Cricketers past, present and ‘injured’ take part in the nearly two-month long spectacle that is the Indian Premier League

“Boss, when is Chennai Super Kings playing here? I need at least five passes. Please…”

This request from a colleague did not come as a surprise. This ardent cricket fan neither asked for passes when Pakistan played a one-day international at the Ferozeshah Kotla in December nor did he show any interest in being at the same venue to witness India’s fourth Test against Australia last month.

But Indian Premier League (IPL) is different. Without fail, this hard-working accountant gets his calculation right and stays ahead of the rest to ‘book’ his share of passes. It is not difficult to guess his favourite team – the men in yellow.

It is IPL time again. When it began in 2008, amidst much fanfare, the cynics were quick to point out that this ‘circus’ would not last. So far, the detractors have been proved wrong. The sixth edition of the slam-bang version of the gentleman’s game seems to have lost none of the ingredients that made it such an addiction of this cricket-loving nation.

The event remains ‘recession free’. The high-priced tickets are the first to be ‘sold out’ even though the action is predictable. The side-shows, on television or off the field of play, enjoy their share of attention, never mind if the fare lacks originality.

The pre-event hype may be missing but it suits those behind IPL. A low-key build-up leads to a steady rise in interest which is otherwise tough to sustain over seven weeks.

This year, the decision to keep the Sri Lankan players out of Chennai has impacted some of the franchisees more than the host. In addition, names like Kevin Pietersen, Michael Clarke, Jesse Ryder and Shikhar Dhawan are part of the injury-list.

On the brighter side, a good number of pace bowlers who missed out on the first-class season due to injuries have declared themselves fit in time for the IPL. Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra, Umesh Yadav have all used the season to recover and be ready to play for higher stakes. It is universally accepted that time is a great healer. But it is really bizarre how our injured cricketers find the healing touch just before IPL.

It is also time to see some of the well-known but now-retired cricketers like Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, Adam Gilchrist and Michael Hussey return to action. On the sidelines, ‘mentors’ like Anil Kumble (Mumbai Indians) and V. V. S. Laxman (Sunrisers Hyderabad) will have a role to play.

For the spectators, being seen on the giant screen remains a huge bonus. Responding to the IPL trumpet and raising their arms to be part of the much-induced ‘Mexican wave’ are all part of the package.

And mind you, all this after the incredible tolerance of an average spectator is tested to the hilt. He silently bears all the harassment from the men in uniform on his way to the allotted seat and then haplessly deals with the lack of quality amenities inside the stadium. More often than not, the situation is worse for the children and ladies.

At the end of the match, for all the ‘cost’, the spectator goes home happy with the ‘payoff’. Designed to please the masses and the market– that’s IPL for you!


Yellow fever grips ChennaiApril 5, 2013