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IPL logoLiving in India for almost a year now, I’ve gotten used to cricket. How could I not? It’s positively everywhere. There’s cricket on TV all day, every day. There are matches in vast arenas and impromptu affairs on the streets and fields in every part of the country. I saw kids playing games in the deserts of Rajasthan and on the banks of the holy river Ganges. I even saw a group of boys in the Himalayan town of Gangtok wack the ball around and that’s dedication for you with streets steep enough to make San Francisco’s look tame.

But in spite of all the cricket there was something missing. You got it. More cricket!

A few weeks ago the Indian Premier League (IPL) launched to much fanfare. They took a page out of the ‘fast guide to ruining your sports by corporate money’-book and decided to go straight to the sell-out. (On the upside, if you ever complained that your own favorite sport is becoming too commercial, you can always catch the IPL to gain some perspective.)

Some examples to prove my point:

  • The teams have funky sounding American names. ‘Chennai Super Kings’ or ‘Kolkata Knight Riders’. The latter are symbolised by flaming leg-guards and helmets in a faux-medieaval style. It’s cute.
  • Player interviews take place during the game with the help of wireless microphones. It’s quite ingenious, they’ll be asking a fielder one of those inane sporting questions like – How are the conditions out there? – when suddenly a ball whips by and the poor guy tries to chase it down the field. Gee, I wonder why he missed the catch !
  • In spite of all the money at stake they couldn’t convince everyone that May was a good time for this whole IPL thing, which means that half the stars will leave the competition in a week or so since they have to go back home and play for Australia. Kinda sad actually…

Deccan Chargers Live in HyderabadTo be fair the games are pretty enjoyable. It’s Twenty20 after all, the high-scoring, shortest version of the game and it wraps up in a mere 3 hours.

The real killer though is in the broadcasting. I’ve seen quite a bit of commercials in my day – American Idol, anyone? – but the IPL tops it all. I did a quick count. In 5 minutes of watching I saw 3 full length tv ads, 2 half-screen ads that push the actual game aside and come with music and sound effects, and 2 roll-over banners that unfold across the center of the sceen anytime someone hits a big score; they make noise too. On top of that there’s a little 3-d cube ad that flips around every minute or so. In all about 10 ads per 5 minutes, meaning 120 ads per hour or 360 for a full match. And I’m not counting the on-field advertising of course.

Overkill? You might say so. I’ve resorted to switching the sound off for the entire game. I couldn’t be bothered flipping channels anymore and the sound really is the most annoying. I mean after hearing those two brats fighting about the best flavor for their fruit juice (Apple or Orange ??) a few hundred times, you really have to draw the line. By the way, has no one in this league heard of frequency capping?

Anyways, I should wrap this up. There’s a match on. Delhi Daredevils (no sniggering please) vs the Bangalore Royal Challengers. I’m a Deccan Chargers man myself, only managed to win one game so far. Maybe I should buy a shirt before I leave India, hmm.

Cricket on the banks of the Ganges, Varanasi

Playing on the banks of the Ganges – Varanasi

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