IPL: More Than a Tournament

Glitz. Glamour. Glory. A few things that the ongoing IPL has showcased. That too, quite successfully to be honest. The BCCI has once again proved to the world why they are the world’s richest cricket board and probably the most influential. However, the IPL has done a lot more than what the BCCI had in mind.

Let us face the facts. The idea behind the tournament was a hasty one, a riposte to the rebel ICL which had won the right to host cricket matches in India featuring Indian and foreign players. And given the fact that they were banking on the latest twenty20 fad, the BCCI was faced with the possibility of loss in revenue. Hence they came up with this tournament and, after approaching the ICC, managed to get official backing as well.

All very well indeed. However, the current edition of this tournament seems to have been in the headlines and not always for the right reasons. With the cheerleaders being in the limelight for their alleged insult to the Hindu culture, the BCCI had to face flak from politicians looking to grab their share of the spotlight. After that, it was the slap that cost a crore. Harbhajan Singh being disgraced as well as having to serve an international ban for lashing out at teammate Sreesanth (who in fairness probably deserved it). There have been other incidents as well which have raised eyebrows. Vijay Mallya’s tirade against Rahul Dravid shocked many. No one could have expected Dravid’s commitment being questioned or his skills being scrutinized. This was a man who had led India in the past and proved to be one of the most technically flawless batsmen the world has ever seen. Humble in every sense of the world and held in deep regard and affection by all the players. And yet the liquor baron seems to have had the impudence to raise doubts.

The game of cricket itself seems to be the worst hit. Test cricket now is seriously under threat. With the fans seeming to enjoy the spectacle of run feasts and sixes and fours all over the park, the old gentle and slow game seems to have seen its final farewell. A sad ending to what I think is still one of the most exciting forms of the game. Even more exciting than the limited overs edition.

They say that you are never a great cricketer till you have mastered the art of playing tests. How very true. Cricket is also a game of tact, patience and strategy as it is of skill and power. How many of us remember the thrills we felt in the recently concluded second test between India and South Africa which ended in less than three days. India was under the cosh after conceding 365 runs in the first innings and yet managed to emerge as victors. Need I remind of you the 2005 Ashes, arguably one of the best Ashes ever to have been contested in the recent years? Almost every test went down to the wire and even though it was one of the most bitter contests between two traditionally bitter rivals, it was played in the right spirit of the game (the photo of Andrew Flintoff extending a hand to an inconsolable Brett Lee after winning is worth a thousand words itself)

The real fun for me is the thinking that goes behind the scenes. Whether to bat or bowl first, when to declare, whether to hang on for a draw or to go for the jugular and win – these are all the decisions that shape the outcome of the result and probably the outcome of the series as well.

Test cricket also brings out the talent, skill and temperament possessed by the players. Test cricket is not about trying to make the ball disappear over the boundary ropes every delivery. It requires patience and determination as well as superior technical abilities, not skills that every player possesses. Indeed, there have been many instances of players being masters of the limited overs edition and yet failing dismally in the five day edition. And although there have been critics of some who have brought the test match approach to one days, most player who have crossed over have done so successfully.

As the IPL winds down, I am just hoping that the true fans still stick to their guns and still turn up to see the longest version of the game. Because I certainly will. Long live test cricket.

Budhaditya Banerjee

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