In the modern world, cricket is a rapidly changing game. Gone are the days of Test match cricket monopolising the calendar and even the original one day formats have been changed and modified to reflect the consumer’s desire for shorter games with an immediate outcome. All of this encompasses the biggest and currently most popular form of the game; T20.
Since its inauguration in England in 2003 the shortest form of the game has grown beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. The Indian cricket authorities, and in particular Lalit Modi, examined the format closely and in 2007 set up the first Indian Premier League tournament which has become the biggest and most lucrative of the current competitions. With immensely wealthy investors, the best players from around the world have been able to agree franchise deals without impacting on their respective international careers.
With media and television deals currently up over one billion US dollars, the competition is without a doubt the biggest in the game. Despite initial reluctance from many of the governing boards every, country has now pretty much agreed to keep the International calendar free whilst the big players are in India. Everyone that is, apart from England. (And Pakistan, who haven’t had any player representation in the IPL since the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 owing to prevailing public sentiment towards Pakistanis in India as a result of the attacks, which involved Pakistani extremists.)
Whilst England’s stance on the tournament has certainly changed in recent years, the IPL remains something of a black hole in terms of media coverage. With Sky Sports televising the games and ESPN Cricinfo covering the games, there is enough to keep the public informed but there is little to nothing in terms of coverage on the BBC; the same BBC that have just fought to secure highlights and coverage of the international game.
Ever since Channel 4 bought the rights to televise cricket in England, the BBC have seemingly done everything in their power to distance themselves from England’s traditional summer sport. The Beeb’s only cricket coverage remains its Test Match Special radio coverage; there is no televisual element to the coverage.
2015’s Sports Personality of the year contenders did not feature one English cricketer despite the fact that they won back the Ashes (as we wrote about previously, here). Instead, 12 contenders were scraped together across sports that should get less focus than cricket currently does. If Joe Root had played football or rugby he would already be a multi-millionaire with promotional opportunities around every corner. Alas, England’s most promising player for decades still remains something of an unknown to the non-cricket following English public public.
Despite the fact that very few English players actually represent any of the franchises in the IPL, the coverage of the tournament should be greater than it currently is. The awareness of the biggest club competition in the world should be far greater and as one of the biggest media outlets in the country the BBC needs to embrace the competition and ensure that it is given more coverage.
English cricket could potentially improve in leaps and bounds over the next couple of years but in order for their promising players to reach their potential they need exposure to the biggest tournaments. By creating more awareness and knowledge of the IPL it will only enhance their chances of getting more players at the various franchises. Sport is constantly changing and evolving and it is time that England, and more pertinently the BBC, wake up and provide the nation with more coverage of the IPL.
By Andy Hunter