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IPL!

Yesterday afternoon, and again this afternoon, my hopes of getting a day’s worth of stuff done in a day, and then another day’s stuff in another day, were dashed by cricket, on the television. This was no ordinary cricket. This was not, for example, English county cricket, which has just begun again, and whose first round of matches concluded today, mostly in draws made inevitable by the gloomy, drizzly English weather. I did not get to see those two test match under-achievers but county supremos, Mark Ramprakash and Graham Hick, score their inevitable opening match centuries, in front of the usual tiny smattering of chilled spectators. No, what I saw was something quite different to all that. What I saw were two games on the first two days of something called the Indian Premier League.

On the face of it, this was not cricket of any great profundity, being twenty-overs-each-way slogfests, quite lacking in the long-drawn-out subtleties of five day test cricket or four day English county cricket or Australian Sheffield Shield matches. Nevertheless the Indian Premier League is something extremely profound. It signals the emergence of India as the superpower of cricket that it now is. Everyone in cricket agrees. It’s a new era.

India is not the cricket superpower because of its players, excellent though those players are. Yes, Sachin Tendulkar will soon become the greatest run-getter in test match history, when he overtakes the West Indian Brian Lara. But Australia are still, despite the recent retirements of Warne and McGrath, what they have long been, the best international side in the world. No, what makes India special is the number of its fans. I am fond of saying that there are more cricket fans in India than there are people in Europe, and my friend and fellow Samizdatista Michael Jennings would have corrected me long ago if this was wrong. And now, these fans are starting seriously to shift the centre of gravity of cricket.

The Indian Premier League doesn’t just feature Indian players. Their plan is to make the IPL have a place in cricket much like that the of the English Premier League in soccer, namely something played by the best players in the world, and watched and followed all over the world. And now, it has started. The atmosphere I got from watching these two games on my television was of a big, big country, self-confident enough not just to offer the world a compelling sporting product but to share the glory of it all with whoever in the world has the nerve and the determination to grab it.

And it so happens that the visitors are seizing their chances, so far rather better than the locals. Perhaps the Indians are weighed down a little by the burden of what they must be telling themselves is cricket history in the making, and are taking it just that much too seriously, whereas the visitors just see it as the chance of some fun and some (in some cases a lot of) highly welcome cash. Warne and McGrath have both forced their tired old bodies to have one final outing, I notice.

In the opening game, the Kolkata Knight Riders crushed the Bangalore Royal Challengers, from whom there was alas not much of a challenge, and the result was settled long before the end of the game, as often happens in these types of games. But New Zealander Brendon McCullum nevertheless got the IPL off to a suitably headline grabbing start by making the biggest individual score ever recorded in a twenty-twenty game. And today, another rapid not out century by Australian run-machine Mike Hussey was also the difference between the two sides, as the Chennai Super Kings set an even bigger target, which the Kings XI Punjab made a decent stab at but in the end couldn’t match. The Punjab side would have got closer if their top scorer, another Australian, had hung around longer and hit some more boundaries.

No wonder the best of England’s county cricketers are envious. They can hardly wait to get involved.

There are genuine fears that cricket is not so much being played as used up, and that spectators may in due course get bored with all this vulgar slogging, and instead of turning to more refined and antique versions of cricket, may instead switch their allegiances to other sports. But good or bad, this is certainly an event, not just in the history of cricket, but, because of the emergence-of-India-as-a-superpower angle, in the very history of the world.

I chanced upon these excitements (by coincidence immediately after posting this about the IPL at my personal blog) on something called Setanta Sports 1, channel number 34 on my digital TV, which is sometimes “encrypted” (i.e. it doesn’t work), but sometimes not (i.e. it does!). Can anyone tell me what further games I might be able to watch here in England on Setanta, given that I am not a subscriber to Setanta and do not plan to be? I get very little live cricket in England to watch, unless I visit a pub. I would love to be able to watch more of this tournament in my home.

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15 comments to IPL!

  • pete

    Just grit your teeth. We libertarians have to accept what we don’t like. It’s what sets us apart fom the authoritarians who know what everyone should approve of.

  • India’s emergence is a Very Good Thing in just about every way.

