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India’s Next Big Thing

Bang Galore

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Why the Indian Premier League may well be the most successful new sports sensation in history.
By Samanth Subramanian | NEWSWEEK

Not long before he died, Hunter S. Thompson wrote in his column for ESPN magazine about a new two-man sport he had invented: shotgun golf, consisting of one player trying to shoot another's golf ball off its course. This was, unmistakably, Thompson's usual mordant wit; at one point, he reflected with great fake glee that shotgun golf would be "the first truly violent leisure sport." But the grandeur of his declared ambition will sound familiar to the inventors of every new pastime: "Shotgun golf will soon take America by storm…Millions will crave it."

It is this ambition by which new sports and new leagues rise, wither, and often die, and the casualty list is a long one. The XFL, an American football league in which the X tellingly stood for nothing, folded after its first season in 2001. The original Arena Football League, hobbled by debt, ceased to operate in 2008; a plucky new league by the same name, however, is trying to rejuvenate the sport this year. Understandably, neither slamball (basketball on trampolines) nor EliteXC (a brutal mixed martial-arts fighting championship) caught on in schoolyards and playgrounds. The Israel Baseball League lasted only its 2007 season, and the Chinese Super League, a soccer competition born in 2004, is so riddled with corruption that its vice president glumly admitted it would take "a long time" to improve. Even the U.S.'s Major League Soccer, despite its easy extension into the little leagues, hasn't quite caught fire as a spectator sport. These are difficult times for novice impresarios. Our attention spans are distracted by too many other suitors for a new sport to stake its claim; in fact, to learn from the sorrowful example of field hockey in India—so ignored that its players are interviewed only when they go on strike to get paid—we barely even pay due heed to some of the sports that already exist.

Given this graveyard of failed sports, the Indian Premier League and its scale of dizzying success must appear to be glorious aberrations. In only its third year, the IPL has become a behemoth cricket league, straddling six weeks of the international calendar every March and April. It is, by most measures, a supernova of success. The world's finest cricket talents now flock to the eight IPL clubs and their paychecks, which are perhaps not as impressive as those in English football's Premier League but certain bonanzas when compared with the domestic cricket circuit. Even during the worst of the financial crisis, sponsors and advertisers couldn't pour money fast enough into the IPL. Lalit Modi, the IPL's commander in chief, has monetized his creation so efficiently that, earlier this year, a study calculated the worth of the IPL brand to be $4.13 billion, an astonishing sum for a toddler of a league; last year one sports-marketing agency valued the U.S.'s National Football League brand at $4.5 billion. The results of individual games routinely appear on the front pages of Indian newspapers or as "breaking news" on television channels; in her rundown, one anchor reported the outcome of a first-tier match before the obliteration of the Polish political elite in a plane crash. The live broadcasts of the IPL occupy prime-time slots every day, and they sustain a frenetic intensity through a schedule that would, in cricket, have otherwise been called bloated. The IPL's triumph has created the sort of moment that occurs once in a generation, when a window swings open and we obtain a glimpse of a sport's inevitable future, of the players who will play it and the rules they will play by.

Strictly speaking, of course, the IPL's cricket is not a new sport, or even a new format. International cricket's most classical configuration is the five-day test match, more than a century old and happily still alive and belying all fears of being grievously ill. In the 1970s a one-day version of cricket emerged, and that was further abbreviated into a breathless three-and-a-half-hour affair in the early 2000s. It is this cricket-in-a-capsule, branded Twenty20, that is featured in the IPL: 60 games, played over a punishing regimen of 45 days. Since Twenty20 is still so recognizably cricket, and since the league plays in and is designed for India, where the ardor for cricket has long been the stuff of clichés, the IPL's success is rarely accorded any explanation. The baroque scale of this success has certainly inspired some commentary, but it seems almost foreordained that the league should have done well.

The rise of the IPL, however, isn't just the rise of a sport; more substantially, it is the rise of corporate India, the hulking, hungry engine that is driving the country's growth. Everything about the IPL reeks of the metallic tang of this engine's oil. The league itself, for starters, is a corporation in spirit; its games of cricket aren't so much sporting contests as products, to be packaged and marketed to within an inch of their lives. (Recognition of this came—belatedly—last August, when the Indian cricket board, the IPL's owner, lost its status as a registered charity and was asked to start paying taxes.) Each team in the IPL is owned by Indian companies of varying sizes, some teams purchased as investments, some as branding vehicles, and at least one merely as a vanity acquisition. More companies, like an army of ants, have invaded every nook and cranny of the game. They've bought hours and hours of advertising time; they've paid to be present as logos on uniforms, on the turf, on the cricket field's boundary ropes, on equipment, and even, in one case, on an enormous, flaccid-looking balloon above each stadium. They've co-opted the very lexicon of the game, such that commentators are now required to preface the word "catch" with the name of one mobile-phone company and the word "timeout" with the name of another—a gambit of uninhibited commerce, and one that would have been a kind of blasphemy just 15 years ago. Below its surface of ***-a-tat cricket, the IPL is really one large flexion of the muscle of corporate India.

