As a cricket fan who revels in Test cricket, rather than the short-term one-day stuff, it’s to be expected that I’ve never followed the Indian Premier League too closely. In fact, I can’t really say that I’ve followed it at all over the past five years. Even the second year, when it was held in South Africa, I barely took notice of it.
At most, I usually managed to be aware of which teams had a South African player in them – KKR with Jacques Kallis, Rajasthan had Smith for the first few years, I think – and if I happened upon a result, I’d check which team had the most South Africans in, and be marginally pleased if that team had won. Woohoo.
But this year, ITV has the broadcast rights, and so I can actually watch it. And for the first two weeks, I was living the single life, and so didn’t have much else to do in the early evenings. And I was pleasantly surprised for a while. A lot of the games were reasonably low-scoring affairs, with bowlers being more dominant than is usually the case. There were a lot of close games, and some remarkable performances. Vinay Kumar’s final over against Mumbai Indians, getting 7/2 when 10 were needed. Steyn getting 3/11, Mishra taking four wickets in a single over to seal a match. But then, inevitably, there were also the one-sided matches – CSK and Delhi both winning by 10 wickets. Most matches involving Pune. And Delhi.
The real problem with the T20 format is that it’s so quick and short. Which leads to two contradictory problems: there’s no time to recover from a sudden twist in the tale, and yet, a single over of brilliance can change the game completely. It can be a bit disheartening – the obviously better team somehow never gets completely out of touch, and the obviously weaker team doesn’t ever get out of contention. In a real sense, it’s not horribly dissimilar from a coin toss.
But then came the coup de grace of the tournament – Gayle’s 175* off 66 balls. The stuff of fairytales. Which I think is exactly the problem – it’s so unbelievable, so incredible, that it makes the rest of the games seem tame and featureless in comparison. What’s the point of playing so many matches when we already know who the best players are?
Which is, I think, the other problem I have with the whole thing. Each of the nine teams plays all the other teams both home and away in the space of about seven weeks. Seventy-two matches. When this happens in the English Premier League, there are 380 games, but being spread over the course of a whole season, with just one game per team per week, it’s manageable. There’s a story, a narrative, that unfolds and develops. With the IPL, it’s all a bit of a blur, and there’s no time to stop and reflect before the next episode is on, and then over, and then it’s history.
So I think I’ll give up on it now, and check back in to see who won. Seems likely that it’ll be De Villiers’ or Miller’s team. Maybe I’ll even remember which one it is until the Ashes starts shortly after that.