Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Rumbling in Cape Town

Something big has kicked (or bowled) off again today, but not in India as it would've been expected. Instead, the Indian Premier League circus has travelled across the equator and down into the depths of the continent of Africa.

Welcome publicity came about last month as the IPL's chairman announced that because the competition was going to be held at the same time as the Indian elections, security wouldn't be sufficient enough to protect the cricketers. A good point, especially after what had happened in Pakistan. A new location had to found (postponement? That's for losers!), and if the idea of the two biggest English egos wasn't enough to get the British media stirring, the idea that the competition could be coming to England (I know, here! England! In April!) began to circulate.

Then someone looked at the weather and plugged for South Africa.
A lot has happened in the two years since India won the Twenty20 World Cup, and there is a sense of irony in the fact that the IPL has returned to the country that caused India to fall in love with the shortest form of the game.

Today, in the beautiful ground of Newlands in Cape Town, four teams containing some of the cricketing world's most famous names started the long tournament. Chennai Super Kings, containing everyone's favourite, Flintoff, played the Mumbai Indians, containing everyone else's favourite, Tendulkar. Poor old Graham Napier didn't even get a look in, as players like Dwayne Bravo, JP Duminy and Sanath Jayasuriya were picked along with the up and coming Indian talent.
Cricinfo tells me that Mumbai Indians won by 19 runs.

The Rajasthan Royals, the reigning champions, containing good ol' Shane Warne and the swash-buckling Dimitri Mascarenhas, played the Bangalore Royal Challengers, captained by Kevin Pietersen and containing Rahul Dravid.

Again, Cricinfo informs me that Rajasthan Royals were hammered by 75 runs.

Despite the fact the British media's going on about it (well, Flintoff and KP mostly), nobody over here can watch it, because it's on the subscription channel Setanta. The Daily Telegraph are showing a huge piece of hypocrisy by becoming engrossed in the IPL, with offers of 2 months free of Setanta and 'Mark Ramprakash's Guide to All the IPL Teams' (or something along those lines). Strange, because I seem to recall last year, they couldn't give a hoot, and they seem to be the major force in trying to get cricket back on terrestrial television.

This story really annoyed me. Isn't the IPL meant to be about cricket? Well, in theory it should be. But the IPL was set up in response to the ICL, which has now been made to make every cricketer to play in it feel like a criminal. It's ended some cracking players careers. And because of one little word, a cricketer must choose between their international future and financial security. Aren't the two tournaments essentially the same? Young Indian cricketers, mixed with some of the big names of the international game, playing in brightly coloured clothing and playing twenty overs each? Or have I missed something completely?

You may be able to tell that I don't like the IPL. In essence, I should as I love all forms of cricket, and I should be begging my parents for a subscription to Setanta. But something about the tournament just makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it's because it's close to becoming part of the international calendar, when really, it's just like the Twenty20 Cup in England, only there's more money. Maybe it's that astronomical amount of money. Flintoff, for $1,550,000, have they seen his batting recently? If he gets injured, and has to miss the Ashes, well, where will that leave the Golden Boy of 2005?

I still need convincing about this tournament, and no amount of English players is going to do that. Why would you want English players in your team anyway?! Have they seen where we are in the ODI rankings?

Perhaps someone can show the organisers that, and not just the weather forecast, next time.

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