An open letter to IPL by a young test cricket lover: Part I

While the IPL has done many good things for Indian and world cricket, it is also responsible for the slow death staring in the face of test cricket

Photo courtesy: Twitter\@mipaltan
Photo courtesy: Twitter\@mipaltan

Vikrant Jha

Dear Indian Premiere League (IPL),

Congratulations on completion of an amazing decade. It was, for sure, a decade full of entertainment, thrills, surprises and shocks. There were some nerve-shattering matches, there were a few dull ones too. You witnessed some unimaginable highs, but there were some catastrophes as well.

Overall, it was a decade that changed cricket and the way it is watched and, most importantly, played and perceived.

I can’t imagine a decade ago the world taking notice of a 19-year-old batsman from India, who hadn’t yet made it to the national team, but had already made the best bowlers in the world cringe. Neither could I have imagined a 17-year-old Indian spinner being an integral part of a team that was captained by Australia’s Steve Smith. Rishabh Pant and Washington Sundar are just two examples from the recently concluded season 10. You have provided us with many such talents and have made us all notice them over the last decade.

You haven’t just provided the youngsters with an opportunity and stage, you have also helped them provide international exposure. Jasprit Bumrah has benefitted from legendary Lasith Malinga, Shane Warne has nurtured Ravindra Jadeja, Ricky Ponting helped Rohit Sharma learn a few nuances of captaincy, and the list, here as well, is magnificently long.

You have given us moments which we could have not even imagined, and those moments make you even bigger. I’ll just cite one example out of the many. You started your journey in 2008 and, in late 2007 and early 2008, the Indian team had travelled to Australia under the leadership of veteran spinner, Anil Kumble. The series is infamously remembered, at least in India, as a series of terrible umpiring decisions and the Monkey-Gate scandal. Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds were the main culprits and, at one time, India had almost pulled out of the series mid-way. Ponting, then, was leading the Australian side. A few years later, both the principal tormentors of the monkey-gate drama, Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh, were playing for the same team, as team-mates and as friends. The drama didn’t stop here. You had more in store for your viewers.

A few more years later, in 2013, Harbhajan Singh bowled a good delivery just outside off stump. Batsman Unmukt Chand drove uppishly to the left of the man standing at short cover. The man dived full length and completed one of the most iconic catches in your history of 10 years. The fielder was none other than Ricky Ponting, who was leading Mumbai Indians in the initial phase of that season.

Above mentioned are some of the cricketing treasures you have provided us with, but there has always been more to you than just cricket. You have never been only about cricket, you must agree. Among others, is the ways in which you have created jobs in our country. The number of ground staff has increased significantly since there are matches on alternate days as well. The teams have added ever more members to their support staff for very specific roles, like just monitoring the videos of the matches and analyse weaknesses in the opposition’s camp.

I believe, there is no need to mention how you have supported the young kids financially, who otherwise might well not get an opportunity in the crowd of a nation where every other kid wants to be a professional cricketer. Jasprit Bumrah, for example, was a nobody when he was spotted by the great Sachin Tendulkar and selected to play for the Mumbai Indians. The ‘death-over’ specialist as he has come to be known, Bumrah today is the leader of the Indian attack in the limited overs format.

The decade was a memorable one and you are the reason for it. The decade, however, was not so memorable for one section of cricket players and enthusiasts. It’s the same, boring section which still believes that test cricket is the best version of the sport. The people from this section are usually those who spend a Sunday watching all four sessions of a test match than watching a newly-released Bollywood drama. It is the same section that prefers cricket above entertainment, over your amalgamation of cricket and drama.

As I had already mentioned, cricket is not the only thing you come with and that, Dear IPL, has somehow managed to deter the importance the original format of the game, the Test Cricket, both in the eyes of the players as well as the viewers.

In the second part of the letter, I’ll elaborate how you scare me, as a fan of Test cricket and, more importantly, as an avid cricket follower.

To be concluded.

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