The Leading Edge

The IPL matters, and it's not only for the money

Is the IPL really cricket's most important tournament?

31 March 2019 - 00:06 By Telford Vice


Yes, the IPL is here. Again. Yes, we don't care. But we don't matter: cricket's VVIPs, Indians in their millions, care a great deal. And they matter most.
Without them there wouldn't be an IPL, and a slew of paid for players wouldn't be as wealthy as they have become since 2008.
According to Sporting Intelligence's 2018 Global Sports Salary Survey, IPL players make - pro-rata and on average - the equivalent of R5.2m from every match. In those terms NFL players earn just more than half that amount per game, and English Premier League footballers not quite a third.
It's always about the money for professionals and the suits, which is why T20 leagues will sooner rather than later usurp international cricket as the game's most important stage. We can argue otherwise if we like, but we can't argue that the IPL isn't the biggest thing to hit cricket since Kerry Packer's World Series in 1977.
And here we are, almost 42 years later, contemplating the utterly mainstream 12th edition of the Cricket World Cup in England not quite two months hence.
Forty years from now some of us will still be around to remember the weird old days when teams who had somehow convinced themselves that they represented entire countries - and whose supporters believed they did - played other teams who shared the delusion. How quaint, if sad.
The notions of 90 overs a day and draws will be curiosities from a time when people didn't know any better, like bare-knuckle fights that weren't over until someone was knocked out.
So Virat Kohli's on-screen tantrum on Thursday marks a pivotal point on cricket's continuum towards T20 totalitarianism.
Kohli's Royal Challengers Bangalore needed seven off the last delivery of the game to beat Mumbai Indians. Shivam Dube dug out Lasith Malinga's low full toss and took a single to long-on, and it was game over: congrats Mumbai.
But Malinga had overstepped and should have been docked a no-ball - which had it been called would have earned an extra run and another delivery, and brought AB de Villiers on strike. Considering De Villiers had scored 70 not out off 41 balls, victory for RCB would have been distinctly possible.
"We are playing at IPL level, not club cricket," Kohli raged at Ian Bishop during the presentation. "So that's just a ridiculous call off the last ball. The umpires should have their eyes open; it was a no-ball by an inch. They should have been more sharp and more careful out there."
That Kohli is 21cm shorter than Bishop and ended his rant by plonking his folded arms onto his chest with an impotent harrumph - and the facts that the shaven-headed Bishop is the most unshakeably chilled figure in cricket and the bristlingly bearded Kohli the most easily heated - only added to the comedy.
It would have been funnier still had Bishop pointed out to Kohli that the IPL is, in fact, a club competition and nothing more.
As if. That would have cost Bishop his commentary gig, the most important part of which is not to take anything less than deadly seriously in a competition conjured from nothing and contested by teams that exist for a few weeks a year.
The offending umpire, Sundaram Ravi, will likely keep his job because there aren't enough suitably experienced officials around to dump him without problems.
But why should Kohli be so riled seeing as he had just banked another R5.2m?
Because the IPL is already cricket's most important stage. Yes, it matters.

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