Thursday, 23 April 2009

IPL - spectacle or sport?

Well the IPL is in full swing on South African soil with plenty of colour, clean hitting, scantily clad cheer leaders and ignorant owners. Somewhat more subdued owners in some cases. Seeing retired players belting inexperienced youngsters reminds me of family bbqs in public parks - ah childhood.

There has been some change in the format: with players tiring after a long 10 overs there is a tactical break to regroup and alter strategy where necessary. Obviously from a batting point of view this has at times changed from trying to hit sixes alot to trying hit more sixes. Teams have retained theatric uniforms and batting helmets. Owners are still told by their body guards when they are on camera so they clap at the appropriate moments. This seems to be a slightly farcical element to me.

One aspect I've loved to see is players from different countries playing alongside each other and demonstrating friendship and comraderie. I watched Kolkata Knight riders play Punjab 11 the other night: Gayle's first over was awful and when Channel 10 went to a break straight after it I heard Gayle apologise to McCullum (Kolkata captain) with the words, "sorry skip". I think it shows great humility for a National team captain who is one of the most damaging players around to handle the situation in the way he did. While there are definitely cocky, arrogant twits (yes you Ganguly) the tone overall has been very respectful. When you read comments by players referring to teammates they use nicknames and other affectionate terms. I thought Hayden was meant to be one of the most despised players going around: it doesn't appear that his team mates feel this way (probably helps when you're the leading run scorer in the competition).

You may detect a dramatic shift in my tone when discussing the IPL. Well, I've changed my tune. While areas such as the mid-innings break and commercialising of the sport I love infuriates me to some degree: I've chosen to concentrate on the inclusiveness and togetherness that sport as a medium can offer. I've always thought one of soccer's greatest strengths is that players from countries who don't get along (politically speaking) can function well within a team dynamic that the game allows. Watching players swap gurnseys after battle is, to me, one of the most beautiful things to see in sport. I couldn't care less who wins the IPL but perhaps all of us can appreciate the non-cricket related aspects while admiring big hitting.

Obviously there are many areas I've not mentioned here: the fact it is being played in South Africa most notably. Hopefully all of you can address such things. However, just to throw 2 cats amongst the pigeons, I feel the change in wickets has been a great things for the IPL. I reckon the tournament should rotate around the world each year (maybe not Pakistan for a while) - although I realise since the IPL is viewed as an Indian league first (perhaps only in India!) this is very unlikely to happen. And my other cat? It is this - goodbye 50 over cricket: you've served us well but you are dead in the water. All the power plays in the world can't save you now.