Another enthralling IPL match had just gotten over. Watching cricket with a zealous crowd - one which applauds and roars enthusiastically when there’s a six, and yells with disheartenment when the umpire declares an out that works against the team they’re all cheering for, with bottles of cold drinks and bowls of popcorn and trays of snacks, arranged gauchely in chairs around the TV screen – is a one of a kind experience.
From the time it first took off on 18 April, 2008; the IPL has come a long way. Cricket may not be your preferred sport, and you may not be a great fan of the league’s format, but one thing is a cent percent clear – you sure as hell cannot ignore it.
Extracts from Wikipedia tell me that the IPL’s brand value is estimated to be about around $4.13 billion, or over Rs 18,000 crores in 2010. On March 21 2010, Pune and Kochi were disclosed as the two new franchises for the fourth edition of the IPL in 2011. Pune was bought by Sahara Adventure Sports for $370 million or around Rs 1702 crores as an addition to the eight teams already participating in the Twenty20 league.
The Mumbai Indians is currently the only team in the league representing the state. With the arrival of the Pune team, Maharashtra will be the only state with two teams participating in the IPL. Will a new team affect the fan following of the Mumbai Indians? Will it divide the cricket fans in the state? What do the IPL lovers have to say?
A Mumbaikar currently studying in Pune, supports the Rajasthan Royals because she is a fan of Warne. She says, “In ODIs, you end up supporting your country even if it doesn’t play well, for obvious reasons. So, the IPL for me is the right to support my very own set of players, and cheer for them, much above the confines of my geographical location in India.” When asked about the Pune team, she said, “The Pune team as such would make no difference to me, unless the players get shuffled and my favourites are on their side.”
Another enthusiast from Beed says, “It’s all about the players who are on a particular team. I am a Maharashtrian, but I am also a Sehwag fan, and so I’m always cheering for the Delhi Daredevils. Once the Pune team gets formulated, if I were to pick between Mumbai Indians and whatever the new team is to be titled, I guess I’d pick Pune, because as a city it sketches more of the Maharashtrian picture. Bombay has an assorted culture; it’s not much of a reflection of the Marathi traditions. And regionalism is bound to crop up, and I assume this is just what the game format was meant to be like. If they wanted to avoid it, they should have named the teams without incorporating names of the various cities in it.” Standing beside him, and listening patiently, in the end his friend says, “All said and done, I’m all for the Pune team. I have a feeling Mumbai Indians will have to lose or probably have to share their fan following with our upcoming team.”
A 26 year old Mumbaikar, greatly appealed by the IPL format, says, “I support the Mumbai Indians for two good reasons – one, because I am from Mumbai, and two, because it’s got Tendulkar as captain. Also, in the current season, the Mumbai Indians have had quite a performance record. In regard to the new team from Pune, I think it all depends on the players that’ll be on it. It’s like how I enjoy watching the Deccan Chargers play, because I am also an Adam Gilchrist fan. Nevertheless, a new team would be directly proportional to more enthusiasm, and an increase in the number of matches. The IPL, according to me, is all about enjoyment, and good cricket that takes a mere 3 hours out of your daily agenda!”
A student sharing campus space with the D.Y.Patil Stadium, told me, “I’m not a great cricket fan and I don’t support any team as such. But the experience of watching cricket being played by renowned names in the sport, in a jam-packed stadium, with another 50,000 ardent fans, reacting dutifully to the high and lows of the game, waiting as the sportsmen sweat it out for a victorious outcome, really gives you the thrill! And not just the stadium, even watching the live coverage on TV with friends gets you going. And that is precisely why I enjoy the IPL. An additional team, be it Poona or Cochin, would just mean a lot more fun, and there’s no more thought to it than that.”
A cricket buff from Kolhapur loves watching the Mumbai Indians battle it out for victory because it’s the only team that Maharashtra currently has. He adds, “An opening with Tendulkar and Jayasuriya batting guarantees an interesting match. Then, there are bowlers like Malinga, with his yorkers; and Harbhajan with his spins. They work amazing as a team.” He also said that after the Pune team joins the league in 2011, he would support both the teams from his state, and if they had matches against each other, then he’d in all probability support them chance by chance!
A second year engineering student, born and bought up in Pune says, “As long as Mumbai has Sachin on their side, all his admirers – which are a countless many – will always anticipate triumph for Mumbai. As for me, no matter how the Pune team performs, my support goes out to them, as the city is very close to my heart. When Mumbai will play against Pune, I am going to be all optimistic for Pune. All the same, I would want Sachin to play at his usual best. Also, the number of matches will now increase to 94, and quite a few of them will be played at the PICC stadium upcoming at Gahunje, so as Pune-ites we’re going to get have a lot of fun watching the live matches close to home! And even if Pune doesn’t portray itself too well in the IPL, I’m still going to support it till the end, because after all, the players get their inspiration from their fans.”
Another localite, adds, “Sachin is currently enough reason for me to support the Mumbai Indians. Also it is the only team from my region. But once Pune joins the league next year, I’m going to absolutely stop supporting every other team, I’m all for Pune, no matter what!”
From what I gather, everybody is more than just happy to hear of a new team. And Sachin Tendulkar leading the Mumbai Indians is an infallible combination. Treating it as a sport, it brings out newer talent and gives more sportmen the opportunity to showcase their talent in the most loved game in the country. It presents them with an international platform. And as dedicated fans of a particular team, people say they will remain so, unless their favourites move on to another team.
From die hard cricket fans, to fans of certain cricketers to fanatical regional fans, the Indian Premier League has managed to attract a varied audience, which more than just explains its TRPs. All of this, and much more has made the IPL the second highest paid league in the world, with an annual average salary of 2.5 million pounds, right after the American National Basketball Association, NBA at 2.62 million.
Sports Minister MS Gill may accuse the Board of Control for Cricket in India – the BCCI of changing the rules of the game to allow the IPL to run a commercial venture, but the IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi is out to prove to everybody that the league is yet to reach its true potential, and that the high bids for the two new teams being more than three times the top bid three years ago, proves the same. A friend of mine wonders where all the money flies in from – and why the sponsors would invest so much in a mere game of cricket. Whatever it is, it's big money we’re talking about, and can’t blame her, the mathematics in millions and billions can be a little messy. After all Sony Entertainment Channel didn’t pay a whopping Rs 8700 crores for 10 years for broadcasting rights for nothing!
(The author is a student of Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Medical college, Pune)
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