As yet another season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) comes to a close, the same old conversations continue to reverberate on social media. If I had a rupee for every time I heard someone trash the IPL, I would probably have retired, sitting on a beach, earning 20 percent.
To be fair, there is plenty of scope for improvement in the IPL. The scheduling, the ridiculous song-and-dance routine that passes off as entertainment, the exasperating in-your-face advertising, and the overall overdose of cricket that can drive even the most ardent fan to the edge are a few problems that need to be addressed urgently.
And while I understand that a few of the issues are necessary evils, some of them are simply a byproduct of poor planning and execution. And till these aren’t ironed out, the viewer experience will always be less than stellar.
But the online chatter is very different. The self-appointed critics do not discuss these issues. The self-appointed critics, I’m certain, do not even watch the IPL. The hatred for the IPL, especially among our sub-continental neighbours, is so strong, it makes me wonder if someone from the IPL managing committee ran off with their girlfriends. It’s the kind of anger that stems out of an unknown personal animosity.
There are two key points that the critics use to bash the IPL:
1) It’s only about ‘money’ and 2) It’s not ‘real cricket’
People hating on the IPL because it has money is a conversation that has always befuddled me. Comments like ‘Other domestic leagues are real cricket, IPL is money league’ always crack me up because of the sheer ignorance of the statement. Does not having enough money to attract top talent makes a league more authentic? Or does money corrupt every single player that plays in the league?
Because if money in sport is the root of all evil, we should stop watching football — the most popular game in the world — entirely. If you think cricket boards are money-minded, I’d request you to take a cursory look at how football operates at the club level. Exorbitant transfer fees, merchandising deals and ridiculous weekly salaries have become a part and parcel of every major league in the world. Does that mean that you shouldn’t watch European football? Or that leagues that have players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Eden Hazard and their ilk have no quality?
The harsh truth is that talent follows money. This is something fans need to accept, rather than moan and complain about. It is exactly for this reason that the IPL has no competition when it comes to attracting top talent. The BBL is a close second — again, because of the money. But it is still second to the IPL. Also, for those who say that overseas players come to the IPL for the money, I agree. It is also the reason they stretch themselves so that they can get a renewed contract. All the great performances and moments we’ve seen in the IPL are, for better or for worse, because of the sheer amount of money that players stand to lose if they don’t give it their 100 percent.
Now, let’s come to the second point — ‘real cricket’. What is ‘real cricket’? A 19-year-old batsman taking on veterans of the game and smashing them to all parts of the ground — that’s real cricket. A debutant mystery spinner making world-class batsmen dance to his tunes — that’s real cricket. A 35-year-old sprinting at full speed and sliding in without caring about his body just to save a run or two — that’s real cricket. Kane Williamson facing off against Ben Stokes on a ground that’s thousand of miles away from both their homes — that’s real cricket.
Real cricket is when two teams compete against each other and give it their all, which is what the IPL is all about.
But the vultures don’t stop there. The allegations of match-fixing still loom heavy over the IPL, with every close result being called ‘fixed’ by the self-appointed moral guardians of the game. It means that almost every player that plays in the IPL is privy to this, and yet continues to play. If you want to stand by this narrative then it extends well beyond the IPL.
It is obvious to me that those who love to call the IPL a ‘fixed’ league have clearly never watched the games. You cannot ‘fix’ a direct hit, a sensational catch or an exceptional shot. You cannot ‘fix’ yorkers and slower deliveries. You cannot ‘fix’ brilliance. I cannot speak for isolated incidents, but calling an entire league ‘fixed’ is, quite frankly, a rather laughable and uninformed statement which reeks of jealousy and resentment.
In a way, I understand why people love to hate the IPL. The BCCI’s high-handedness, combined with the ridiculous amount of money and power they have (and abuse), undoubtedly must be rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. But talking trash about the IPL sounds suspiciously similar to the story of the fox and sour grapes.
Every country in the world would kill to have a league like the IPL, but they can’t. Say what you will about the BCCI, they’ve ensured that the IPL has been a success for a decade despite internal politics and power struggles.
So while the haters continue to rant, I’ll watch an uncapped Indian player I’d never heard of before destroy bowling attacks; I’ll watch David Warner punch the air in delight every time he takes a catch or scores a hundred; I’ll watch Imran Tahir sprint towards the stands in wild celebration every time he takes a wicket; I’ll watch Virat Kohli struggling to control his temper as his team capitulates yet again; I’ll watch the passion of the best players in the world, doing everything they can to win, because winning is all that matters.
It is said that the more successful you are, the more haters you’ll have. If this is true, there is no doubt that the IPL is the most successful league in the world.