Full stadiums and busy sofas underline the pull of India's all-singing Twenty20

Shane Warne's Royals won it, and the IPL engrossed a nation and rewrote the rulebook, writes Stephen Brenkley
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The Independent Online

It had a breathtaking start and a stunning finish. If you were of a mind to change cricket forever, there could hardly have been a more substantial pair of bookends.

When Brendon McCullum launched the Indian Premier League in April by scoring 158 from 73 balls for the Kolkata Knight Riders, the world was forced to sit up and take notice. When the Rajasthan Royals – captain and coach, Shane Warne – won the tournament by beating the Chennai Super Kings off the last ball of the final on Sunday, it was left wanting more.

Where all this leaves other forms of cricket, including Tests, is unclear. But it is safe to say that all bets about preserving this or protecting that are off.

The all-singing, all-dancing Twenty20 tournament – based on eight city franchises owned by a mixture of tycoons and film stars and played, paradoxically, by the world's greatest Test performers – did everything it said on the box. True, not all of the 57 matches between the first in Bangalore and the last in Mumbai were thrilling affairs, but the audiences adored it.

It may not have been cricket as it had hitherto been understood but although there were 622 sixes in the competition, at an average of almost 11 a match, the bowlers, whom it was feared would be mere cannon fodder, played a key role. Grounds were all-but-full for the vast majority of matches and, quite as importantly, Indian television audiences went through the ceiling. The country, or at least the metropolitan, middle class part of it, stopped for the IPL.

What compounded the success was the nature of the audiences. People who had never before shown any interest in cricket in a cricket-crazy country were utterly engrossed. This has given the sport new life because there were growing concerns that football was swiftly encroaching.

Additionally, the fear that Indians – traditionally followers of one team and one team only, India – would refuse to be lured by the idea of supporting a city team containing foreign stars proved utterly ill-founded. It was to be quite the reverse and indeed India cricketers representing the opposition team complained of being taunted by home supporters.

"It was not beyond my wildest dreams but let us say it has been everything I dreamed it would be," said Andrew Wildblood, the senior vice president at International Management Group, which produced the tournament for television. It was Wildblood who, together with Lalit Modi, the thrusting vice-president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, invented the IPL. After they announced their plans the tournament almost took on a life of its own.

It may have been forgotten that the launch conference last September was staged to announce the establishment of a Champions League, of which the IPL was merely to be a part. Its champions and runners-up would be part of an eight-team competition involving sides from three other countries.

That may still happen later this year, but it was swept up by the IPL. Two things happened. First, a few days after the first announcement, India won the first World Twenty20 competition. On their return to the country Mumbai came to a standstill as they paraded the trophy.

This triumph prompted the second significant occurrence. Big business and show business got interested, so that when the franchises were sold in January they went for unexpectedly huge sums, between $67m (£34.1m) and $111.9m (£56.9m). By the time the enlisted players were put up for auction the frenzy was unbridled.

"If we don't do stuff to attract people and do stuff because people want us to do it you can forget about cricket," said Wildblood. "Within the context of responsible behaviour, you have to give people what they want."

Wildblood is fairly sanguine about the prospects for Tests and believes there is room for Twenty20 and Tests to survive side by side, simply because they are so different. But the money is clearly with the short form of the game and players, whatever gives them aesthetic delight, will be aware of that.

England are engaged in a project to amend their season to include more Twenty20 and their players are desperate to play in the IPL next year. The country was involved to some extent in the first year of the competition – the winning team was owned by a UK-based media rights group, Emerging Media.

However, it was pleasing to note that the tournament's leading run-scorer, a hitherto unsung Australian, Shaun Marsh, and the top wicket-taker, a novice Pakistani, Sohail Tanvir, were snips at $30,000 (£15,263) and $100,000 (£50,878) respectively. It was also pleasing to note that the most inexpensively-assembled side, at $67m, won. And it was pleasing that they had a captain-coach who eschewed fancy-dan modern techniques in favour of old-fashioned nous and motivation. And that that man was Warne.

Emerging Media's next project may raise eyebrows. It has formed a partnership with Liverpool FC and the All India Football Federation, to develop football in India.

The route to the IPL final

*SEMI-FINALS (both Mumbai)

Rajasthan Royals (192-9) beat Delhi Daredevils (87) by 105 runs

Chennai Super Kings (116-1) beat

Kings XI Punjab (112-8) by 9 wkts

*FINAL ( Mumbai)Rajasthan Royals (164-7) beat Chennai Super Kings (163-5) by 3 wkts

Final positions and top signings

*1 RAJASTHAN ROYALS: Mohammad Kaif, Younis Khan, Graeme Smith, Shane Warne, Shane Watson.

Won 11 of 14 league matches. Sohail Tanvir (22) and Warne (19) top wicket-takers. Watson named Player of Series.

*2 KINGS XI PUNJAB: Mahela Jayawardene, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Yuvraj Singh, Sree Sreesanth.

Shaun Marsh scored most runs in the tournament: 616. Sreesanth took the equal second-most wickets: 19.

*3 CHENNAI SUPER KINGS: Mahendra Dhoni, Matthew Hayden, Muttiah Muralitharan, Makhaya Ntini.

Won fair play award.

*4 DELHI DAREDEVILS: Glenn McGrath, Virender Sehwag,

AB de Villiers, Daniel Vettori.

Gautam Gambhir second-most runs: 534. Sehwag highest strike rate: 184.54.

*5 MUMBAI INDIANS: Sanath Jayasuriya, Shaun Pollock, Harbhajan Singh, Sachin Tendulkar.

*6 KOLKATA K RIDERS: Sourav Ganguly, Ricky Ponting.

*7 ROYALS BANGALORE: Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Rahul Dravid, Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble.

*8 DECCAN CHARGERS: Herschelle Gibbs, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Chaminda Vaas.

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