Posted by: tootingtrumpet | April 9, 2010

The IPL Explained

The IPL?

Despite this post’s header, I’m sure Nesta will forgive The Trumpet’s cheek and continue “The IPL Unexplained” through to its season finale.

The Trumpet spent the day in Macao, across the Pearl River Delta from Hong Kong, in a culture that would make Mr Modi feel very much at home. Whilst Macao respects its past, it is charging forward to a future based on the spending power of a billion or so people eager to embrace a new order of mass instant communication, growing political freedoms and more money than their parents could ever imagine – in Macao’s case, they are Chinese rather than Indian, but the point holds.

The inspiration for this post came to The Trumpet in The Venetian Macao, a vast development based on gambling, retailing and tourism. The complex has two layers of artifice: (i) it is an uncannily exact replica of its Las Vegas “original”; (ii) the Las Vegas “original” is a partial simulacrum of the Italian city state. (All three “Venices” offer gondolas and gondoliers on real canals, a St Mark’s Square and the veneer of Renaissance architecture – though a guaranteed blue and pigeon-free “sky” is only present in the hotels as their ceilings are painted thus).

But here’s the rub. Nobody is fooled into thinking that either of the “Venetians” are in any sense really Venetian, for that is not the intention. Us punters enjoy the conceit, the showmanship, the sheer balls required to conceive and execute these absurdities on this scale. As “O Sole Mio” floats across from a black and white stripy T-shirt in a funny looking boat, you smile and let it all wash over you.

And isn’t this the best way to explain the IPL? It is two steps removed from its original and ancient parent (First Class cricket) and one step removed from a now ageing upstart (One-Day cricket). The IPL also represents an intensified simulacrum of its beautiful and fragile inspiration. But nobody believes it is the real thing – it’s a fake, but it has value despite and because of that. Once the cricket fan accepts Modi’s familiar but unfamiliar world, the gaudiness, the showmanship and the bad taste doesn’t seem so bad – it’s just there, it’s fun and it neither hurts nor helps the original because it’s simply too artificial, too distant, too different.

Venice, like Test cricket, has been sinking for decades, yet it’s still there, still wondrous to its cognoscenti and still able to impress its most sceptical critics. Both need careful, sympathetic leadership and may not get it, but, just maybe, Test cricket and Venice can bumble along all the way to the 22nd century, by which time their pastiches will be replaced by developments possibly too hideous to imagine! It’s certainly happened before.


  1. Wonderful stuff Toots. Obviously the sights and smells of Macao have inspired you.

    I’ve never believed that Test cricket is under threat probably because I live in a land where it is the pinnacle of sporting endeavour.

    No matter what happens in the future there will always be 22 Englishmen and Australians and thousands of their compatriots who’ll meet every couple of years to continue the tradition.

  2. Tests are anti-diluvian.

    I like T20. I don’t mind ODIs as well. However their interest to me is all conditional on the bedrock of test cricket. I’ll happily watch all as long as tests are around. Should tests go, I go. All I ask is to be able to attend the SCG test every year. That’s not asking too much.

  3. I have been away from the internet for a while now.However, I have managed to catch the IPL action on the telly almost daily, and handed out couple of corporate passes (a gift!) to a friend who wanted to see Challengers Vs Chargers at Blr last night.

    It may be too late for me to say anything about the earlier posts by Nesta regarding the cheerleaders and racism.

    I think Toots has it almost right, by way of explaining the IPL. But I have a genuine question here – why are we getting distracted from the real cricket out there and focusing on cheerleaders, money, showmanship etc?

    Agreed the grounds are not at their best.Agreed the in stadia infrastructure need to be more spectator-friendly. But these issues are not the result of IPL.

    There may be reasonable expectations of IPL trying to improve the ‘product’, especially its delivery- but this is virgin territory and the BCCI, if it has any business sense, would have to address these issues within the next 1-2 years. Already, the Chinnaswamy stadium at Blr is looking better than ever. And Eden Gardens of course.It is a pity no games are being held in Hyd for political reasons, but I thoroughly enjoyed the last ODI I saw there at the new stadium.

    My only interest in IPL is the quality of cricket and the opportunity to see young, relatively unknown Indian and overseas players fight it out with world class cricketers. The cricket, dear Toots, is not fake, even if Modi wants it all go as per his commercial script.

