The Real Story of the IPL

By
Updated: May 20, 2013
DLF-IPL-6

DISPELLING THE MYTHS

As the whispers grew louder following David Warner’s twitter frenzy on Saturday morning, a friend of mine involved in this year’s Indian Premier League tournament sent me a text. It was a private message. But ultimately it conveyed what is a commonly held opinion among all those within its ranks. “Australia is miscommunicating a really good tournament.” I agree. It is. Off-field drama magnifies that. It only pokes at the wound. Sad really. Because without doubt, the IPL is the best domestic cricket tournament in the world. Yes there are large sums of money involved. But that’s what gives it credibility. It attracts the stars. The cricket is amazing.

Let’s be clear. David Warner made a mistake. For a young man elevated to his position of public status, he was wrong. The baggy green demands high standards. He knows it. He’s already regretting it. But I’m not here to assassinate Warner’s character traits. Thousands of others who have had far less to do with him than me have done plenty of that over the past two days. Most of it lacks substance.

But the very fact his twitter tirade still sits on his public timeline more than 40 hours after he deposited two of Australia’s most prominent cricket scribes into the Great Southern Stand speaks volumes about the intent of his initial rant. Deleting it would serve little purpose except to remove the evidence from the scene. Forensics didn’t even bother dusting for prints. It’s out there already. Re-tweeted. Screenshot globally. Run ad nauseam on every news channel in nations within the ICC’s jurisdiction. The damage is done. Two key promoters and lovers of our game, gentlemen of the media industry, brilliant at their job, copped a brutal lashing. An unwarranted attack that got out of hand as quickly as one of Warner’s lightning innings. In career terms this was every bit as destructive. Schoolyard trash talk can do that. It was a Mexican standoff with no winners, fueled by distance and most notably, frustration.

Which begs the question. How did it all start? Has anyone bothered to consider the spark that ignited this raging inferno? Sure, it ended with significant collateral damage and that’s all everyone has focused on. But why was the initial fuse lit? Warner was frustrated his image had been used next to a story about corruption in the game. But there’s more to it than that. Warner, like many, myself included, has had enough of the ruthless shredding of the IPL brand here in Australia. Problem is, in a week that saw three Rajasthan players charged by police on suspicion of spot fixing, Warner picked a bad time to make his point. The IPL has few sympathetic ears right now. His outburst too hasn’t helped. But IPL critics are hardly an overnight collective. This has been building since its inception. Before I continue on, let me declare my hand. I’ve worked for the IPL. Last year I was the tournament media manager. Two and a half months in the sub-continent plane hopping between grounds and hotels. So, unlike many others who use the IPL as nothing more than a punch line, I’m approaching this with a bit of inside knowledge on exactly what goes on aboard cricket’s carousel of fun.

I wasn’t alone. There are numerous Australians involved in the tournament each year. Not just players either. Coaches. Analysts. Physiotherapists. Psychologists. Medical staff. Administration types. Last year I bumped into a bloke from Queensland who works in a hospital ultrasound unit. His specialty is pregnant women. Two franchises had hired him pre-tournament to identify potential injury hotspots, restrict the damage and prevent an inevitable stint on the sidelines. Good people doing great work. Furthering their careers and broadening their skills in a tournament that hasn’t attracted a broadcaster here in Australia for the past three seasons. So all most hear of the IPL is a tirade of negative opinion from distant scribes who believe all the urban myths and elaborate yarns that drift down under. Chinese whispers is a dangerous game. Stories of IPL goings-on far outstrip fishing tales of the one that got away.

After hours, yes, it can be a carnival of laughs. There’s no disputing that. Sponsors gravitate towards the players. Although, there is an expectation that it is very much a two-way street. There are commitments to meet. Players are contractually obligated to attend most of the functions, although few do it kicking and screaming. Drinks are provided. Rarely bought. Being seen engaging with a cricketer in India is significant for social status. One night in Delhi a few years ago I was shooting a documentary for an Australian television station. We were in a crowded room and a man asked me if my cameraman could point the lens at him. I asked what for. He pleaded we just do it and said my crew didn’t even need to turn the camera on. “Just point it at me,” he said. “Everyone will think I’m really important.” Sadly, that’s a true story.

Sponsors throw entertainment and conversation at the players. Grant them VIP treatment. And in a country where cricket is the hottest ticket in the land, that is essential. Why? Because for a cricketer, India can be incredibly claustrophobic. Most handle it brilliantly. Brett Lee is a master of it. Think of the biggest rock star on the planet. Now multiply the fan frenzy several times over to get an appreciation of the hype he generates. Warner too, is one of the better ones at embracing the fan base he’s built in India. At many events, and to be fair, there aren’t that many of them, fans are afforded rare access to the players. It’s mostly arms length stuff. They’re in one half of the room. The players and officials cordoned off in another. For many, a line of sight to the stars is worth the price of admission alone. What they’re seeing is cricketers talking to cricketers. Australians. New Zealanders. South Africans. West Indians. Overseas recruits from both teams, meeting, greeting, catching up, having a laugh. Mingling with their Indian teammates and opposition. International cricket is better for it. Mateship has escalated. When relations between India and Australia fractured seemingly beyond repair a few years back, the IPL was the bridge that mended it. It is not the smoldering cesspit it’s made out to be.

