If you can’t beat the IPL circus, join it

Kris Swales Columnist

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    David Warner playing for Delhi. (Image: BCCI)

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    You don’t realise how big the IPL is until you’re in India when the circus works its way across the country.

    Television station watermarks count down the days until showtime.

    The Times of India profiles one franchise per day.

    Virat Kohli spruiks hair gel on the cricket channel every five minutes.

    When the sixth season of the Indian Premier League finally kicked off last Wednesday, every television in Anjuna – a small rural community at the seaside paradise of Goa – was tuned to the IPL.

    And I mean every set, from the residents to the hotel guests to the scooter rental places to the kitchen at the live music venue, in a place that doesn’t even have a team of its own.

    This would all add up to a ratings share of State of Origin proportions – and it happens every night until the finals start mid-May.

    What to do then but join the party that stops a nation? I booked a flight north to see Ricky Ponting’s Mumbai Indians take on David Warner’s Delhi Daredevils six days later.

    Compared to the New Delhi test match featuring the Aussies last month, securing IPL tickets is a breeze.

    Collecting them involves heading to the Wankhede Stadium a day before the game, which sees armoured vehicles and several dozen platoons of security already flanking the ground.

    You can see why IPL 2 was moved to South Africa in 2009 due to India’s security forces being unable to police both the cricket tournament and the concurrent general elections.

    If you’re surprised it was cricket that made the compromise, politics is serious business here – their television panel shows have debates so explosive they make Q and A look like Romper Room.

    The IPL’s grip on the public’s imagination is helped by the fact that the teams have a title to play for, and their best players are on show every match.

    Fittingly, ‘million dollar baby’ Glen Maxwell isn’t in Mumbai’s 11 tonight.

    For the cricket watching purist, the key to enjoying the IPL is to accept that T20 has about as much to do with test match cricket as One Direction do with The Beatles, or Tom Waterhouse with rugby league.

    To get into the spirit of things I head to the merch stand, flick past the light-up devil horns and multi-coloured wigs, and strap myself into a Mumbai Indians bandana.

    If Peter FitzSimons can get away with it in his Sydney Morning Herald mugshot, I don’t see why I can’t give it a good shake either.

    On entering the stadium at 8.00pm, first impressions are that Wankhede is like the Return Of The Jedi Death Star to the Gabba’s Star Wars version – there may be a few sections missing, but this battle station is packed and fully operational.

    Supporters flags are stuck to every seat. Ice cream sellers compete with McDonald’s and Domino’s.

    That annoying mariarchi trumpet sounds regularly over the PA, and the crowd roars in response. Cheerleaders cheer from podiums spaced around the boundaries.

    There’s also some sport being played. Mumbai win the toss, Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar walk out to open the batting, and any dreams of a transcendental moment are crushed when they’re both back in the pavilion seven balls later with one run between them.

    Luckily Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma light up the Wankhede, and as the Delhi fast bowling team of Morkel, Ishant and Nehra look for a hole to crawl into, their batters see an imposing target of 210 to chase down.

    From the moment Ponting takes a screamer off Harbhajan’s opening ball of the Delhi innings, you sense this will only end one way.

    Punter scurries around the field marshalling his troops like it’s his first game as captain, his energy more Red Dog than Mumbai slumdog.

    Meanwhile, the millionaire, Glenn Maxwell, is carrying refreshments to his teammates and waving to fans, who look back incredulous at a guy earning more tonight than all of his fellow Mumbai drinks waiters combined for the year.

    An announcement goes up at 10.00pm that the PA is being shut down, presumably due to a noise complaint from the neighbours.

    Wrapped early for the night, the cheerleaders sit next to their podiums, no doubt waxing lyrical about Punter’s rapid-fire bowling changes and the upcoming prime ministerial smackdown between Modi and Gandhi.

    David Warner plays some circumspect shots between between lusty swooshes in a one-man counter-attack; Mitchell Johnson bowls pies but somehow takes wickets, Glenn Maxwell doesn’t do much of anything. It’s like a night out at the SCG, sans beer snakes.

    The game drifts into tedium as Delhi’s lack of batting resources sees them fall 44 runs short, with many fans making for the exits early.

