10 years on ….

02/19/2017

I can feel a buzz in my head – and I haven’t had a drink in three years. It’s literally minutes before the auction for the IPL and I guess it takes a special kind of a nut to be excited by an auction – something that some derogatorily call a place where cricketers are treated like cattle.

I still remember the first edition vividly. I was laid low by a spinal injury that limited my movement. I had one of those cervical collars that make your neck stand out.  A sure fire way to catch attention but you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. I remember I would sleep in a sitting position for 2 weeks – it was just too painful to lie down.  The makeshift office at my home was to be my world for those few painful days. Luckily there was cricket.

But wait – this seemed a different kind of cricket. Cheerleaders, Bollywood stars, celebrity team owners and “Maximums” – was I dreaming? Delusional with all the pain killers? It was like when multiple dreams come together and you wake up trying to figure out what it all meant.

Propped up on my chair with feet on the table wasn’t the best way to watch but the alternative was too painful.  In that situation even the endless strategic timeouts did not seem jarring. I timed those with timing of the painkillers.  Kids, don’t try this at home. Leave it to the experts. But take it from me that painkillers and T20 make a heady combination.

I was wondering how this would all turn out. But out came McCullum and after that all was right with the T20 world. This was a mix that couldn’t and wouldn’t go wrong. And we were off on a whirlwind ride.

I always thought that a typical baseball season in the US was interminable with 167 matches in the league stages. IPL schedules seemed intent on giving the MLB a run for their money with about half of the matches in a third of the time. The fact that it still remained a viable product proves that this was an idea whose time had come.

With the nature of blink and miss T20 games its hard to think of many matches as being truly memorable. There are still moments and vignettes. Hitherto unknown players coming to the fore and becoming headline news has become a healthy habit with this tournament. Swapnil Asnodkar, Paul Valthaty, Manpreet Gony to name just a few – were players who had their five minutes of fame at the IPL stage. It was great while it lasted but unfortunately it could be measured in a T20 minute.  But these guys dared to be brave on the biggest stage and for that they deserve our adulation. Great going boys – nobody would be happier if you could prove there is some spark left in the seemingly dying embers.

In the past few months there have been quite a few words written about big data and how that could be used in T20 format. A Moneyball type analysis with terabytes of data available on performances in T20 leagues the world over. That might be an interesting exercise to see if one could predict what the franchise owners think based on number crunching possible ahead of the auction.  Would definitely be an interesting thought experiment to come up with hypothesis and watch those either being validated or blown to bits.

Past 10 years have made household names of some of the participating players. They also have seen teams go from household names to oblivion. Allegations of corruption have surfaced, teams have been forced out of the league, new teams have come in. What has not changed is the excitement around it and almost undivided attention it commands across the cricketing world. . IPL for all of its flaws has not lost its relevance and that it saying a lot – since the flaws have been significant.

Cricket has been a part of my life – all important events have a cricketing memory to go along with it. While it’s true IPL will always bring back memories of physical pain I had endured it’s also true that I keep coming back to it every year for the sheer pleasure of performances and personalities.

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