OK, I’ll grant all you IPL-lovers this: the last season was not all that bad. OK, OK: it was great. I enjoyed Dale Steyn and Chris Gayle and the improbable chases and Sunil Narine and Tendulkar getting bowled by Sunil Narine. And when commentators noted that Rahane’s fluency and courage would be praise-worthy in any format, I agreed. But allow me to make one small point: if I think the IPL is a distraction from cricket, it’s largely because the television broadcasters make it so.
This isn’t just another tirade about the cheerleaders, who remain, as ever, completely pointless and foreign to cricket. (The sooner we admit the only reason we have them is to offer a mild form of pornography to horny middle-class Indian males, the more honest we will all be.) I’m talking here also about the interviews during the match — the ones with ex-cricketers, Bollywood has-beens and never-beens, and so on. Isn’t the cricket interesting enough to sustain an audience’s interest for three hours? And then, the content during these interviews — asking these folks (and players) to repeatedly validate the legitimacy of the IPL (Isn’t this fun? Isn’t this tournament so great? Aren’t you so glad you’re here?).
Which isn’t to say all the innovations were bad: I enjoyed the slow-motion, high-definition replays (though I could have done without the replays that featured a bass drum noise to coincide with the ball hitting the bat), and I also enjoyed hearing about the in-stadium treats for the audience (the catching contests, and the biggest six competitions). At last, someone has realized that the Indian audience isn’t just a prop for the television spectators.
But I offer a humble suggestion to the cricket producers: enough with the interviews. Enough with, “THE IPL IS HERE TO STAY.” The IPL will not win legitimacy by proving its cricketing merit; it will do so by just holding a tournament every year for the rest of our lives. If you truly believe this tournament is about cricket, then present it as such.