Only the most incurable pessimists would regard this phenomenon as wholly without benefit. These companies have enabled the IPL to thrive, rescuing it from the dire fates of the XFL and EliteXC. Their elastic budgets have brought some truly entertaining sportsmen into Indian stadiums. Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, two Australian cricketers who were lost to the sport after their retirement a few years ago, now return to India solely to clobber the ball out of the park for their IPL sides. The companies have also allowed many second and third rung Indian cricketers, who may otherwise never have played for their country, to experience the headier standards at the international level and to raise their own game to those standards—exactly, one might add, as Indian companies are doing with their employees. The dynamism of the IPL is, in a way, a reflection of the dynamism of the Indian corporate sector; with both, it's impossible to look away, because you don't want to miss the Next Big Thing.

There are attendant drawbacks as well, to be sure. The IPL has already proved willing to stampede over aesthetics and other intangibles in its pursuit of the bottom line, and it is now showing symptoms of dangerous overreach. The most valuable of the current clubs is worth $48.4 million, and yet one Indian company recently bid $370 million for a new franchise, and will spend still more to buy players, seemingly without any strategy of recouping this investment. Rather than supporting the sport, money is now indisputably driving it. But complaining about this feels very much like living on a fault line and railing against the earthquakes: the damage is real, but the tectonic shift is inevitable. For decades, cricket and cricketers were controlled by arms of the Indian government, and while the corporatization of the sport started in the mid-1990s, it has reached a stunning acme in the IPL. The significance is hard to miss. In India, the government is no longer the most dominant presence in public life; that position must now be shared with the Indian corporation.
 

Awesome

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IPL is riddled with politics, hence the exclusion of Pakistani players - truly the ultimate sign of unprofessionals. Its making money just because its in India and stuff happens in mass in India due to its large population... otherwise there is nothing great about the way they are conducting it.
 

ARCHON

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IPL is riddled with politics, hence the exclusion of Pakistani players - truly the ultimate sign of unprofessionals. Its making money just because its in India and stuff happens in mass in India due to its large population... otherwise there is nothing great about the way they are conducting it.
Believe me there are politics going on in it. But its going good with players from all around the globe fighting it out. Its getting more excited now in last stages and people are glued into TV.

The IPL is also aired all around the globe and the viewership is very high even surpassed 1st and 2nd editions.:cheers:
 

Virat

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IPL is riddled with politics, hence the exclusion of Pakistani players - truly the ultimate sign of unprofessionals. Its making money just because its in India and stuff happens in mass in India due to its large population... otherwise there is nothing great about the way they are conducting it.
Its purely a pakistani point of view with the usual biase that comes along.
 

r3alist

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the ipl has hardly captured the imagination of the cricketing world let alone the wider world.

and yes, the league is a lesser league because there are no pak players in it - thats because pakistan has the best 2020 players

gul - best bowler
afridi - best all rounder, best spinner
razzaq - one of the best all rounders
rana - one of the best bowlers


...and so on.
 

sirius

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the ipl has hardly captured the imagination of the cricketing world let alone the wider world.

and yes, the league is a lesser league because there are no pak players in it - thats because pakistan has the best 2020 players

gul - best bowler
afridi - best all rounder, best spinner
razzaq - one of the best all rounders
rana - one of the best bowlers


...and so on.
:rofl::rofl::rofl:
stop being ignorant ipl is second only to world cup
 

yashchauhan

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the ipl has hardly captured the imagination of the cricketing world let alone the wider world.

and yes, the league is a lesser league because there are no pak players in it - thats because pakistan has the best 2020 players

gul - best bowler
afridi - best all rounder, best spinner
razzaq - one of the best all rounders
rana - one of the best bowlers


...and so on.
:lazy::lazy::lazy:
 

Bombay

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the ipl has hardly captured the imagination of the cricketing world let alone the wider world.

and yes, the league is a lesser league because there are no pak players in it - thats because pakistan has the best 2020 players

gul - best bowler
afridi - best all rounder, best spinner
razzaq - one of the best all rounders
rana - one of the best bowlers


...and so on.
CORRECTION:

the ipl has very well captured the imagination of the many Pakistani and people along the globe.

and yes, the league is a doing good even when there are no pak players in it - thats because pakistan has the best 2020 players according to it's fans.

gul - best pakistani bowler
afridi - best pakistnai all rounder, best pakistani spinner
razzaq - one of the best all rounders in Paksitan
rana - one of the best bowlers in Pakistan


...and so on.
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And on the other hand looks like your countrymen cannot resist IPL even when there were so angry talks of boycotting IPL et al.

Pakistan cable operators start broadcasting IPL again
Pakistan cable operators start broadcasting IPL again | Sport | bdnews24.com
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Also PCB said that it will start a new league called PPL(Pakistan Premier League) on the basis of IPL.:rofl:

PCB may launch Pak Premier League
PCB may launch Pak Premier League - Sports - News & Business - Wateen Infotainment Portal
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If it is so easy to start something like IPL, then why don't Pakistan try it(rather than copying it)?

P.S.: Value of IPL is nearly $ 4.13 billion this year, and is stated to go beyond $ 6 billion next year. Any company in Pakistan worth that? (this comparison is just for you to realize that sometimes self-speculation is better than laughing at others' successes)
 

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