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May 2009
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Lawrence Booth: IPL a triumphant sporting spectacle

May 6th, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in IPL, Twenty20

Your intrepid blogger arrived home yesterday from the Indian Premier League wondering how Rajasthan Royals had fared against Kings XI Punjab in Durban. This is not a curiosity I should really be admitting to on the opening day of the English Test season, not least because the many view the IPL as a load of old cobblers watchable only on a satellite channel owned by the few. But the instinct was there all the same. And thus: Rajasthan 211 for 4 (the highest score yet this year by a mile), Kings XI Punjab 133 for 8. A thrashing.

It takes a good deal of intellectual filtering to enjoy the IPL. You have to make a conscious decision to ignore the absurd hype; to put the blaring, non-stop music to the back of your mind; to view the off-field bully tactics employed by high-ranking league officials as a fact of corporate life; to turn down the volume when the commentators start bleating on about “DLF maximums” and “Citi moments of success”; and to avoid retching when it becomes clear that Ravi Shastri has become India’s answer to the super-smooth Mark Nicholas.

Once you’ve done all that – and wondered why on earth you have arrived home in possession of a Mumbai Indians-branded carriage clock – you can actually get on and enjoy the cricket. And you really can, you know, especially because the effect of a concertinaed fixture list means the tournament narrative develops at a beguiling pace. Subplots are rewritten daily. And no cricket league does subplots like the IPL.

Take your pick from: the trials and tribulations of KP; Fred’s lack of a slower ball; the Kolkata soap opera with Sourav, Brendon, Shah Rukh and Buch; the rehab of Herschelle Gibbs; the blows for maturity struck by Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist; the unreadability of Lasith Malinga; the transition of Jacques Kallis; the suspicion that Shane Warne might be doing it again with Rajasthan Royals; the hat-trick, half-century and subsequent defeat for Yuvraj Singh; the unlikely tale of Yusuf Abdulla. We could go on…

The biggest concern when the IPL started was that it was vacuum-packed sport, existing in its own context but not beyond. No one would care, possibly not even the players. But the thrill of a quick-fire eight-team league in which rivalries develop over the space of a few weeks is that the competitive juices of those involved soon override everything else. This IPL is working because the players care, and when the players care, the fans do too.

There is lots not to like about the way the tournament has swaggered into South Africa and made its demands. The idea that two countries have been brought closer together does not stand up to scrutiny at every level. But as a sporting spectacle it has been a triumph. If the P20 is even half as good when it squeezes into the domestic schedules next summer, England will be on to a winner. You just wonder, though. You really do…

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for The Guardian. His third book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket? An Addict’s Guide to the World’s Most Exasperating Game is out now published by Yellow Jersey

Posted in IPL, Twenty20 |

One Response to “Lawrence Booth: IPL a triumphant sporting spectacle”

  1.   Vivek Atray says:

    Great write up Lawrence. The real reason for the success of the IPL is as you rightly point out, the fact that the top players are giving it their all! They are not playing only for money, that’s for sure. There is a lot of pride at stake in the IPL for sure. Retired folks like Gilchrist, Hayden, Kumble and Warne have shone brighter than ever, and current players know that the IPl is nothing less than a mini-World Cup!

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