I am not so much of a cricket guy — that is a shameful admission coming from a country where cricket is dubbed a “religion” and coming from a family of cricket fanatics. But growing up in India means, whether you like it or not, you grow up being familiar with cricket teams, players, formats and rules of the game, the who’s who etc.…So whether you are a cricket guy or not, you watched the World Cups, you burst out and cried out celebrating victories and brooding failures. I will also add that cricket made us aware of other countries and cultures, and the various accents of English we hear in commentaries.
With that as backdrop, I could not help being wowed by IPL. IPL is a reflection of several things, which are true about the country as a whole. IPL, to me, is Westernization meets Americanization meets Capitalism meets Free-markets meet inward growth meets market-force-controlled-enterprise.
Until not too long ago, test matches were the only revered format of cricket. It took up to 5 days to complete a single match, most players had to maintain a day job to support their living, and matches were seldom watched, if vehemently followed. And for the most part, matches between countries were the only ones that invoked popular interest — the local series, including most notably, Ranji Trophy, were generally looked at as hiring camps for international cricket.
Lalit Modi changed it all. He created a format that was inward-looking (much needed to enhance GDP of the country), included international players, commentators and umpires (giving it a truly global outlook), reduced duration to more or less that of a Bollywood movie (enabling the middle-class to watch more), imbibed the philosophy of intellectual arbitrage (player’s are contracted based on their abilities, not positions and seniorities). When there were hurdles from the government, in a particular instance, Modi moved the venues cross-border to South Africa, giving his middle finger to the government and politicians that were still living in the era of license-quota-permit-Raj, and still motivated by status-quo and political agenda.
I realize now that Modi is known for the wrong reasons, but I still regard him as a man of the New India and his actions reflection of where India is headed in general.
Unfortunately, IPL now suffers the perils of the aspect of capitalism, which breeds greed. Back in the 80s, we had players who earned very little from a career in cricket, but were held very high for their sportsmanship. Today, the market pays them a lot of money, but they would resort to putting themselves above sportsmanship and make IPL, as corrupt as India is. But this was to come — a change like this, extrapolated, can only result in one of the 3 possibilities — extreme financial engineering (the Moneyball kind), extreme greed and corruption (as is the case now) or extreme puppeteering of the players (the WWF kind), reducing the sport, effectively, into a show.