What can’t be strictly filtered are the approaches made to players by bookmakers. I’ve never seen such activity but clearly it goes on. How the IPL bears the brunt of blame for this baffles me. What I do know is there is strict vigilance by tournament management to work with the ICC’s anti-corruption unit. Players and officials undergo a briefing seminar to warn of the dangers and indeed the repercussions. Around the ground and the dressing rooms, it’s strict and heavily policed. No phones. Mobile devices. Radios. Last year I got issued with a “please explain” for allowing a team official to do an interview with the commentary team while sitting in the team dugout. While it stands accused of not doing enough to stamp out offenders, numbers may be low but visual presence is most certainly high. It remains on message and insists its knowledge database is far more thorough than the players assume.

On the field, I have witnessed first-hand some of the most intense battles you’d hope to see in sport. I’ve written up the code of conduct breach notices to prove it! It makes possible the fantasy of world cricket that international rules don’t allow for. Imagine if Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting could bat together. What if Dale Steyn was working over Jacques Kallis? With the IPL, it’s possible. I’ve sat in on team meetings. I’ve seen the planning. I’ve heard the strategy. I’ve braved the sheer devastation of a beaten dressing room to ask for players to come back onto the field for a post-match presentation. The IPL means plenty, don’t worry about that. Anyone who suggests otherwise is unqualified to do so.

There’s no doubt the IPL’s image is poor here in Australia. It happens while most of us are sleeping and sadly, few are prepared to open their eyes to see what it truly offers beneath the unjustified stereotype. Accurate communication may help build a far more reputable image for this global brand.

12 Comments

  1. NT

    20/05/2013 at 3:23 pm

    Paul , I wanted to stop reading after you stated that you indeed worked for the IPL. So then I thinks , why would this guy write an article on the rampant corruption that has taken place from season 1 ? And then I see that you dedicated one sentence on the 3 ARRESTED players. You ain’t gonna bite the hand that feeds you. Your article is exactly the reason the IPL stinks. Your a sicophant for all things Indian cause you want a job in the future and if you told the truth you would be black banned by the BCCI. It is destroying the very fabric of the game , not that you have noticed . Now Dave Warner is a product of 20/20. He is not a test cricketer by a long shot and his rants are born of the same reason you choose to write this article. He wants to be paid millions and do absolutely nothing for it. The only place this can happen for the likes of Warner, Maxwell , Tait etc is in India. Your story will be treated as it should be , a hack writing crap that is just plain wrong and it is no wonder that you find yourself stuck somewhere on the web in amungst stories about dancing jelly fish and talking cats . Nil credibility from a wannabe journo.

    • Paul Cochrane

      20/05/2013 at 7:29 pm

      Thanks for reading NT. The IPL certainly creates good banter. I stand by the content of this article. The beauty of free speech is you are entitled to have a different opinion and clearly you’ve pushed off the sight screen with yours. I’m also quite comfortable with my own credibility as a journalist. Cheers

      • NT

        21/05/2013 at 8:00 pm

        Paul , you are spot on with the free speech and opinion thing and after reading my earlier post over again , I think I might of been a bit harsh with the reference to you being a hack. Hacks don’t take the time to reply to post’s that attack that persons credibility. Good on ya mate . Loved the sight screen reference !

    • Nick L

      20/05/2013 at 8:03 pm

      Settle down old mate!

  2. Farrukh

    20/05/2013 at 4:39 pm

    Really nice article….. IPL image is poor not even in Australia….it has bad image in many cricketing nation as well….as i am from Pakistan and i personally felt that IPL is not a professional league as compere to Australia and England.IPL is a real base of Corruption……IPL management , BCI, team player every one involved in Match Fixing and spot fixing….every one got their share and ICC got too…. This is something ICC endorsed IPL body as a competitor of Cricket and very soon only Cricket will play as a entertainment and only play in INDIA

    • Paul Cochrane

      20/05/2013 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks for reading Farrukh. Great to know Athletes Talk is reaching the wonderful people of Pakistan!

  3. AlexW

    20/05/2013 at 8:04 pm

    Well written Paul!

  4. Alta

    20/05/2013 at 8:10 pm

    Wow, it’s so great to see an article that is NOT panning the IPL. And that from Australia???

