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PARTAB RAMCHAND | 3 MAY, 2018

Non Stop: The Whistle Podu Express Says It All

IPL fever pitch high


At roughly the halfway stage it can be said that the eleventh edition of the IPL has provided its quota of thrills and excitement – something that has been part and parcel of the immensely popular tournament ever since the first edition in 2008.

Interest among cricket followers is very high, the money associated with it gets bigger and bigger, the advertisers and sponsors have shown every sign of continuing to back the competition enthusiastically and each franchisee team has its own share of fiercely loyal supporters.

Nothing symbolizes this more than the ``Whistle Podu Express’’ an entire train that carried fans of Chennai Super Kings from their city to their adopted city Pune after protests over the Cauvery issue forced the shifting of CSK’s home games from Chepauk. Chennai’s Central station was a sea of yellow as was the train itself during the over 1000 km journey that lasted about 20 hours. And as only to be expected the stadium in Pune was also decked in yellow as the noisy, exhuberent supporters cheered their team to victory.

In a way it is perhaps surprising that the IPL’s popularity continues to soar year after year. With all the scandals and controversies it has been hit over the years one would have thought that at least a dip in its popularity would be in order. But come April every year and the hype commences and the excitement is unmistakable.

Ticket prices are at an all time high but that has not stopped the fans from making their way to the stadium. Indeed for some marquee matches tickets that are offered in the black market have ready buyers. The discussion in bars and on the street, in homes and offices centres around the chances of the various teams in the competition and how the twists and turns in the previous day’s matches unfolded.

The ad rates have hit the roof but there has been no dip in the ad revenue. It is business as usual as far the as IPL is concerned. Despite its image being sullied the IPL brand sells – and how!

Indeed the IPL can be considered the Teflon event. Nothing ever sticks to it, no scandals, no controversies, no seamier aspects though it has had more than its share of the negative side of the game. The man who came up with the idea Lalit Modi is in forced exile in London after facing charges of financial irregularities.

There have been match fixing allegations and betting and spot fixing cases which were serious enough for two of the teams Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings to be banned for two years. They only made a re-appearance this year. Player behaviour has frequently touched a new low. And the IPL is not without its detractors who are of the view that it is nothing but tamasha cricket.

But the IPL bandwagon rolls on undeterred basking under the phrase which was coined when it was inaugurated – cricketainment. There is a strange chemistry between cricket and cinema two of the country’s favourite passions and it becomes even more pronounced when it comes to IPL and Bollywood with film stars in many cases being the franchisee owners.

Indeed very few new films are relased during the IPL sensing that cricket might score over cinema in this particular case ands this is perhaps the biggest tribute to the competition.

Ten years ago Sachin Tendulkar proclaimed that the IPL would be a ``super hit’’. Adam Gilchrist had then expressed the view that ``I don’t think cricket will ever be the same again.’’ And another Australian Brett Lee had gushed on the eve of the inaugural tournament that ``the IPL has created history. If we look back in ten years time this is going to be a massive landmark in cricket.’’

Well, it is ten years now and it would appear that Lee – as well as Tendulkar and Gilchrist – were not far off the mark. Given the way that the T-20 leagues have mushroomed all over the cricketing world and the fact that the game’s shortest format is also easily the most popular – symbolized by the ICC converting the 2021 Champions Trophy in India to a World T-20 tournament – there is little doubt that the IPL, warts and all, has played its part in cementing this popularity.
 

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