IPL 2018 off to a bright start showing no signs of slowing down

Report Gokulan in Cricket

What is new about Indian Premier League (IPL) season 11 featuring sher vs sher, best vs best matches? Is IPL still popular,the number one entertainment programme on television?

Going by ‘initial trends’ (to use an election phrase)it is certain that IPL enjoys strong support. Tickets are selling, people are watching,spectators are straining to get into tv camera range and stadiums have ( to use a marketing phrase) ‘bums on seats’ !

This was expected, say wise men who follow such things, because last few months the Indian cricket team was overseas.Cricket isn’t hit by spectator fatigue,and there is more demand than supply in the market.The IPL is summer’s blockbuster release eagerly awaited by loyal fans but non believers were concerned about its continued appeal.They thought the product needed a fresh coat of paint and an upgrade.

IPL’s bright start has brushed aside these fears and, like a seasoned batsman, the tournament is hitting the gaps and scoring big at the box office .There is something exciting about T 20 cricket and every IPL game has new twists and new drama.The cracking opening match threw up Mayank Markande,one more mystery leggie.Next day R Ashwin bowled leg breaks like Anil Kumble.And when KL Rahul smashed the fastest ever 14 ball 50 some confused King’s followers thought it was mentor Virender Sehwag under the red helmet.

Actually, not since its birth, has IPL begun with as much optimism and positivity as this year.Never has the IPL ,and it’s franchise teams ,been in better financial health .The game changed when Star put a record 16000 crores on the table.This mega deal changed the colour of all balance sheets from red to green ( like traffic lights at a busy intersection) and brought broad smiles to franchise execs in board rooms .Gloom of economic slowdown over ten seasons forgotten-- pay day had arrived .

The player auction also broke new ground.Teams splurged 700 crores to build their squads , players got rich ,many beyond expectation such as Jaydev Unadkat ( 11.5 crores) and under-19 unknown Kamlesh Nagarkotti (3.2 crores).

A bigger ‘all is well’ reason was the gharwaapsi of CSK and the Royals ,two of IPL’s most loved

teams.CSK has the best record among all eight teams,and RR is the sentimental favourite because of the underdog narrative surrounding its win in year one.

Fans in Chennai and Jaipur are happy ‘their’ teams are back , a significant fact not just from the nostalgia standpoint because it indicates the growth of the brand.Franchise cricket is about on-field performance but,when financial results are assessed,brand value matters.Put loosely,brand translates into fan loyalty which translates into ticket/jerseys/merchandise sales and other commercial opportunities.

On all these counts ,CSK ,a team which knows how to win ,is unbeatable.When it practised at the Chepauk after a gap of two years 10000 fans turned up in support!The moment was so moving that master of cool MSD ,normally as unemotional as a plastic cutout, couldn’t hold back a tear !

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