    • The reason all those aspects are noticed is the IPL’s claim to rival the best leagues in the world. The Chinnaswamy Stadium looks colourful but the outfield is absolutely atrocious. It’s so bad the Ranji final was moved to Mysore.

      • Mahek,

        Modi is a sales man.He also has the knack of getting things done.He has done a Sports Management MBA in US and the IPL has been his dream.He has achieved it, to an extent.

        Now, he wants to make it as big as EPL or NFL. We all agree that it sounds hyperbolic and for various reasons, it is extremely unlikely that the IPL will ever reach the status that he’s dreaming about.

        My question: Is it worth our time debating the feasibility of Modi’s dreams? I’d rather watch the cricket on display and enjoy the talent and athleticism on display. I have no time for Modi or his claims.I have all the time in the world for people like Ambati Rayudu, Manish Pandey, Mitchell Marsh..and of course all the old warhorses who are showcasing their pure cricketing skills.

        • Slight correction, Mr. Modi hasn’t done a Sports Management MBA from US. But that is a completely different story.

          I haven’t ignored any of the cricket on show in the IPL, which is why I haven’t missed a single game in three seasons. But good competition is something that should be a given for a sporting event that features the top cricketers in the world, or maybe I’ve been spoilt by watching various sports.

          There are two reasons Modi’s dreams or aspirations are worth debating. Firstly, he himself has laid claim to being at par with the best leagues so clearly he’s opened his work up for scrutiny. Secondly, as an Indian I want to see the IPL be the best it could as it gives the world an insight into our ability to organise an event on such a big scale.

          I have been to a couple of games myself and they don’t even let you carry your cellphone into the stadium. Now ask yourself how would an outsider see this? They let you bring in your own food and water to ballgames in America. Heck, in American Football it’s a tradition to arrive at the stadium hours in advance, set up a barbecue and throw the ball around while having some meat and drink. While I understand that is a bridge too far as far as Indian cricket is concerned, I expect the BCCI to atleast treat its paying public to not be treated like cattle.

          • Wasn’t Modi a Tobacco Executive? If he was it would explain the disdain that his customers are held in.

            • Modi belongs to a family which is in a number of businesses in India. The tobacco connection you made is quite right, he worked for Godfrey Phillips. However, he also brought ESPN to India in the mid 90’s. He’s been in the business of cricket for over a decade.

  4. Kumar, if you have something to add to previous posts please do so. They won’t be ignored as your considered opinion is always welcome.

    I think discrimination in employment is a topic worth a few paragraphs especially since I consider cricket a game that has a history of transcending colour and creed.

    The grounds would be fine if some groundsmen would cease with their amateur grass graffiti too.

    Through the IPL aspirational India is projecting itself to the world and perhaps more effort and thought should be given to the messages we are receiving.

    I’d be surprised if the organisers of the Commonwealth Games don’t put on a breathtaking show that displays much that is wonderful about Indian society and culture. In fact, I rarely give opening ceremonies more than a cursory glance but I’m anticipating Delhi’s very much.

    Unlike many others in the blogging community we’re not whingeing about the commentators, adverts or the perennial schedule and as you can see from the previous post Modi isn’t a major focus.

    In defence of Toots, he has been travelling and has seen very little cricket and yet even in China the game isn’t far from his mind. I think his post above is wonderfully written and totally original. A very rare thing these days. It’s a glittering diamond within the morass of the internet and deserves a much larger stage than 99.94.

    Great to have you back on board and if your comments were directed exclusively to Mahek I apologise wholeheartedly for my little rant.

  5. Each to their own. l’ll stick with Venice/Tests.

  6. While I can understand the distaste for the ad overkill in the IPL, I don’t understand this need to be-little it. It smacks of elitism – there is almost this desperate attempt to show that you are somehow a ‘real’ cricket fan so you can’t like this circus ‘tamasha’ cricket.

    Sure, the ads are annoying, the commentators are loud and exaggerating, but the cricket is of pretty high quality. The players are playing their hearts out, and the game is evolving in front of your eyes. The ‘chess match’ aspect of cricket is on full display, distilled into a concentrated dose. There’s plenty to like for a ‘real’ cricket fan. And by the way, all those annoying ads? that’s what is subsidizing the entire league, and spreading the wealth of Indian cricket deeper and wider – for young indian players locally, and plenty of foreign players, umps, coaches – well beyond its own shores.

