Since its inception, the Indian Premier League has been the immediate whipping entity whenever India lost a Test series abroad, or recently at home versus England. It was, in its entirety, the reason for all that was wrong in Indian cricket — the melodrama and reams of worthless razzle-dazzle. True, it’s not entirely devoid of logic, as it crams an already crammed calendar, denying players, especially the Indians, of a summer break. Sometimes, they squeezed in those occasional one-day engagements in Sharjah, but other than that the calendar was more or less vacuous. Players could push forth all those familial obligations to April and May.
Then, as the game morphed in tune with the chimes of professionalism, it couldn’t but ignore the growing-up-with the Joneses syndrome. IPL was a need of the times, and a carefully conceptualised and executed marketing move.
It wasn’t an experimentation, or as in T20 parlance, a “you-miss-I-hit sort of affair”. Whether the concept was borrowed or not, the BCCI improvised it, lending it a rhythm of its own.
That it lessens the value of longer versions, making players duds for Test cricketer is another baseless criticism. Test cricket was and is still the ultimate barometer for assessing a player’s calibre, and what IPL has shown is that different formats can co-exist, and co-exist harmoniously without really affecting each other. Moreover, it has thrown open the possibilities of cricketainment.
And a player who has the Test quality still makes the level. Even in the pre-IPL era, there were players in domestic sides who were clear-cut Test-material players and who weren’t so. IPL has given both a platform, for good ones to demonstrate the versatility and the not-so-good ones a bigger world of bigger dimensions. Some fit in, some don’t, and for more reasons just than talent or skill-set.
India’s triumph over Australia was revelatory of IPL’s positive effect. The series win was fashioned by a set of players who were launched through IPL. No better example than Ravindra Jadeja, an IPL show-stealer, whose value many reckoned was confined to only T20s or at best ODIs. But Jadeja, who emerged the second highest wicket-taker in the series, testified that stereotyping can be hollow.
Or take for example of Virat Kohli. During his initial struggle in Tests, many deemed him not so good for Tests, but since the latter half of the Australian tour, he has amply demonstrated his suitability to the format. Ditto for R Ashwin and Murali Vijay, who went further in detonating the myth of IPL’s detrimental nature.
The fact is just that cricket has come to such a stage that it’s a multifarious proposition, and often governed by money and not standards. It’s also representative of the changing nature of cricket administration, whose precedence, on spotting a revenue stream, is always to maximise it. Then, so is it with half-a-dozen other sports in the world including the biggest of them all, the English Premier League.