It’s back. The biggest and brashest cricket tournament going: the Indian Premier League. After six years no tournament in this here sport that we all love so dearly creates such dividing lines – you either love it or you hate it.
I’ll mark myself early here. I like the IPL. There is a lot positive about it. It brings together some of the best cricketers in the world and treats us to a six week jamboree of big hitting, clever bowling and incredible fielding.
Yet it is too long. Six weeks is far too much. One overriding positive about the ICC’s World T20 is its snappy format. Every game means something. The IPL leaves itself open to accusations of crassness and existing only as a marketing vehicle with the way the tournament insists upon itself, the way the commentators brown nose the sponsors at every opportunity and the way that the loud music pumps through into half filled stadia with American dancing girls flinging their arms around to greet every boundary.
But no one denies these accusations. The IPL is a marketing vehicle. But that shouldn’t detract from the on field action. There are some fine players on display and once the tournament drags itself through the plodding mid-section, the action is often exciting.
If they could find a way of halving the length, or even making it one month, it would help. If they could find a way of concentrating the talent pool, it would also make for a more incredible tournament. It deserves more than to be an afterthought in the minds of many.
There are too many weak players. This is because there are too many teams. Each can only field four foreigners so we often see the spectacle of young Indians having their careers shredded before our eyes. For every Anjinkya Rahane in 2012 there are several more who slip away into oblivion.
There are also several second rate Australians. The fact Mumbai Indians paid US$1m for Glenn Maxwell screams about the paucity of truly world class talent available. The Indian team made light work of him in the recent Test series.
Even esteemed Australian cricketing historian and journalist Gideon Haigh said before his Test debut that, “if Glenn Maxwell is the answer, I don’t know what the question is.”
There is only one Pakistani and four Englishmen at the tournament, none of whom are likely to feature in Test cricket any time soon. No Sri Lankans will be allowed to play in Chennai due to political tensions in the region.
It’s a shame that more Englishmen can’t follow Kevin Pietersen across. It would be great to see the likes of Stuart Broad, Matt Prior and Ian Bell tested in this format. It’s a shame KP will be missing out for Delhi this year due to a knee injury.
It’s a shame that events are such, outside of cricket, that the likes of Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Mohammed Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal can’t take part.
It’s a shame that big players like Michael Clarke view it as such a distraction that they pick and choose when they participate. There are bigger cricketing targets in mind and a six eek assault on the senses isn’t ideal preparation for a tough year of international cricket.
All of these factors weaken what should be a world leading event. Less would be more, here. But don’t let that deny you the enjoyment that is to be garnered from six weeks of non-stop, in-your-face cricket. It’s a circus and circuses are to be enjoyed!
We’ll be going through the nine franchises tomorrow and assessing their squads and making our predictions. Unusually, I was pretty accurate last year!
By Miles Reucoft