The dark clouds that loom over this year’s Indian Premier League
Favouring a match-day policy that considers fireworks and dancing girls appropriate for almost any situation and dealing in sums of money never before seen in the sport, the Indian Premier League has had a profound impact on world cricket since it brashly burst onto the scene in 2008.
If test cricket is the Cutty Sark, a Victorian antiquity lovingly preserved whatever the modern world throws at it, then the IPL is Roberto Cavalli’s yacht, gunwales overflowing with hideous leopard print sofas, variously shimmering surfaces and a constantly changing array of global stars.
Yet for all its gaudy excess and dazzling financial incentives, Twenty20 cricket’s premier annual event has not had the hugely detrimental effect on the other forms of the game that many feared it would.
While there have of course been some negative consequences to the IPL and it is still too early to see its long-term impact on the sport, there have also been undeniable positives – the extra money on offer giving some serious financial support to cricket’s less wealthy nations being an obvious example and West Indies’ World Twenty20 success last year also springing to mind.
However with just days to go until the sixth edition of cricket’s spangliest slogfest starts in its own predictably overstated style, things are far from perfect in the promised land with several dark clouds looming over the tournament.
The first of these is the horrific assault this week of New Zealand’s Jesse Ryder, who was in self-imposed international exile but due to join up with the Delhi Daredevils for the IPL.
Ryder has had a troubled career with a collection of off-field incidents that have matched and hampered his otherwise not inconsiderable achievements on the pitch. However there was a sense that he was close to making his much hoped-for return to the international fold and that the IPL – a tournament perfectly suited to his aggressive batting, useful if unspectacular medium pace and excellent close catching – would provide the stage for him to shine once again.
Instead as a result of a disgustingly violent attack he lies in a Christchurch hospital and while fortunately he is showing early signs of improvement the incident has shocked the entire cricketing world and provides some real perspective ahead of the commercially driven IPL.
The other unwelcome shadow cast over this year’s tournament is one almost entirely of the organisers making and which adds to a pre-existing if rarely discussed flaw of the IPL, the exclusion of players based solely on their nationality.
This is the decision to prohibit Sri Lankan participation in any matches in Chennai due to political tensions involving the island and the state of Tamil Nadu, of which the city is the capital.
Chennai Super Kings’ Sri Lankans, Nuwan Kulasekara and Akila Dananjaya, are obviously the worst affected players although with big stars such as Mahela Jayawardene, Muttiah Muralitharan, Lasith Malinga, Tilakratne Dilshan, Angelo Mathews and Ajantha Mendis all playing in the tournament, other sides will perhaps feel more hard done by.
While there may be genuine security fears behind the decision, the IPL organisers could perhaps have just moved Chennai’s home games – after all the last time there were security worries, the whole tournament was moved to South Africa at very short notice.
The move to ban players from certain games purely based on their nationality is an unwelcome one and mirrors, albeit to a less radical degree, the decision to prohibit Pakistani players from taking part in the IPL, which was introduced in 2009.
While despite the adage, sport and politics do inevitably have to mix at some point; it is to their ongoing shame that the IPL organisers have not taken a more inclusive stance, not only because it could potentially have a healing effect but also because a tournament shorn of players like Shahid Afridi – a man seemingly factory-built for the quick fire adrenaline-fest that is the IPL – is all the poorer for it.
In spite of all this, not to mention the ever-present problem with English players’ participation and the fact that injury has already ruled out big names such as Kevin Pietersen and Michael Clarke, there is still much to look forward to in the weeks ahead.
After all if you can’t take some joy from the sight of Chris Gayle coolly striding to the wicket and like a swashbuckling, golden-padded god, casually blasting the ball around every cricketing coliseum in India, then perhaps the sport’s not for you.
Follow the writer on Twitter: @thesportsfoxTagged in: Chris Gayle, Cricket, India, Indian Premier League, Shahid Afridi, sri lanka
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