The game of cricket has seen many formats. It starts with club cricket which is played over weekends and even here it could simply be a game with no restrictions on the number of overs, or one with limited-overs per side. This then extends to the three-day game, where again there are no restrictions as far as the number of overs to be bowled. Then comes Test cricket — played between countries, this being a five-day game and quite simply the best and toughest one in the game. Players are remembered more for how they perform in this format than in other formats which are more suited for entertainment and quick results as the younger generation wants. There was the single wicket competition where one player played against another over two or three overs. The double-wicket was an extension of that and then came the six-a-side, then eight-a-side and so on.

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The limited-overs game also went from 60 overs World Cup to the 50 overs one and then a 20 overs format and now there’s even the 10 overs-a-side format in the game. There is no doubt that if Test match cricket is for the connoisseurs of the game, the T20 format is for sheer entertainment of the masses. This format has taken the cricketing world by storm and with the unprecedented success of the Indian Premier League, every other country wants to have a T20 league of its own.

The success of the Indian Premier League has brought forth another game and that is to blame the IPL for everything that supposedly does not go according to plan. The latest blame game comes after England pulled out of a short four-day tour of Pakistan. The ECB’s reasoning of player concerns and bubble fatigue didn’t go down well with those perennially targeting the IPL and the question being asked is” if the players are worried about bubble fatigue then how come they don’t mind the bubble created for the IPL? Firstly the BCCI, which runs the IPL, is quite clear that priority is playing for a country and so any player will be allowed to leave his franchise if he has national duties. In fact, not just playing for the country but even if it is a preparatory camp before an international assignment the players are released. Contrast this with the English Premier League football where Brazilian players were not released to play for their country. Of course nobody, leave aside England but elsewhere, too, made much noise about it.

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Secondly, the BCCI did not ask the England players not to go to Pakistan. It may be a favoured thought process in Pakistan that India tried to sabotage the New Zealand and England tours. But, quite simply, if the New Zealand and English players were not there in the IPL then nothing, absolutely nothing, would have changed. The IPL today is built on the strength of the Indian players’ popularity and skill levels and hardly dependent on overseas players. Yes, some world class players do add sheen to the IPL, but just about every year some star overseas players miss out due to injury or fatigue; but the IPL just shrugs its shoulders and moves on. So let’s get this clear, the IPL does not need overseas players as much as overseas players need IPL. The IPL provides financial security like no other league does and every sportsperson with half a brain knows that his active career is short and so he has to make enough money that will help him through the retirement from playing years.

And, because the administrators of other countries are aware that rather than have disgruntled players it is better to have players who will not cause trouble, the IPL gets its slot so that the players can participate in it. Not to forget the not so small matter of the 10% of every foreign player’s fee goes to the country’s Cricket Board where he comes from. So, if an English player goes for a million dollars, then 10% goes to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). So, more the players from a country in the IPL more benefit to that country — with 10% of every player’s fee. Does English County cricket and its new baby The Hundred or for that matter Australia’s Big Bash or the West Indian Caribbean Premier League give even one dollar to the Boards of the players from other countries? Today if there is no union like uprising in other countries’ cricket, it is thanks to the IPL.

So stop pointing fingers at the IPL and instead thank it for providing employment not just to the players but also to the coaches and support staff most of whom are from overseas and not Indian. The IPL has saved the game world over, by giving it the financial muscle that was lacking earlier. So, celebrate it and pray that it creates more jobs and employment in a cricketing world that could do with it.

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