESPNcricinfo.

Former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar commentates on the IPL and other cricket. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 3, 2012, 13:25 GMT

    I keep hearing Pakistani fans saying IPL is unsuccessful. If so why do you keep insisting to include Pakistani players in a unsuccessful domestic Indian League?

  • waves on May 3, 2012, 3:05 GMT

    Sanjay u are spot on!!! Even kp said that england are jealous of ipl. Not only england most of the nations are jealous. This is crickets one the biggest tournaments watched from many parts of the world

  • Sanjiv on May 2, 2012, 20:15 GMT

    IPL5 has revealed an interesting weakness in India cricket talent. No India bowlers in the top-3. If BCCI has any sense (big if) they will finally start to develop bowling talent in the country.

  • John on May 2, 2012, 11:50 GMT

    The IPL will never identify and nurture new talent, and the reason has practically nothing to do with cricket or the BCCI. It is a totally professional game, so it follows universal business practices. Just as you can only get a loan if you can demonstrate that you don't need it (well, at least that you control assets equal or superior to the loan) - the bank doesn't want to "pick winners" - the franchises will invest in proven talent. And the marketers also want to promote known "brands" - that is established players.

  • sathya on May 2, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    I do enjoy following IPL matches, there sure are some exciting performances every once in a while. But if you are a fan of the Indian team you have to wonder why it is that players like Sehwag and Gambhir excel domestically whereas AB de Villiers, the Morkel brothers, Jacque Kallis, Hussey brothers et al perform well not only on flat tracks like the ones in India but also bouncy pitches elsewhere. How short is the attention span of Indian fans and how low do they set the bar for Indian players ?

  • R on May 1, 2012, 18:27 GMT

    @K Ravi Shankar - yes. Couple of stands were not cleared by the authorities. Hence, TNCA cannot use them until the dispute is resolved

  • Dummy4 on May 1, 2012, 9:24 GMT

    k ravi shankar @ Chennai and bangalore will never have a full crowd in IPL5.

  • R on May 1, 2012, 9:01 GMT

    Sanjay is absolutely spot on. Who cares about the TRP ratings? Do they consider each and every person, who is watching. Just by doing random sample does not mean that whatever they are saying is correct. We have seen lot of exit polls going for toss during election time. People are forgetting about the fact that now the matches can be viewed on internet, which was not the case in the first 2 or 3 editions. Also, if I am watching a match along with 25 friends on a big screen, does TRP count it as one or twenty six :-)

  • Farhan on May 1, 2012, 5:19 GMT

    First of all IPL is not at all independent of India team performance the teams's recect dismal run has made the IPL unsuccessful in spite of exciting matches. IPL could get exciting if the Pakistani players are allowed. Secondly this years Asia Cup was one of the best cricket tournament one has ever seen you just cannot come to the conclusion that teams like Srilanka and India did have the intensity just because they were favorites and did not go to final.

  • Dummy4 on May 1, 2012, 3:20 GMT

    Hi Sanjay, adding on to my comments yesterday. Did you watch the match at Chennai last night ?? Or were you there ? Well, i watched the telecast and could clearly see that the camera was trying its darnedest to pan on the spectators that were in. There were large spaces of empty seats. Yes, i know someone wrote in to say that some parts of the stadium were not cleared for security reason !! And it still isnt ?? Inspite of that there were plenty of vacant seats. And this was a crunch match for Chennai. Are you still saying that this IPL is doing well ?? Hmmmm......

  • No featured comments at the moment.