From a leisurely pace to instant action, cricket has significantly evolved. More so, the development in recent times has been mindboggling, to say the least. The key agent to this happening is the T20 version of the game that has simply revolutionised cricket to a level that the sport has fans all over the globe and not just in the cricket-playing nations. Taking advantage of this was India, in a way. When India won the 2007 inaugural edition of the World Cup T20 championship in South Africa, that set the cricket fanatics in India thinking and out came the prized product, the Indian Premier League, which has simply taken the excitement level in sports to a new high even as it raised the value of sportspersons, let alone a cricketer to Himalayan heights! Viewership for IPL, as also earnings have risen such high that some estimates say it has already left NBA and the English Premier League behind. The brand value of IPL in 2022 is over Rs 90,000 crore. All for the good, as they say, for cricket’s riches have grown and continue to grow phenomenally, and a successful cricketer’s life too gets settled not just well but in a fascinating way. It’s all happening then in cricket!
India’s triumph over Pakistan in 2007 in the final of the world cup then was the game changer. In a year’s time, the IPL was put in place, and the rest, as they say, has been history. 15 editions have gone by, and as every cricket lover waits for the 16th edition to roll out -- in a few days from now-- it is these memories that come back afresh. Old timers would wonder what all this fuss is about cricket. But gone are the days when devotees of the sport would sit back and watch a player take hours, even days, to reach a milestone or a bowler with his skills tying up one end bowling with nagging length and line. Remember that great Indian spinner ‘Bapu’ Nadkarni, known for his economical bowling? He had the reputation of once bowling close to 22 successive overs without conceding a run in a Test match against England in 1964! Not that anyone would dislike watching such a feat again, thanks to T20, a cricket viewer now cannot wait for runs to come, and in this version, they could come in an explosion of 4s and 6s! That is a cricketing mantra to excitement in the modern day.
That aside, cricket is increasingly becoming a young man’s game where what comes to the fore are the factors of fitness, speed and agility. One may also add the element of innovative thinking to this. The prime example here is none other than that popular player Suryakumar Yadav who is known to come up with 360-degree shots! Such is his dramatics at the crease that no fielder is sure where this man’s next shot would go. ‘SKY’ is the short form of his name, and indeed sky is what he looks to direct his next muscle-backed pull or scoop. That is the kind of attitude that defines a modern-day cricketer. ‘Play with caution’ used to be the advice of Coaches at one time, but that hardly has relevance now where bravado surpasses everything else. In the process, then just a thin line separates success and failure. The road to fame and prosperity for a budding cricketer can be just a few matches away. And that is what the cricketing world is most excited about. Haven’t we seen the rise of Hardik Pandya and J Bumrah, who are both household names and winning performers in their own right?
Then again, IPL is also much about getting the best talents in the world (except Pakistan) to perform in one arena. Imagine this setting, and that immediately makes one understand the value of this League. Where earlier everything depended on bilateral series, be it Tests or one-dayers for the public to see world-class talents but that too only specific countries, the IPL provides a better and more welcome alternative. It also helps budding Indian cricketers mingle with them, improve their outlooks, and perhaps make them versatile. Not just that, veterans like Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Mahela Jayawardene and the like are there as team mentors to pass on valuable tips, so essential in the path to progress. All this, it must be said, has had a salutary effect on Indian cricket as a whole since the country is now right there at the top both in Tests and shorter versions of the sport.
So what will it be this time? Action, plenty more action for sure. New heroes could emerge, and hopefully some bright Indian talents too. Then again, like during the pre-Corona times, IPL will traverse around the country, to 12 cities this time as the ten teams _Last time winners Gujarat Titans, Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Lucknow Super Giants, Delhi Capitals, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Punjab Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders_ battle it out over 74 matches up to May 28 when a new champion will emerge. There is so much to look forward to. Indeed, IPL has been and will continue to be an inspiration for Indian cricket for some time to come.