Cricket can easily be called the most followed game in the planet, in terms of viewership, especially when you consider that half of the world’s population is in the subcontinent. However, it is not the most followed game if you consider the number of countries involved. On that count soccer scores over cricket. The basic point is – you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that IPL will never be Cricket’s EPL. Many argue that it does not intend to be. But then, what does it intend to be – a platform for domestic talent or a prime-time soap or a giant gimmick just as the super series that was played between Australia and the Rest of the world? Maybe, it will be a grand success hands down. The answer will unfold itself in April-May this year. But what will be its main hurdles? Let us have a look.
The biggest hurdle is the ICC Future Tours Program. Past few years have witnessed a heated debate over excess of cricket and player fatigue (Shaun Tait being the latest casualty). If anything, IPL will only add to the stress because even if it is Twenty20, it is still 6 weeks of non-stop cricket transcending over a large country like India. The possible solution being indicated is to open a two-month window in the Program especially for IPL. This would mean either fewer tours or a busier year. Either solution may not go down too well with the ‘poorer’ Boards and players alike. The next problem that crops is about accommodating the three formats of the game throughout the year so as to keep both the purists and the reformers happy. This has to be done in addition to providing adequate rest to the players of the 10 Test playing nations and without compromising with the International tours and ICC Development Program. Also, every four years the World cup itself will provide a dilemma of having two high profile events per year along with the IPL. Soccer manages to escape all this because it has no bilateral series between international sides (only friendlies) and the fans, apart from the World Cup every four years, have passionate club loyalties. In fact, Spaniards are more excited about La Liga than they have ever been about a Spanish international encounter! Therefore, it remains to be seen whether people in India will be able to develop strong regional passion and loyalties when it comes to their cricket (which is crucial to IPL’s success).
The hurdles mentioned in the previous paragraph are sensitive but very fathomable. If the international Cricket community can work together and plan their cricketing seasons right, IPL is a certified jackpot! In a nutshell, the IPL has to be a cricketing spectacle and very competitive; Interests of the smaller Boards have to be protected; Test cricket has to be guarded and pretty much encouraged; the World cup has to remain the flagship event. All said and done, the Era of the league has just begun…