The Indian Premier League gets a lot of flak. Some say it is not real cricket, others say it's just a big carnival, an insult to the sport. There's just too much cricket these days they say. The purists lament that the IPL is killing test cricket. Then there are allegations (and some evidence too) of corruption.
But the truth is that the IPL is wildly popular and has endured. It has become stronger and is today an established brand. Like anything else, it's had its share of ups and downs, but thankfully it seems to be here to stay.
Overall, the IPL has been a great addition to India's landscape and has heralded the dawn of a new era; it deserves our respect. Here are a few things we must give it credit for.
1. It has put Indian sports leagues on the world map. Though it features only eight teams and runs for less than two months, it has a high profile and brings in a lot of money. It's by far the largest cricket league but it's also steadily catching up with the biggies of other sports in North America and Europe in sheer numbers.
The benefits reach everyone -- from the billionaire team-owners to the humble autowala ferrying spectators to the stadium and the snack vendors outside the grounds.
2. It generates economic opportunities for a lot of people across the spectrum. Many players, who would otherwise struggle to make a living, get paid quite handsomely. There is excellent business for travel and hospitality providers, media, marketing, management, and allied services while the league is on. The benefits reach everyone -- from the billionaire team-owners to the humble autowala ferrying spectators to the stadium and the snack vendors outside the grounds.
3. Talent from around the world comes to Indian shores to showcase their skills. India becomes a destination, the aspiration for a whole generation of budding cricketers across the world. It also gives Indian cricketers a chance to rub shoulders with the best in the business. Win-win again!
4. It's opened the doors for other sports leagues. We now we see leagues mushrooming for kabaddi, football, badminton etc. The trail blazed by the IPL gave some comfort to investors in these other leagues. This might just be the birth of a real sporting culture in India.
The IPL leverages the national passion for cricket, and gives many Indians a taste of pan-Indianism in that sense.
5. It's uniting India beyond ethnic lines. A Delhi boy is the star player of the Bangalore team, a Jharkhand lad became the darling of Chennai and a Tamil is playing match-winning innings for Punjab. As India matures into a modern nation, it is vital that our regional and ethnic identities become secondary. The IPL leverages the national passion for cricket, and gives many Indians a taste of pan-Indianism in that sense. The rivalries become geographic and not ethnic, and therefore a lot less combustible.
So let's enjoy this sporting spectacle and allow it to evolve and flourish as it enthralls us with great fielding, spectacular hitting, some sharp bowling and many tight finishes!
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