The second season of the greatest cricketing show on earth has drawn to a close. Once again, a team of underdogs has walked away with the Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy. As a cricket-crazed country goes back to normalcy, there are a few lessons we can take away from IPL 2009.
First, past performance is no guarantee that a team will do well in the future. It is important that the two finalists on Sunday ended at the bottom of the rankings in 2008. As we noted in a front-page Quick Edit on Saturday, there are striking parallels between Twenty20 cricket and a vibrant free market: New winners keep getting thrown up and lumbering monopolies are always under threat.
Second, there were many surprises at the level of individual cricketers as well. The stars who attracted enormous bids—such as Kevin Pietersen and Sanath Jayasuriya—were overshadowed by the young guns such as Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Piyush Chawla as well as by retired, battle-hardened veterans such as Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne and Matthew Hayden. This gave us some idea of the depth of cricketing talent across the world.
Third, comparing IPL 2009 with the Beijing Olympics provides some clues on the nature of the two Asian powers. The Beijing Olympics were a state-managed affair, where everything was planned as a show of strength. In contrast, IPL 2009 was initially mired in a confrontation with the Indian government after its schedule clashed with the dates of the general election. It would have been absolutely unthinkable in China that a sports body would even think of taking on the government.
The cricket league was then moved in a hurry to South Africa, in an under-appreciated demonstration of managerial and logistics skills. You could cringe at the vulgar commercialization of cricket, but the IPL show was definitely in marked contrast to the almost militaristic display of communist power during the 2008 Olympics.
Cricket purists have good reason to moan the further retreat of classical cricket in the popularity stakes. But they will also have to admit that Lalit Modi’s circus did have its moments of great cricket.
And let’s face it: That is the future.
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