    Having spent three weeks on Indian roads, trying to ‘beat the traffic’ seems to me a tad optimistic.

    So the circus leaves town for now, with me soon to follow. But it looks like we’ll cross paths again at Eden Gardens, Kolkata next Sunday.

    A man can never have too many bandanas, after all.

    Follow Kris on Twitter: @KrisSwales

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    The Crowd Says (36)

    • Roar Pro

      April 10th 2013 @ 8:35am
      Max Weber said | April 10th 2013 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      Great stuff.

    • April 10th 2013 @ 9:01am
      Amith said | April 10th 2013 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      You can’t help get into the IPL spirit, the games are of high quality

    • April 10th 2013 @ 9:27am
      colvin said | April 10th 2013 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      I suspect in 10 or 15 years from now T20 will be a separate game from cricket as we know it being run something like the way baseball is in the US.

      There will be major and minor leagues and youngsters will enter the game at the age of 5 or 6 and be developed into T20 superstars as adults.

      The T20 players will have nothing to do with one day cricket or the long form (shield or test)

      It makes me fear for the future of test cricket as a question will always exist as to how many youngsters will want to play the longer form of the game we currently know and be developed into test cricketers.

    • Columnist

      April 10th 2013 @ 9:41am
      Dane Eldridge said | April 10th 2013 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      A great insight in to the circus, top stuff Kris!

      And I’m assuming your bandanna is coated in commercial logos, much like the batting helmets in the IPL. They set the standard for leaving no space untarnished by advertising so I’m sure their merchandise looks like something from NASCAR.

      • Columnist

        April 10th 2013 @ 11:49am
        Kris Swales said | April 10th 2013 @ 11:49am | ! Report

        Check the new profile pic mate, the bandana is clean as a whistle!

        • Columnist

          April 10th 2013 @ 12:52pm
          Dane Eldridge said | April 10th 2013 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

          You better put a Honda sticker on that thing!

          • April 11th 2013 @ 9:57pm
            Rob Barrow said | April 11th 2013 @ 9:57pm | ! Report

            Nice one

    • Roar Guru

      April 10th 2013 @ 11:35am
      sheek said | April 10th 2013 @ 11:35am | ! Report


      This is precisely what will happen – T20 will be the new test cricket by 2025 if not before.

      The traditional test cricket will die off for a number of reasons that require a post all by itself to expound.

      But money greed & expediency are two things that will kill traditional test cricket.

      Both administrators & players are in too much of a hurry to fill their pockets with T20 cash.

      Enjoyed the article, BTW.

      • Roar Pro

        April 10th 2013 @ 11:54am
        Max Weber said | April 10th 2013 @ 11:54am | ! Report

        Disagree with this. It’ll be a long, long, slow death for test cricket for sure, but it certainly won’t happen by 2025. The more probable scenario is T20 growing apace and subsidising the existence of T20 as one-day cricket falls away. Two formats is sustainable, 3 isn’t.

        Of course, then there’s the chance that the funding will all fall away and T20 will collapse into a black hole of debt, and we’ll be back to the status quo, or at least T20 cricket reverting to non-franchise cricket.

        • Roar Guru

          April 10th 2013 @ 12:07pm
          DingoGray said | April 10th 2013 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

          Yeah I agree.

          One Day cricket will become extinct well before Test Cricket does!

          • Columnist

            April 10th 2013 @ 12:11pm
            Kris Swales said | April 10th 2013 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

            I think the only thing that’ll keep ODIs alive is that it’s the only format that can support a legitimate World Cup.

            • April 10th 2013 @ 2:28pm
              Don Corleone said | April 10th 2013 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

              I think test cricket will live on…but only played by a handful of nations. Unlike most other test series, the Ashes have a cultural and historical significance for the nations that play it and it will live on. With crowds, TV ratings and marketing the Ashes also breaks-even financially…unlike many other test series.

              I mainly see a future cricket landscape with less bi-lateral series and more emphasis on domestic T20 leagues, Champions Trophy, Olympic Games, World Cups with a broader range of countries like Afghanistan, Netherlands, Canada, Ireland participating.

              • Roar Guru

                April 10th 2013 @ 3:24pm
                sheek said | April 10th 2013 @ 3:24pm | ! Report

                Take the emotion away & look at this logically.

