Dancing to the Rhythm of the Beat
Most of the benefits of the IPL were predicted well in advance. They may have come in greater abundance and quicker time than even the optimists foretold, but the cash keeps pouring in and players around the world aspire to be a part of it. And it continues to grow, gnawing away at the most vulnerable parts of the Test game.
There are a couple of benefits which may not have been foreseen. The first is that, from decimating other domestic competitions around the world, the draw of the IPL would create opportunities for refreshment and growth. Joe Root and Harry Brook’s presence in India allowed an opportunity for Finlay Bean to start for Yorkshire in the first round of the County Championship and the 22-year-old promptly became the first man to score a hundred this year.
The ECB’s paranoia and stand-off a dozen years ago with Kevin Pietersen was understandable. They were concerned that the world’s premier first-class competition would be undermined by what they, and everyone else, knew would become the world’s premier T20 tournament. Now, the Test captain and four others expected to play crucial roles in the bid to regain the Ashes, Root, Brook, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood (perhaps Sam Curran and even Liam Livingstone) will be preparing for Test cricket playing T20s.
Another unpredicted benefit of the IPL, and this is ironic considering the frenetic hustle and bustle of the tournament itself, is the guaranteed peace and tranquility it provides for so many to whom the ‘window’ which was created for it will never open. Or to those who are content for it to remain closed.
For the majority of those who predicted nothing but scorched earth and dead coral in the wake of the window carved into the international calendar there are now two months each year in which they can, metaphorically and even literally, take a deep breath and relax, safe in the knowledge that not much will happen in their neck of the woods because the tall trees and big fish are all in India.
On the very night that South Africa’s final international of the summer concluded, three IPL players boarded a 10:pm flight to India and the other six left the following morning. I did, too, bound for Hoedspruit and the African bush. Safe in the knowledge that, while administrators and players will continue to tinker, the ‘window’ provided us all with a chance to do some physical and ‘well-being’ filing.
A small minority of the biggest names in the game face the challenge of a relentless and sometimes brutal 12-month schedule – we write and talk about that a lot. As if it affects all of us. It doesn’t. Rest periods and rotation of players is now a completely accepted part of international cricket and so is the fact that players may fall out of national favour the more they choose to maximise their earning potential.
The IPL window may even work favourably in South Africa’s pursuit of a World Cup success. Rob Walter has gone above and beyond expectation in committing himself and his family to the Proteas. Moving all of them to South Africa having accepted the position as white-ball coach would have been irresponsible. The job may only last four years, perhaps less. They settled in New Zealand almost a decade ago and their two young children are at school there.
For at least two months every year Walter can spend quality time with his wife and sons. They, too, will be able to join him during school holidays in South Africa and there will be other occasions when they can tour together. It may not be the ‘perfect’ family arrangement, but the IPL gap gives them a substantial block of real time to build their lives around.
There is always regrowth after natural disasters and man-made changes to the natural world. At least, there have been up until now. Climate change activists, with good reason, tell us it won’t always be that way and there is undoubtedly evidence that some damage cannot be repaired.
The analogy is dramatic but so were the predictions of gloom in the early years of the IPL. Test cricket is fighting for its existence but that is not solely the responsibility of the Indian Premier League. Cricket Sri Lanka has dipped its toes back into Test waters during the IPL – they play two Tests against Ireland next week. Not nearly sufficient to bother the IPL’s viewership figures, but evidence enough that seeds of cricket life can sprout in what was expected to be the wasteland outside the ‘window.’
Strange thing is, Rinku Singh’s five sixes from the final five balls to win the game for KKR against Gujarat Titans was still available to see. I had half an eye on it, and it was interesting. Maybe it was the sound of the hyena which distracted me. The IPL is a good thing, just maybe not the best thing.
Time to cook the last meal amongst the nyala, impala, kudu, giraffes, zebras and waterhog. Poitjie on the fire.
County cricket a shadow no one believes it is progressing esp with 2 divisions……!!