To watch the IPL, or to not watch the IPL, that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of countless DLF maximums,
Or take arms against a sea of meaningless matches,
And by opposing end them? To watch baseball instead; to sleep.
Every year, for the past six years, I think to myself: this is the year. This is the year I watch the IPL. This is the year I pick a team to support, that I watch more than just the final, that I actually immerse myself in the IPL experience.
All 76 matches will be available live on Willow.TV and in “HD” (what that means exactly, I am not sure). The matches are all on at very reasonable hours here in the states. And the tournament features the vast majority of the very best and most exciting cricketers on the planet.
But for some reason, I can’t do it. I just cannot bring myself to tune in.
The tournament just feels so daunting at first. 76 matches? 76!? Does there really need to be that many? And then there is the pop music and the dancers and the shouting commentators and the sloppy batting and the useless bowling.
But it’s not like I dislike the T20 as a format; I think it has its merits and belongs in the same league as the ODI and the Test formats, and I think there is room for all three to co-exist peacefully.
I don’t think that the T20, or the IPL specifically, is killing cricket. In fact, I think it is doing the opposite, I think it is propping cricket up, allowing us to continue to have the sort of Test matches and series that we love to salivate over. But I think it is more than just some sort of necessary evil, I think it is an unnecessary positive – like a chocolate chip cookie or a cold pint of beer. T20 cricket is popular for a reason, and the reason is not just that the Twitter generation has a short attention span, it is because T20 cricket is fun to watch.
The India vs Pakistan T20 series this past December was some of the most exciting and thrilling cricket I had ever seen.
So why can’t I get on board with the IPL?
Is it because I am unable to connect with any of the teams? Surely this has not been a problem for me before, ever, in my entire life.
I have been to London a grand total of one time yet I live and die with the Arsenal, and I do not support any particular cricket playing nation but find almost all cricket matches thrilling and interesting and stimulating.
Here’s what I think the problem is: it’s new.
One of the reasons I fell in love with cricket all those years ago was because of its long and storied history. And the IPL has no roots.
Even when two Test nations are playing a T20, there is still history between the sides. And the ODI has been around long enough to form its own roots outside of the Test format.
But the IPL, and the SLPL, and the BPL, and the Big Bash League, just all feel so…purposeful in their invention. And that purpose was to make a shitload of money, money, money. They feel chemical. Corporate. Mercenary. Plastic.
The pop-up T20 league is the test tube baby of world cricket.
Cricket’s other competitions have a more organic and natural feel to them. They have been allowed to breath, to grow, to contract, like ivy on a brick wall. I am speaking specifically of County Cricket, and other older domestic competitions, and of course all those matches on the international calendar.
The West Indies vs Australia is organic; the Melbourne Renegades vs the Brisbane Heat is genetically modified.
But all the competitions had to start somewhere. And the IPL has been around for six seasons now. It isn’t going anywhere. And I really should just stop my moaning and embrace it.
And so this year, I am really going to watch. I really am. I mean it.