From Andrew Hughes, United Kingdom
When you commit to watching the IPL, you resign yourself to spending several weeks in the company of a rag-tag bunch of presenters, pundits and media personalities. Over the course of the tournament, these people will become as familiar to you as your own family and in many cases, just as annoying. And none more so than Setanta’s hand-picked studio guests.

For the opening day, they had drafted in noted former slogger and radio persona Ronnie Irani as their IPL in-studio instant analyser. His mission: to give us the inside track, to be our mole, our secret agent; letting us in on what really goes on behind the scenes and explaining the nuances of the wonderful game to the uninitiated.

And we learnt many things on that first day. We discovered, for instance, that Kevin Pietersen and Shane Warne have something of a rivalry. Yes it’s true and apparently that meant that both of them were really keen to win their first game. We also learnt that playing in the IPL is a great opportunity; that Tendulkar is a really good batsman and that Freddie will be a bit disappointed with his opening day performance.

All too soon, our Irani time was over. I was keen to be further enlightened and so when I discovered that Sunday’s studio guest was to be one Darren Gough, my cup ranneth over. A fine bowler, a belligerent blade swinger and a nifty mover in the ballroom, he was sure to embroider the fine cloth of the day’s entertainment with the golden thread of insight.

It is difficult to sum up the full effect of an afternoon with Goughie, but I will give you just a flavour. Early on, he ruffled a few feathers by tipping everyone’s favourite losers the Kings XI Punjab. Hello, I thought, this is more like it. Controversy. A maverick opinion. Excited, the studio presenter pressed him further. What was it about the Kings XI that made him pick them out as tournament winners? Turned out that Goughie liked Brett Lee, he liked the boy Sreesanth and he was enamoured of Marsh and Hopes.

It matters not that one of them will miss the whole tournament and the other three will be unavailable until the second half. Their influence will be felt strongly in their absence. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the phantom Lee, the invisible Sreesanth and the cardboard cut-outs of Hopes and Marsh proved unable to overcome the Delhi Daredevils and Punjab received a predictable and not entirely unenjoyable spanking.

Of course, Yuvraj had other players available, such as the talented young Indian batsman Kamran Goel who blazed away so effectively at the top of the order. What, the studio presenter wondered, did Goughie think of him? “To be honest,” opined the Dazzler, “I’ve never heard of him.” Eat your heart out, Nasser Hussain.

Now you may be thinking that this is just a cheap shot at the expense of a great player. And you’d be right. But I would offer one mitigating plea in my defence. If the only requirement for obtaining a seat in a Setanta studio is the capacity to state the bleeding obvious, or to look down a list of names and spot the good players, then I’m sure there are many cricket fans out there who would happily do the job for a fraction of the fee earned by Mr Irani or Mr Gough. Heck, I’d do it for nothing.

Of course, the task facing the studio analyser is as nothing compared to the job of match commentator, for whom the IPL represents the ultimate challenge. In a Test match, they are allowed to wax lyrical, to speculate, to fall asleep, even to snore occasionally. There is no such respite for the average IPL microphone jockey. They have a script to stick to and at regular intervals, prodded by the muzzles of the rifles wielded by the Lalit Modi Revenue Maximisation Squad, must correctly acknowledge certain benevolent corporate bodies.

This coercion has taken its toll on the minds of those held captive in the commentary booth. Sunil Gavaskar is no longer able to screw in a light bulb without declaring it a Citi moment of success. Mark Nicholas involuntarily greets the popping of his toaster with the words, “DLF Maximum!” And Ravi Shastri wakes up screaming in the middle of the night from a dream in which he forgot to read out the list of tournament sponsors.

Perhaps the cruellest ordeal of all for these prisoners is that they are not allowed to tell the truth about a particularly hideous piece of merchandise that regularly appears on our screens. No, not Kevin Pietersen; I’m referring to the IPL Trophy.

When I first saw it, I assumed it was a homage to the IPL prepared by some Cape Town schoolchildren using plastic cups, pipe cleaners and glitter pens. But no, it is the reward for winning the richest tournament in cricket. Apparently it is covered in diamonds. Rarely can so much money have been spent to such little effect (and I include Surrey’s signing of Shoaib Akhtar).

And yet, presented with an image of this monstrosity, Robin Jackman is not allowed to point out that it is the tackiest piece of decoration you are likely to see outside of David Beckham’s third living room. Nor can Greg Blewett politely suggest that it might have been better if they’d simply piled the diamonds up on a silver plate. Instead, they must show due deference and declare it a stunning piece of trophyware.

Truly, we should feel their pain and give thanks that they have sacrificed their commentating careers for the good of the IPL.