    Here in South Africa we are lucky in the fact that Supersport has been broadcasting every match, from start to finish.
    Is the cricket as good as a grueling test between the Proteas and Australia? Of course not! But it’s a great stepping stone for young players like David Miller, Quentin de Kock, etc to play against amazing ambassadors of the game such as Gilly, Sachin, Ponting, and fellow countrymen like Kallis and de Villiers.

    I do realize that where money is a factor, corruption will be just around the corner – in South Africa it’s a proven fact. But does corruption mean that all mining companies should close, or that we should follow Marshal Law? Hell no! Same thing with the IPL – Eradicate the bad seeds, and enjoy the spectacle that the players present for us.

    The publicity gained in India, as well as the money these guys receive from the BCCI and their respective teams can all be used to further their careers. Maybe they’ll soon find their ways to England for the County scene there, or if we’re really lucky, the publicity will help promote our own domestic sides. If you follow the players’ twitter feeds and interviews it’s clear that for most of the young guns it’s an experience they’ll never forget, and the older, more mature guys are there purely for the great fun that the spectacle that is IPL, provides for them!

    • Paul Cochrane

      20/05/2013 at 9:36 pm

      You make some great points Alta! There are several examples of players being much better from the IPL experience – especially Indian cricketers – and ultimately that is the aim of the BCCI

  5. rohit

    20/05/2013 at 9:22 pm

    Corrupation is part of every sphere of life,unfortunately.Sports is no different.As far as ipl goes it provides employment to so many people,gives cricketer financial security.Infact sports is also a business and if you don’t generate profits then say bye bye to it.Just look at the condition of other sports in india who suffer immensely due to lack of finance.As far as warner saga is concerned no one should be allowed to poke his in his private cricketing decisions.He is not ignoring australian cricket.Everyone is free to work and earn anywhere they want.P.s. many pizza suppliers ,burger flippers and coal miners in australia are too jealous of warner and maxwell.

  6. Prashanth

    21/05/2013 at 2:44 am

    A wonderful article and I’d like to point a few things of my own. IPL is massive, makes even domestic cricketers, millionaires over a course of two or three editions, some of the world’s most prominent players mingle with domestic ones and the standard of cricket is surely high, compared to the DOMESTIC matches of other countries. It would be rather immature to compare IPL with international fixtures, as foolish as comparing EPL to Football WC. But some people still say that a Ind V Pak or a AUS vs ENG is still better than IPL. The fact that people are comparing IPL with international cricket is a big win and honor for IPL.
    Corruption exists in IPL, but corruption also exists in the international cricket. After the chaos almost a decade back with SA and Indian players and the recent debacle with Pak players in England, did people actually say International cricket is not fair and its not worth seeing again? Then why do it for IPL? Good people and bad people exist in all parts of the world and in all formats of sports. Some have been identified, some have not. More will be figured out soon.
    Now saying that IPL is not serious cricket is rather stupid. They say so because there are cheerleaders, Bollywood stars being interviewed, too many dancers, gaudy opening ceremony and so on? For starters let International audiences know one very important thing. IPL is not aimed just for the purists, but mainly for people who haven’t been exposed to cricket that much. Many Indian women and older men (who had stopped watching cricket after their heroes Sunny Gavaskar, Pataudi and the likes had retired) have once again been lured towards the sport. They came to see what antics Shah Rukh Khan was going to do, what dress or jewel Preity Zinta was going to wear, which billionaire businessmen was going to turn up and so on. In between these, they also noticed the cricket, saw the excitement and joined in to watch. Thereby cricket followers in India have tripled since the inception of IPL, mainly the women, children and elderly folks. Everyone is talking about team rosters, cricketing rules, player origin and so on. Now that is good for International cricket as well, as the followers of the sport have gone up in greater numbers.
    Do people actually question the quality of the game played? Well people who say IPL does not provide good quality cricket haven’t yet seen enough IPL. Some of the catches that have been taken, some of sixes that have been hit, some of the chases that have been done, they’ve surely even beaten some of the International matches. Sure all leagues have good and bad players. We’ve seen sloppy cricket even in international level and there have been a few sloppy moments in IPL as well, but it is unfair to question the overall quality of the league.
    Some people just bash IPL because they feel jealous that players are earning more here in two months than what they would earn for their country in a year, some critics from Aus and Eng in particular write absolute nonsense, just to undermine the popularity of IPL, jealous that their own boards haven’t been this successful and they no longer are the centres of the cricketing world.
    All I ask for people is to ignore the comments of the people and watch IPL themselves and then decide if its good or bad. Opinions will vary, but let it vary of their own judgement…IPL hasn’t ruined cricket in any manner, but has only increased the popularity of the game and also sped up the pure format of cricket, the TEST match, thereby increasing the probability of results.

    • Paul Cochrane

      21/05/2013 at 11:28 am

      A very considered reply Prashanth … you make some excellent points!

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