  • DocBud

    Brian, I’d have thought that, as a libertarian, you’d be happy to pay someone a reasonable price for a service that you evidently desire, and a tenner a month seems fairly reasonable. We subscribe to digital tv here in Australia because there is a lot of good sport on it plus our daughter likes the kids channels. We subscribe additionally to Setanta, which over here is only one channel, because it has the Six Nations (which I could have done without this year as it transpired). I’d prefer not to shell out $100+ a month for the whole package, but I’d like even less not to be able to stay up in the early hours watching my various teams get beat more often than not.

  • NB

    Interesting contrast between India’s IPL explosion and China’s Olympic Torch implosion.

    Maybe it’s a sign.

    ADE

  • Good luck to them and I’m sure it will be a success.

    But for me, 20/20 lacks the subtlety I seek from cricket. I shall ignore it.

  • John Louis Swaine

    I was following the first game on a newsticker, 158 off 73 balls made it seem like something worth watching. Now to decide what team to follow:

    Shah Rukh Khan’s team apparently got their fashion advice from him and McCullum’s astounding play aside, I really can’t justify supporting a team with such a horrible logo.

    “Super Kings” is a dumb name and I’m afraid as entertaining as it would be to support a team named after booze, “Royal Challengers” just aren’t doing it for me.

    Calling your team “Mumbai Indians” seems kind of pointless when your opponents are ALL from India so that rules out that team.

    So do I support the Rajasthan Royals for their stylish player-coach choice in Shane Warne? Or perhaps the Kings XI Punjab? Well the Kings XI supposedly have a great team ethos, intent on supporting community but the Rajasthan Royals refused to purchase an ‘icon’ player so they didn’t have to blow loads of dosh on a superstar (although one could argue that if your star has the kind of impact that McCullum just had, it might be worth it).

    Hmm.. I think it might have to be the Royals, they do after all have the only English player in the league at the moment.

  • Laird

    Ok, since this whole thread is composed of people who are passionate about cricket, could someone please direct me to a website where an ignorant American can read a brief explanation of the game and its rules?

  • there are more cricket fans in India than there are people in Europe

    (Without taking the time to check exact numbers …)that would make somewhere north of a third of the population of India cricket “fans”. Depends how you define “fan”. Somebody who goes out of their way to watch matches every week, either live or on TV? Unlikely. Somebody who takes an interest only when the national side is doing well in a major tournament? More plausible.

    Taking a statistically valid sample of one: my landlady in India complained about the amount of time her husband spent watching intra-Indian games on TV, only to come over all patriotic when I turned up to watch a test match against England. Cricket fan?

  • Ben

    20/20 will hopefully just be another awful fad like Razor scooters or George Monbiot.

  • Ben

    Laird I wouldn’t bother if I were you. Cricket is an insidious method of mind control used on the Commonwealth citizenry. It’s what the British used to keep us colonials sedated and not planning sedition.

    The inability of Americans to comprehend cricket is a large part of what allowed you to break the imperial shackles.

  • Laird

    Ben, you might be right but I’d still like to know something about the game. (After all, we read Marx not because we’re marxists but so we can understand the arguments, right?) If I promise to wear my aluminum foil hat while I read, is that OK?

  • Sunfish

    Ok, since this whole thread is composed of people who are passionate about cricket, could someone please direct me to a website where an ignorant American can read a brief explanation of the game and its rules?

    There are no brief explanations. You can watch a one-day game where nothing ever happens. The players spend so much time standing around on the field allegedly playing that the color commentator never has a chance to say anything stupid.

    Then, there are the week-long games, which are like the one-day games only they spend longer on one game than it took the Rockies to lose the last World Series. And the color commentator still doesn’t have a chance to get in anything good.

    It’s actually kind of like the NFL, only without the choreographed violence, the steroids, or the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

    On the other hand, cricket has better music. I mean, is this the best we can do?

    (First link probably NSFW)

  • Ben

    I think this explanation(Link) from the beeb is alright. To give you a bit more background about IPL: They play a new form of the game call Twenty20. The main problem that purists have with this is it takes only 3 hours to play rather than a week.

    It means there is very little in it for the bowlers and the batsmen just belt it around with no fear. It sounds more exciting but big hits when there is nothing on the line are just boring.

  • Nick

    20/20 will hopefully just be another awful fad like Razor scooters or George Monbiot.

    Unlikely. 20/20 had been popular at club level for years before the ECB belatedly got off their high horses and starting asking ‘real’ cricket fans – which to me means club cricketers – what kind of cricket they’d like to see. The answer? 20/20.

  • fyu

    India is rising .. and coming out new ideas.. like the IPL(Link) .. guess the other country will start following also