    I would argue its progress, and progress can sometimes be messy and painful.

    The IPL will get better, they will learn to package it better. In the meantime, enjoy the games as Shane Warne, once again, turns the match on its head with a few twirlers, Tendy continues to pile up a mountain of runs, the young umesh yadavs, aditya doles, manish pandeys, shaun marshes show us glimpses of what the next decade of cricket will bring us.

    • The quality of cricket isn’t as high as that of international cricket but you’re right in saying the players are playing their heart out. All the things you mentioned are a given in any sporting competition and to extol it to the point of being groundbreaking is like the commentators talking up the MRF “blimp”.

      The slew of ads and sponsor messages are subsidising the league only because more than half the franchise cost comprises the pay it makes to the BCCI for franchise rights. The cricketers are still being paid a pittance in comparison to the revenue generated by the league. Just to put it into perspective, the 8 franchises put together spend close to $56 million on player payroll. The annual revenue from TV rights alone is close to $200 million. In American leagues player payroll is close to 50 percent of the total revenue generated by the league.

  7. Good stuff, the best analogy I’ve heard. I watched some on the YouTube feeds but without a vested interest in any way it all had the air of a football testimonial. Without any knowledge of the narrative of the tournament all I saw was some batsmen flailing away with relative impunity and some jarring terminology such as ‘DLF Maximums’ and commentators who were all a little too over-enthusiastic about everything, as if to try and convince me that what I was watching was really exciting. I prefer to be the judge of that myself.

    Of course a lot of this could be said to be a problem inherant with T20 cricket itself, but within the framework of an English domestic tournament I have a base of knowledge to work from as to the counties and grounds, and the style of presentation is not as over-the-top (which is saying something when it’s Sky Sports). What I see when I watch IPL is 50% domestic tournament, 50% all-star game. It’s just not my cup of tea.

    All of that is not a problem in itself though, the problem for me is that it’s trying to be sold as something of massive global importance within the game, hence the talk of NBA etc, but I just don’t see that. I see the World T20 as the major T20 event, and the IPL as another domestic tournament, albeit the one with the most money. For me, the disruption and arguments it causes regarding test cricket are not balanced out by the benefits of the competition.

  8. Thanks for the reaction above which I have read with much interest in a land where I have seen a few Hong Kong Sixes T-shirts, but little cricket.

    Kumar – Very interesting. I was particularly pleased to see Rayudu back on my television screen after watching him play one of the greatest innings I have ever seen (

    Re whether it’s fake or not, well I think T20 cricket is fake, in that it does not do what Test cricket does in terms of providing a balance between bat and ball and a canvas on which strategies are played out. But that doesn’t make it any less worthy as an object of our attention and admiration. Most cricketing skills on on display, it can be very competitive (players seem ecstatic when they win, if not quite distraught when they lose) and the crowds are involved providing a sensational atmosphere and backdrop. Like either of “The Venetian” complexes I mention above, I’ll enjoy my T20 from the IPL and live in England for what they are… not criticise them for being a concentrated, lesser, contrived version of “the real thing”

    Nesta – if Test cricket does disappear, those 22 Englishman (well, blokes playing for England) and Aussies will assemble every two years to play tiddlywinks, have a cheerleading competition, have a drinking match with Roy… anything to sort themselves into winners and losers!

    • Toots aren;t you contradicting yourself here somewhat ‘fake’ ‘for what they are’ whilst ‘doesn;t make it any less worthy’. Anyway regardless of your own feelings l do think it is less worthy of interest and respect. l don;t consider it as compelling or challenging or testing as a sport. Which is just my view of course.

      And it is not just the IPL, despite it forming the grossest version. l have similar feelings to the Big Bash in OZ and indeed rarely watch 50 over cricket anymore either. l simply don;t enjoy 20/20 very much as a game, certainly not remotely in comparison to test cricket. People can analyse that for all kinds of underlying reasons or political agendas but the simple truth for me and most of my long term cricket-loving mates is they don;t enjoy the game as much – l know this stands in contrast to broader tv and crowd numbers. Maybe we are just out of sync. So it goes unfortunately.

