Come April, and movie makers immediately pick up their feet and start looking for cover. These days there is a new trend in the entertainment industry. This industry, which usually used to be uniform throughout the year, has started to see seasonal trends. No movie maker ever schedules the cricket release of his movie in the months of April and May. Ad makers all over the world see this season as the deciding period of their company’s success. Marketers all over the world come up with exciting themes for these two months. The entire country seems to get afflicted by a deadly virus that takes over their minds and hearts – The IPL Cricket League. The Indian Premier League is currently among the most awaited events of the year. It is viewed by over a billion people worldwide, 70% of which is estimated to be from India and Pakistan alone. It is a treat for all cricket lovers; a festival of all sorts for marketers, and big, big business for the BCCI.
It all started when T20 cricket started getting popular. Originally started by the English and Welsh cricketing boards as an attempt to bring back crowds to stadiums and to woo back advertisers, this new form of cricket became a new rage. Kapil Dev, in the year 2007 developed the Indian Cricket League that combined the T20 format of cricket with the European idea of leagues or teams of a mixed nature, with players from different countries mixed together. The idea was bound to be a huge success, but Kapil Dev’s dreams were destroyed by the BCCI. They branded the ICL as a rogue organisation, and refused to give it any recognition. Politics too however could not defeat this fabulous idea, which was met by a huge response from viewers all over the world. The BCCI then launched its own version of league matches in the T20 format, and branded it the Indian Premier League or the IPL. IPL was then marketed fabulously by its then chairman, Mr Lalit Modi. It was the first sporting event that was carried over on to YouTube, which took its reach to viewers all over the world. It was launched in the year 2008, with great fanfare.
IPL brings to mind many things. Cricket lovers see it as the true image of what T20 cricket should be like. These matches were played by 8 teams, each named after Indian cities. The biggest catch of the series that made it unique among all other cricketing events is that IPL Cricket players had to be “purchased” through an auction by the owners of the teams. The teams are owned by businessmen and actors – anyone who can afford to pay the players, sponsor them and manage them. They own the exclusive rights to their team’s sponsorships, and get some share of the sponsorships for the matches played by their teams.
IPL Cricket is one of the best possible things that could have happened to T20 cricket. It opened the world to several new ideas for cricket. It created a sense of unity and trust among international players, who never played together before. It made audiences all over the world cheer for cities they had never visited, and promoted Brand India. IPL Cricket also unified people across the nation. Even the people who were diehard fans of a particular community learned the joys of cheering for foreign players, even if they were from Pakistan. They cheered themselves hoarse and prayed fervently for players who did not belong to their community. People now seem to have forgotten that MS Dhoni is originally from Bihar – most think he is a Tamilian.
But where there is big money, there is politics and greed. The BCCI’s lack of ethics against the ICL and their shameless copycat ways seem to have backfired against their own selves. Every year, the IPL brings about a new controversy. The 2nd season of IPL was amidst heavy protests over the costumes of cheerleaders. IPL 3 saw the exit of Lalit Modi, who got embroiled in bitter controversies over the finances of the event. And now IPL 4 seems to be preceded by the continuing controversies over chairmanship, ownership, and sponsorships. Cheerleaders are being attacked again for their costumes and code of conduct. But in spite of all these controversies, IPL 2011 continues to be one of the most eagerly awaited sporting events in the year 2011.