Cricket is a sport that is loved and adored by more than a billion people worldwide. However, a substantial portion comprises of people from South Asian nations.
'The gentleman's game'- a sobriquet that is quite often associated with the sport (although quite debatable these days) still lags behind considerably as compared to other rival sports in terms of the number of nations actively involved in it. The ICC, the board that is entrusted with the responsibility of handling the reins of the future development of the sport has always been deliberating as to how to spread the reach of the sport to more people. At the same time, cricket was facing another problem. Changing times and lifestyles led to a decline in viewership for the sport as compared to the heady levels in the early and late nineties. People no longer had the time to spend long hours watching the game in its traditional formats (Test and ODI)
With the advent and success of twenty-20 cricket, things are slowly looking very bright on both these fronts. The inaugral edition of the twenty 20 world cup met with astounding levels of success despite an initial lack of enthusiasm from the BCCI. A world cup triumph for India only helped matters further as India is easily the biggest market for the game. People from across the world took notice as the shorter and more attractive format took shape.
The icing on the cake was the introduction of the Indian Premier League(IPL). Although the ICL was the first to launch the concept of the city based franchise concept for twenty 20 in India , it was ruthlessly overshadowed by the might of the BCCI.
With international players of all major cricketing nations being a part of the league, the IPL became a very attractive proposition even before it started and viewers across the world just couldnt wait to absorb all the action.
What i mainly wish to focus on in this piece is an understanding and appreciation of the implications the IPL has for the future of the game and Sport in general.
1. Showcase for talent- Id like to draw a parallel with football here. The football world is fraught with famous names who have achieved very little or zero recognition as part of their national teams but attained cult status while playing for their clubs. George Best(Ireland/Man U) and Ryan Giggs( Wales/ Man U) are 2 examples.Similarly the IPL can help talented criketers from underachieving countries attain more glory.
2. Advertisement for the sport- The Ipl and t20 cricket will serve as a great advertisement and is sure to increase the appeal for the sport among people in nations not recognised for cricket. The cheerleaders and the fanfare only add to the glamour quotient.
3. A boost for other sports in India- India has always been a cricket crazy nation so much so that other sports have been somewhat neglected. But these days the issue is being addressed a little more seriously. The success of the IPL has even prompted Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner to suggest although at a very surface level that he wouldnt mind starting a similar league for hockey.
4. Sport as a career option- Traditionally, sport as a career choice was not looked upon all that favourably among the society. But with the huge amount of fame and money coming the way of even domestic level players, mindsets and attitudes are quickly changing.
5. Business perspective- Initially there was a lot of skepticism about whether the franchise based system will evoke city based loyalties as it was assumed that most viewers would just want to watch the Indian players do well. However with each passing edition it is being seen that people are becoming more and more loyal to their favourite teams. If this trend continues, it will spell wonders for team owners in terms of financial gain in terms of ticket sales, merchandise sales and other outlets.
6. Future of Test and ODI- One oft quoted negative is that "Ipl and t20 will destroy Test and ODI cricket"... Although I beg to differ, I personally believe that even if it does, it shouldn't matter. We live in an essentially capitalistic society these days where 'survival of the fittest' is the order of the day. If the public wants it, these formats will survive. If they don't, should anyone really care??
The above are just some of the implications that the Ipl has had and will have. I could go on talking about more but then I'll never know when to stop ;)