How India forgot all about the IPL

The Twenty20 tournament reaches its climax tomorrow but its move to South Africa has turned off the fans back home. Richard Edmondson on how the hype dissolved in Delhi

Bishen Bedi echoed the thoughts of many of his countrymen when appearing on a New Delhi TV debate show recently. Should the second series of the Indian Premier League go ahead, he was asked, if the tournament's collision in dates with the nation's general election meant security would be spread rather thinly?

"No, there should be a cancellation," the great Bishen, former Test captain, replied. "We should cancel the elections."

Cue thunderous applause around the studio and a nudge and a wink from Bedi. I know. My ribs know. I was sitting next to him on the panel.

Bishen, the audience and a majority of the Indian nation did not get their wish, however. Just days later, it was announced the IPL of 2009 would be switched to South Africa, where the six-week slogfest comes to a close this weekend. The cricket-watching masses of India never quite recovered. Your party is never as much fun if it's being hosted in someone else's house.

And this has been the fundamental problem of IPL II, which culminates in Johannesburg tomorrow. It has not been held in the land in which it was created and all the excitement in the world – like that created yesterday by the Deccan Chargers' Adam Gilchrist – cannot change that.

The IPL has not been what it was in its first heady, raucous incarnation. The players themselves recognise the fact. "It wouldn't do justice to those roaring crowds in India if I don't put it on record that they're being missed," VVS Laxman, of India and the Deccan Chargers, said. "The noise, the crowd, they cannot be compared to any other place in the world."

Muttiah Muralitharan, of Chennai Super Kings, added: "There is no point pretending that the buzz is the same as in the first IPL. The crowds have been decent so far, the spectators have created a good atmosphere. But it is different. The games lack the passion, intensity and noise created by Indian crowds."

Viewing figures from Sony Max on the Tata Sky platform showed that while domestic Indian viewers were tuning into the IPL, they were just as quickly tuning out. Cricket, the secular religion of the country, has been spurned compared with last year.

One agency – aMap – reported early ratings were 16 per cent lower than the equivalent period 12 months ago. The figures are based on the number of viewers and the time they spend watching. "Even though larger numbers of viewers watched the first two matches, curiosity did not sustain as much as last year," Amit Verma, aMap's chief executive, said.

The latest figures show that from the start, and consistently, viewing figures have underperformed the original version. That has coincided with a near 50 per cent drop in sponsorship revenue from last year's peak, from television fees right down to back-of-shirt advertising.

It seems more has been less. The new IPL "strategic break" after 10 overs has been perceived as a blatant advertising hole in proceedings. But there have been vestiges of IPL I in its successor in South Africa.

The film star Shahrukh Khan, possibly the most famous man in his nation to be a nobody everywhere else, has cheered on the team he part-owns, Kolkata Knight Riders. Shilpa Shetty (left), perhaps the most famous woman in the world to be a nobody in her own nation, has been doing the same for Rajasthan Royals, the team she part-owns.

There had been hopes the games at Kingsmead in Durban would produce the heaving and vocal crowds which were such a compelling backcloth to IPL I. Almost a million Indians live in South Africa, the largest group outside India itself and Pakistan. Most of them are in Durban. But there was no sweetness in the numbers there either.

The IPL has not even been the talk of the town in the capital, Delhi. "There is a huge difference this year," Neville Lazarus, a Delhi television producer and cricket aficionado, said. "Last year it was all over the place: on billboards, television channels and in the newspapers. It was in your face every day. This year you could be forgiven for imagining it's not taking place at all."

Lazarus puts part of the problem down to empty seats in the stadiums. "You only get that sense of passion and excitement when the ground is almost flowing over," he said.

"In the matches in South Africa you can actually see empty seating. Empty seating behind Sachin Tendulkar of all people? In India, Sachin never bats in front of empty seats. It's not as if people have to sit there all day either. The whole thing's over in three hours. It might have been better if it had been held in England with the great Indian diaspora they have over there."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future