Wednesday, 20 June 2018

IPL 2018: hits and misses

This year, one expected a lot from IPL since there was a general rearrangement of teams following the big auction.  One would have thought that we would get to see a more balanced contest, instead of the same old teams dominating others. 

But, no such luck... the same old teams dominated others.  CSK and SRH continued in their merry way, in spite of the former coming back after the two-year hiatus, and the latter losing its Aussie captain due to the ball tampering row.  Even more familiar: RCB continued its woeful run in the IPL.

Here's a low down on this year's edition; the hits and misses; the good, bad and the ugly part of the annual cricketing event that fills our summer holidays, and that we have come to love so much.

If you leave out the doubters and naysayers.  They are usually bothered by 'commercialization,' 'match-fixing,' 'loss of purity of cricket,' and what not, all conjured up and exaggerated to vilify India's sporting sensation.

I ask them these:  When was the last time an Indian sporting event garnered so much global attention?  When did foreign players ever show so much interest in an Indian sporting event, so much so that getting picked in the auction is a matter of pride and fortune for them?  When was the last time, a rattled global (read mostly English) cricketing community pour out so much vitriol towards an Indian cricketing phenomenon, a sure sign of their underlying insecurity and jealousy?  

That's right... NEVER!

So peeps, take the chill pill, sit back and enjoy the cricketing action.  As with every other sport, there are bound to be the bad apples that are up to no good, which of course does not mean that the other players, the game itself, or the fans should pay the price.

Here are my observations from the 2018 contest, some good, some bad.

  • Even though the usual suspects dominated, the two best teams in this year's tournament - CSK and SRH - made it to the finals.  It was good that the other lesser teams did not sneak in due to some fortuitous twist in the tail.  My tweet:
2 best teams #CSKvSRH have made it to the #IPL2018Final and 4 of the calmest minds in cricket - MSD, Fleming, Williamson & Moody are at the helm; just goes to show that even in the rough & tumble, slam bang version of cricket, calmness of mind matters 😇
  • The very fact that the broadcasting rights were given to Star Sports was good.  Great escape for the viewers from the hideously incompetent presenters of Sony TV (bar one or two).  Star's Mayanti Langer is such a welcome relief!

  • If going away from Sony means Sidhu would also not be a part of the team - he wasn't on Star this year - then all the better for it.  It's better he sticks to entertaining the political dynasty.

  • Star came up with quite a few innovations this year: the dugout commentary, star commentators playing street cricket, etc.  Indeed, Star had lined up as many as 30 commentators throughout the tournament, most very good with their comments and opinions (especially my favourite, Harsha Bhogle).

  • The addition of DRS is good in terms of reducing umpiring errors.  Perhaps IPL can innovate further by adding more technology to get decisions right, and to enhance the viewing experience. 

  • The one-off women's IPL match.  Let there be a tournament just for the ladies!  Too bad, the people of Mumbai kept away from this game. 

  • The cheerleaders: To me, IPL is all about good cricketing action.  I care very less about the celebrities or the non-cricketing entertainment.  Don't get me wrong - I've nothing against the girls themselves.  It is the concept that I am dead against.  Consider this: each time a player (a man) hits a six or takes a wicket, the women have to get up on the stage and dance in skimpy clothes.  Has nobody - especially the feminists - considered the sexism inherent in this cheerless act?

  • Promotions: I am afraid, Star Sports has fallen prey to the familiar temptation of publicizing its other programs during the cricketing action.  So we had characters from the Star serials inflicting themselves on the hapless audience.  They got to sit in the front seat along with some Star Plus contest winners and gesticulate madly to garner attention.  On one occasion, 'Himanshu' from Khichdi was doing his trademark hand-over-head wave, and Bumble (David Lloyd) who was commentating, asked incredulously, 'What did I just see there?!'  These Star characters were part of the awards ceremony also, in keeping with the godawful Star Parivar Awards... ridiculous and redundant.  Star, please get rid of them!
@StarSportsIndia ridiculous to see characters from star serials in post match presentations..please stop this silly publicity ploy..thanks

8:42 PM - 17 Apr 2018

  • Star has also fallen prey to the age-old Doordarshan tactics of cutting to the action just as the ball is about to be delivered by the bowler.  It has to cash in during the ad-break, you see.  I tweeted about this, but to no avail:
@StarSportsIndia #IPL2018 kindly don't cut to the action when the ball is about to be released by the bowler... we want to watch the action in the middle - not ads!
  • Consider this irritation: you are blissfully watching a game, you are trying to concentrate on the action and the commentary.  Suddenly, the resident stadium-DJ bursts out with something that sounds like, 'aaayyeeeeEEEEEEEEE!!!!,' to which the audience responds by shouting.  Then he continues to holler like a man on Ecstasy, raising the (already increased) decibels in the stadium.  It gives you a splitting headache!  I tweeted to Star Sports about this mid-match, and I would like to think that the DJ was muted out during that particular match:
@IPL @StarSportsIndia trying hard to listen to #IPL2018 #MIvRCB TV commentary..but unable to because ground DJ is SHOUTING his lungs out..
But the shouting DJ returned in the later matches, and continued lunging it out in the rest of the tournament.  Please Star, in the future, stop this atrocity on the TV audience, at least!

@IPL @StarSportsIndia here we go again with the hollering ground DJ at #SRHvKXIP game...please mute him in ALL games..thanks
9:18 PM - 19 Apr 2018

  • I still feel that there is a case for 5 overseas players in a team.  This way, more international players of quality will get a chance instead of warming the benches.  And, the Indian youngsters will have to compete harder to make it to the playing eleven, which can only be a good thing for the national team. 

  • I also feel that there should be an earlier start to the second games of the day; say 7 p.m.  If the games start at 8, then the conclusion may be delayed by interruptions such as DRS reviews, checking the boundary/catch.  Many games this year went on till midnight.  I believe starting early was discussed before IPL began, but MI had objections to it, since the people of the city-that-never-sleeps can only watch the games late in the night.  But I say, one city does not make up the country.  We do have to get up the next day!

So there you have it... the highs and the lows.  You'll find more lows in the lists above because I want IPL to get better.  I hope that IPL goes from strength to strength, turning its harshest critics into fans and followers.

I want it to be the first to innovate, rather than catch up with what other leagues are doing.  So, pink balls, more technology, early starts, more overseas players, less non-cricket entertainment, women's league are all welcome... hell, even mixed men-women IPL, why not?!

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