I am a fan of IPL Cricket. It’s an intense competition, played in summer, in a country which has harshest summers. Add to this, is the bio-bubble, the players are asked to stay in for two months which will drive most of us to insanity. It provides clean entertainment to people who would be otherwise subjected to boring movies and stupid sitcoms and soap operas on OTT. It is a welcome relief.
It has also provided career opportunities to budding cricketers from all over the country and beyond, and to most of the famous cricketers who are retired from the sport, from Australia, New Zealand and UK, who, otherwise, would have gone into oblivion. Every team has many of these player as coaches and mentors, analysts and motivators. It is a huge money spinner. The rag to riches to stories of players from poor and rural backgrounds are too many to list here.
For traveling salesman like me it is a boon. For two months, you don’t need to worry what to do in the evenings. You can either sit in the bar in the hotel, have a beer and watch cricket for three hours or relax in your room watching the sport. Even the smallest hotel in India would have a channel in the TV where IPL is telecast.
OK now that I have established what’s good about IPL, let’s get on to how the Administration of the sport, the broadcasters and advertisers have made the sport into a massive trivia.
On 3rd May 2022, when IPL was winding halfway through the event, I read an article in New York times, by Thomas Friedman, titled, “A Message to Biden Team on Ukraine: Talk Less.” He starts his article by saying he learnt his first lesson in politics and military strategy from Al Shaver, a Canadian Sportscaster who covered the Minnesota North Stars N.H.L team. He ended his shows with this sign-off. “When you lose say little. When you win, say less. Good Night and good sports.”
And this is from a country whose commentators talk non stop on sports statistics. I can give an example from a Trevor Noah show on Americans talk non stop while commentating while continent speak very few words. Please do watch it here.
Trevor Noah on American Sports Commentary. Hayden (Mathew) has gone the American Way.
When we were growing up we used to listen to cricket commentary from ABC and BBC in an old radio. We could get only few words from the crackling valve radio. Every time a motor cycle passed on the road in front of our house we could hear only static for few seconds. But we were thrilled to listen to every word we could hear. Brian Johnston, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Treror Bailey, Fred Trueman from BBC and Bill Lawry and Richie Benaud from ABC, as commentators were just as famous as the cricketers of that era. And no cricket match would be complete without the commentary from the great Tony Cozier. That’s why it is so surprising why Mathew Hayden talks like old AIR Commentators.
The present IPL cricket commentary team has all well known figures. I am not sure why they have changed from good commentators to very bad ones. They just keep talking without letting anyone watch the game. Even commentators like Ian Bishop, Mathew Hayden and Harsha Bhogle have fallen into this trap of non stop talking. May be they are paid by the number of words they speak every minute. I can’t fathom any other reason for this downgrade.
Most irritating are Danny Morrison and Anjum Chopra. I think they have a fear if they stop talking their breathing will stop. Sample this. If a batsman sorry batter (it has to be gender neutral now), just stays in crease and plays a shot, they won’t just say ‘he just stood in his crease and played that square cut.’ She said something like this, ‘mind you. He just stood there while playing his shot. He did not move forward. He did not move backwards. He made no sideways movement.’ With this kind of irritating commentary, you either forget the shot the batter played or irritated so much so that you reach out for the mute button.
Even Harsha Bhogle has fallen into this trap. The other day a commentator was talking about how the bowler should be consistent in his line and length. Bhogle caught the word consistency and started a mini lecture on ‘consistency,’ forgetting he was here to talk about the game and not to deliver a lecture on consistency.
This is another gem. A commentator was telling us the rains have stopped and the match would begin soon. How soon? Hear from her. “Don’t go anywhere. The Toss is only moments away. It should happen in 7 – 8 minutes.” I just learned that a moment is not mili seconds but it can stretch from eight minutes to eternity.
Statistics and more statistics. After all the game was invented couple of centuries ago before the invention of computers and AI. Captains generally would know about a player and chose his bowler and set his fielding accordingly. They were never bothered about how the player played first over, second over or 4th ball of eighth over. Now they dive deep into this calling it match ups. I am not sure if captains listen to all the this. But we are forced to watch/listen to this trivial nonsense non stop.
Then comes the advertisers. The ads were originally meant to be between overs. Not anymore. Now the commentators have to talk about products and services throughout the game. When IPL started, it was only for the Sixer (6 runs). They called it ‘—— six’ after the company who sponsored. Then it went to four runs. Now they have first six overs called Cred Power play and last five overs Swiggy last five or some nonsense like that. It does not matter how intense that particular part of the game. They have to invoke the sponsor’s name. A gentleman’s game which had some trivia in the sport has become some sport in an ocean of trivia.
And then the advertisements. I think the creators of ads have all become brain dead and dish out something which has either poor creativity or bad content – mostly both.
Cricketers have joined this bandwagon. They feature in most of these ads. They will tell us where to invest and what crap games sorry card games we should play. This is over after over or in between overs or if anyone gets out. They bombard you non stop with their advise and recommendations.
And if all these is not enough, the ads will be scrolling at the bottom of the TV screen even when the bowler is delivering or the batsman is playing a shot. And mostly the ad will be about a group of clinics who can treat your Colon Cancer, Ruptured Rectum and blown up piles. They will even tell you, with their modern knives, how many millimetre of tissue they can cut without causing discomfort. All these important info thrust on to you, when you just wanted to watch a good game of Cricket.
For me most shocking thing is the way they endorse online games. The games are addictive in nature and you may lose all the money you have. But that has not prevented the players from endorsing these stupid games. More shocking, is the way they tell these stories. Invariably, when all these world famous cricketers were growing up, someone always helped them to achieve their dreams. An uncle would give them lift to reach the playground on time, a friend would lends his bicycle, an old gentleman in Gurudwara would offer a blanket in winter, a soup vendor would offer free soup to give the player the energy. All this was done so that the players could achieve their dreams and they were big dreams.
As a corollary, I expected these players would urge us to dream big, play real sport and become millionaires and drive Ferraris and Lamborghinis. No they are asking to play some to stupid game called Dream 11.
Don’t get me wrong. I have tremendous respect for Indian sportsmen and women, particularly the cricketers. Most, if not all of them come from average backgrounds and achieved success. Even after making millions from the sports and endorsements, they stay away from controversies and serve as good role models for the young. Why then they have to endorse online games and cryptos. Just beats me.
The Administration (BCCI), the IPL commission, the promoters of franchises, the advertisers, the commentators and in a small way the players have made watching IPL an irritating experience. And there is only reason for this – greed. Next year, they will make it worse by associating every delivery with an advertiser. With 120 deliveries in 20 overs you get 240 deliveries which mean 240 advertisers. Also they can have more hoardings in the playground and ask commentators to speak about them in between deliveries.
By doing this, You can make the billion dollar sport a trillion dollar sport. All the fans who watch the sport will become mental wrecks. But then, this is not about the fans. It never was.