If you took whatever the TV commentators said at face value, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is the most successful cricketing event ever—if not, in fact, the greatest human achievement ever in the field of organized sport.
Every match is “nail-biting” and every match has “packed” stadiums with “fantastic” atmosphere. The various anchors can’t help but gush on and on about how utterly awesome the IPL competition is.
Add to this the utter irony of phrases such as “DLF maximum” and “Citi moment of success”—what next? A “Bernie Madoff moment of truth”?—that get repeated over and over by commentators, and one thing becomes immediately clear: The second edition of IPL is one tightly controlled, well-orchestrated attempt at hard sell.
To be fair, the second edition of the tournament has had several challenges to surmount. First, there was the sagging economy to account for. And then, the domestic security controversy that led to the last- minute relocation to South Africa. Therefore, Lalit Modi and Co. must be given due credit for having managed to pull off the second edition at all.
But innovations such as the strategic time out, a thinly veiled attempt to increase advertising slots, may be taking the profit motive a little too far. Several cricketers have criticized the move to impose a compulsory 10-minute break halfway through an innings, and Modi has agreed to review the idea at the end of this year’s tournament.
Viewers, meanwhile, are subject to a relentless, desperate attempt by the TV pundits to include as many sponsor names as possible into each and every line uttered.
This desperation does huge disservice to a tournament that is beginning to show enough exciting cricket to draw crowds. The partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya against the Knight Riders was spectacular—and indicative of IPL’s ability to create partnerships that are otherwise impossible in international cricket’s scheme of things. The following night, Yusuf Pathan played an imperious innings to kill the Delhi Daredevils. With more cricket like that, and less commercial hard sell intervening, both viewers and sponsors will leave satisfied.
Otherwise, IPL will increasingly begin to sound like a sanitized and stage-managed hangover from the Beijing Olympics.
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