  9. Thanks, Toots, for reminding me about that match in 2002.

    AT Rayudu comes from a cricketing backwater in my home state and inspite of his enormous talent has been treated quite shabbily by the city-focused selectors of Hyderabad.When Rayudu saw that he is never going to catch the eye of Indian selectors (Raina, Rohit and others somehow got projected more), he moved to the ICL, and I was sorry for him as I thought he will never play mainstream again.Good for him (and a few others) that the ban was lifted. However, the Chragers did not opt for Rayudu (heavily politicised scene here locally).Thanks to Sachin’s eye for talent, Rayudu is getting some matches for Mumbai now.Hopefully, he will surge ahead of the other young contenders now.In my view, he is a better bet for a test place than Yuvraj.

    Regarding my earlier comment, I like your analogy except that I am not comfortable calling IPL or T20 as ‘fake cricket’.Modi may try to make it seem like WWE, but it is still cricket, and whenever the pitches are sportive and the fielding unit disciplined, there is enough balance to ensure that a score of 150-160 is defendable.

    Nesta- Thanks, mate. I am in a hospital attending to my mom, and hoping that the Chargers keep their chances alive by winning against CSK today.

    Hayden Vs Gilly !!!
    Murali Vs Symonds !!

    But the match, I suspect would be decided between: Vijay/Raina Vs Marsh/Rohit !

    These matchups, to me, form the principal attraction of IPL. In that aspect, the IPL could well be the EPL of Cricket, if not rival the EPL/NBA/NFL in budget and scope.

    • Rayudu led the side in the 2004 U-19 World Cup and it was Shivlal Yadav and his shameless promotion of his mediocre son Arjun that prompted Rayudu and some other Hyderabad players to move to the ICL. I’m sure you already know this, just wanted to put it out there for those who aren’t quite aware with BCCI politics. Doesn’t it make you sick to see a stand in the new stadium at Uppal named after Shivlal Yadav?

  10. Kumar – best wishes to your mum.

    Japal and Kumar – I definitely enjoy Test cricket more, but I enjoy T20 too. I haven’t been as clear as I should be with my use of the word “fake”. To my mind, T20 is a fake if considered in comparison to Test cricket. But, a bit like The Venetian hotels referred to above, if you have never heard of Venice / Test cricket or you have heard of them, but decide to forget comparing and just enjoy them, the sheer chutzpah and spectacle of the hotels / T20 is enough in itself. Yes T20 has real cricket skills in it and the best players tend to win, but if Venice sinks into its lagoon, or Test cricket retreats to Eng vs Aus, the world will be poorer. If the IPL or The Venetian hotels disappear, other entertainments will take their place and the world will be no poorer as a result.

    Kumar – I’ve read that about Rayudu before (forgive me if you were the person who enlightened me) so it’s great to see him getting a go and batting with SRT. That was a truly magical innings, in its context, a 281. I bet he’s younger now than VVS when he grasped immortality.

    • You’re right, Laxman was 26/27 when he played that epic innings. He was also into his fifth year in international cricket by then.

  11. Oh yes, Toots, no doubt I enjoy test cricket much more than even the best T20 or ODI. I frankly don’t know why though I tell myself it has got some thing to do with the epic nature of tests.

    I don’t think Test cricket will become only an Eng Vs Aus affair.Trust me, the passion for Test Cricket is alive in India and will continue to be so.The IPL will just be an annual extravaganza for the thrills. And I think South Africa is not just a good test side, they are a great test loving country as well.

    I also agree that if there was no IPL, the world will not be any poorer.But the format (T20) is here to stay.And IPL currently is striving to become the premier competition in the format.I doubt if it will ever become the premier competition in the sport itself.May be we need a structured World Test Championship – start and end with the Australian season- for the simple reason that it seems to be the most convenient. The IPL will begin shortly after the new Test Champions are crowned.

    Ok..its a Sunday morning and I am still in the hangover of DC’s semi hopes being alive and the prospect of Sachin Vs Shane in the evening !

    (Thanks for your wishes for my mum.We had her discharged yesterday and I hope she maintains the current recovery pattern).

  12. […] excellent 99.94 recently described the IPL with searing penetration as one of those themed shopping malls where you can sit in a plastic […]

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