                CA decides to place BBL in peak season alongside tests.

                Structurally unsound. Make that ridiculous. Make that a death wish.

                Players striving for test selection denied long game practice. Even established test stars denied long game practice in Sheffield Shield.

                You don’t need lead-in practice for shorter forms of cricket, but you most certainly do for the longer forms.

                But the desire to rake the money in from T20 is insatiable. From administrators down to players, it’s the gold rush equivalent of the Klondike “49ers.”

                It’s great the BBL (like the IPL) has opened up more opportunities for cricketers, but it has come at the expense of playing standards.

                You don’t need to be technically very good to play BBL, or even IPL. Athletic yes, but you can hide your poor technical skills most of the time.

                The Sheffield Shield has suffered a massive drop in technical quality. Players are no longer making the long-form, or red ball cricket, their priority.

                And CA? Look at the contract list. Only 5-6 specialist batsmen??? The list is full of ‘bitzers’ – a bit of this, a bit of that. Specialists not required.

                Cricket authorities around the globe are dumbing down the quality of test cricket by producing inferior players. Batsmen who have lost the art of building an innings & bowlers who have lost the art of thinking a batsman out.

                As test cricket becomes an inferior product, fans will walk away. Not by choice, but because it’s no longer top drawer quality.

                Test cricket WILL survive only if the administrators retain its priority. But they give themselves away by chasing the short-term gain of T20 money.

                Test cricket will most probably be destroyed from within. By the very people entrusted with ensuring its longevity.

              • April 10th 2013 @ 4:29pm
                Don Corleone said | April 10th 2013 @ 4:29pm | ! Report


                Like yourself, I love test cricket. Perhaps it has been neglected by authorities, but there are fundamental adjustments the format needs to make to be more viable which have been discussed on the Roar (ie coloured clothing, twilight tests, 4-day matches).

                For instance, I was reading that around 30% of scheduled test match time does not even get played through wash-outs and early finishes. This just makes the format struggle in terms of the bottom line.

                Perhaps a 2-format model with Tests and T20 will mean better things for test cricket. I like T20…but it should never be the preeminent form of the game.

              • Roar Guru

                April 10th 2013 @ 7:59pm
                sheek said | April 10th 2013 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

                Hi Don,

                Absolutely. Test cricket DOES need tweaking – day/night tests over 4 days, national coloured clothing, different coloured ball, tiered ticket pricing structures for sessions & days.

                For gawd’s sake, WSC made day/night super tests happen 36 seasons ago. Count them – 36 seasons!

                But here’s the thing, so far cricket authorities have shown little inclination to help test cricket.

                And THAT is the very big worry.

              • Roar Guru

                April 11th 2013 @ 11:11am
                TheGenuineTailender said | April 11th 2013 @ 11:11am | ! Report

                The fact that everyone else on here believes test cricket will survive, surely means that the general population of established cricket fans place tests as the priority. Unless you’re expecting us to be all dead by 2025, then there’s no reason Test cricket won’t survive another half century at least.

    • Columnist

      April 10th 2013 @ 11:43am
      Kris Swales said | April 10th 2013 @ 11:43am | ! Report

      Wasn’t TV supposed to kill off cinema as well?

      Having been to both test cricket and IPL here now, with crowds of 35k or so for both, I think there’s a bit of fight left in the old girl yet.

      • April 10th 2013 @ 12:51pm
        colvin said | April 10th 2013 @ 12:51pm | ! Report


        But the cinema business is somewhat of a nightmare now in many markets and will need something drastic to be able to survive as we know it in those markets (spoken from experience in the industry).

        And the internet when it became available to the mainstream in around 1989 was going to kill off newspapers over time.

        Well, many newspapers are now in bad shape financially and many magazines are closing down.

        The world is changing. It just seems to take longer than originally envisaged as people and business models can have a remarkable durability.

        But we don’t want to lose test cricket.

      • Roar Guru

        April 10th 2013 @ 8:34pm
        sheek said | April 10th 2013 @ 8:34pm | ! Report

        The first step often in saving something is to admit it could be lost. That motivates you to preserve what it is you love. To do what is necessary.

        Conversly, to be in denial to the potential of something’s demise, is actually inclined to hasten its ending.

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