IPL 15 – ANOTHER SUCCESS STORY
June 1, 2022: It will always have its detractors, those who dismiss it as “just slam bang cricket” and “not really cricket” or “just glitz and glamour and little else.” Allegations against match fixing will always be there too though these can never really be proved. But then the IPL was always supposed to be more than just a T-20 tournament. It was marked out for cricketainment – a phrase indissolubly linked with it.
The IPL gave rise to the mushrooming of various T-20 leagues around the world but none of these can match the IPL in the manner in which it is conducted, its popularity, its marketing reach, the tremendous fan following and the participation of leading players. Yes, there are girls and gadgets, innovations like music and dance that may not appeal universally, hype and hoopla. The telecasts are a mix of technical wizardry and shameless, almost nauseating marketing excesses. But then the IPL is also a platform on which a precociously gifted player like Umran Malik can showcase his talent and be fast tracked to the Indian squad. He is only the latest to shine on this stage and for this reason alone if nothing else the IPL will be here to not just stay but also become even bigger and better.
It certainly was bigger this year simply because ten teams took part instead of eight. The competition always keen became keener and in fact the two new entrants Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants stole the show with one winning it and the other making the qualifiers. Of course, on the other hand the two best known brands Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, who have nine titles between them had a forgettable tournament, occupying the last two places in the points table. That in itself highlighted the unpredictable nature of T-20 cricket – nothing really can be predicted. And this year again the IPL emphasized that cricket’s shortest format was not just for the batsmen to hit the ball into the stratosphere time and again; bowlers too had more than their moments and a glance at the tournament’s stats will underscore this point.
But of course, the IPL stage was not just for Umran Malik to display the unique spectacle of an Indian fast bowler being able to hurtle down thunderbolts at over 155 kmph. There were many other stars who shone for their respective teams – Rashid Khan, KL Rahul, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada, Joss Buttler, Quinton de Kock, Yuzvendra Chahal. The tournament also gave a chance to Dinesh Kartik to force his way back into the Indian team by enhancing his role as a ‘finisher’ and unlocked the captaincy skills of Hardik Pandya. For a time the forgotten man of Indian cricket Pandya, who was once hailed as the next big thing in Indian cricket, at last turned the corner with his all-round skills but more important it was his captaincy in getting Gujarat Titans the title that became a major talking point. There is now clearly a new candidate for captaincy of the national side. And that cricket can be a great leveler was also proved by the fact that the two biggest names in Indian cricket – Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli – had a horror run with the bat.
Yes, IPL 15 was yet another success story with only the slight fall in TRPs being a cause for concern. This may hint as a saturation point but one is sure the organizers will find a way next year to counter this. Also it must not be forgotten that in a year that the World T-20 will be held the IPL served as a sort of selection-primer.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal.)