Less than one week to IPL 2016, conversation about it begins again; some love it, but many “cricket purists” claim to hate it.
As a cricket fan who loves a great game of test cricket, if you’d told me 10 years ago that a tournament would have 20-over-a-side games, Bollywoodization, fixing scandals, terminated franchises, player auctions and ads covering 70% of the TV screen, I may have laughed in your face.
Yet here I am, illogical as it may be, excited for April 9th, trying to figure out just why.
It’s chaotic to watch in North America; the chaos adds to the fun
It now dawns on me that for 8 years (going on 9) I’ve been watching/following cricket games at 6.30am and 10.30am, for 6 weeks a year.
The first IPL (I was a student), a few of us chipped in and bought a paid package to screen matches in the common room at 6.30am every day. On weekends, this involved getting the building specially unlocked early, because 6.30am in a Canadian spring is an ungodly hour to be out and about.
By IPL 2 I was working full-time, so I bought an HD Pay-Per-View Package, and recorded every single match. I then proceeded to avoid all human contact the entire workday, got home in the evening and watched the entire game (2 on double-header days), fast forwarding only through the strategic timeouts.
So yes, it’s chaotic to watch from halfway across the world, but Nietzsche said it best: “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” Whatever that means.
It’s innovative – and we’ve seen it evolve
The IPL was a brand new idea to the world of cricket, and we’ve watched it grow. We’ve even seen some insane initiatives like calling 6 runs a “DLF Maximum”. I can only imagine the meeting room where some Marketing intern proposed it.
Boss: We need to find even more streams of revenue.
Intern: What if we sell the boundary naming rights?
Boss: You idiot, literally every inch of the boundary rope, and boards, are already covered with ads.
Intern: So let’s take it further; we can sell the rights to the shot itself!
Is it irritating? Of course. Can’t be long till the Square Cut is sponsored by Squarespace, or the Googly is sponsored by Google. Just the way the world scoffed when Facebook launched the ‘timeline’ feature – you can call it annoying, but you can’t discredit the innovation.
It gave us true, authentic loyalty to teams
With soccer, everyone (me included) started as a bandwagon fan, supporting one of the top teams that won titles, with no real other reason. Or as in my case, my brother and I played Fifa ’94 which had 2 teams, Arsenal and Man Utd, so he picked Arsenal, I picked United, and the loyalty just sort of stuck.
The IPL changed that. Before knowing who was on what team, or how good a squad was, I knew I had to cheer for Delhi. My wife, born and raised in Mumbai, had her loyalties chosen too, which mean Delhi-Mumbai games always make for a fun (albeit tense) atmosphere at home.
Of course I don’t love that Delhi finishes in the bottom 2 most years, but hey, I’m not a bandwagon fan anymore.
It gave us partnerships we never thought possible
Sachin and Ricky batted together.
For cricket fans growing up, this was both a sacrilegious thought to have, and a dream we never thought would come true.
And of course, these two gentlemen continue to bat together. Enough said.
It gave us Fantasy Cricket like never before
Yeah yeah, I know fantasy cricket existed before the IPL (remember Super Selector?), but it’s hard to stay committed for 8-9 months of the year, so the majority would make their team and see it fizzle out.
The IPL changed that. 56 games in 30 days? Changing my team and my trump player twice a day? Bring it on.
One day maybe anthropologists will study Fantasy League players to try and understand more. Why do hundreds of thousands of people from around the world wake up at odd hours to change their teams and choose their trumps, all in the quest of fake internet points.
With the evolution of the IPL, fantasy cricket has evolved as well – I’m reliably informed that there’s a way in which you can convert your fake fantasy points into real money! More on that coming soon!
So there it is. The IPL isn’t test cricket and it’s undoubtedly filled with annoying flaws. At the end of the day, though, it’s our tournament.
It’s like being at the delivery room watching your friend give birth to their new child. That kid could grow up to become a janitor or the president. Either way, you were there to see him born and with that, you’ll love him no matter what.
The IPL will grow up, evolve, succeed, fail, and eventually cement itself as a tournament with a fixed slot in the annual cricketing calendar. For many of us, we look forward to watching the continued journey. We can only hope that someday we sit watching IPL 2060 with our grandkids, to tell them about the ridiculous things we did to be able to watch the first ever one.
– Ashwin Garg is a Delhi Daredevils fan and serial fantasy cricket player (a seriously good one). He tweets here.