The gushing praise started right from the very beginning. ''It has created history and when we look back in ten years time this is going to be a massive landmark in cricket,’’ said Brett Lee at the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008. Describing the IPL as ''a landmark time in cricket.’’

Adam Gilchrist said that after 30 years when people look back they would say it is the most important thing to happen in cricket. '''I don’t think cricket will ever be the same again’’ he added.

Sachin Tendulkar chipped in with his ''it will be a super hit’’ comment. Indeed the competition quickly gave rise to a new phrase – crickettainment and it was reckoned that Bollywood’s bond with cricket had grown stronger.

But even in its inaugural year it was clear that the IPL was not just about glitz and glamour. It was serious cricket and the motto of all the teams was ''play to win’’. And from the moment Brendon McCullum came up with his now famous 158 not out off 73 balls with 13 sixes and ten fours for KKR against RCB at Bangalore in the inaugural match of the IPL the competition attracted the kind of attention never seen before in the cricketing world. And that’s the way it has been since then and the all pervading thought as the 14th edition commences on April 9 is how it has retained its unprecedented popularity through the years.

Over the last decade or so there has been a mushrooming of T-20 leagues in almost every cricketing country but none has matched the IPL in popularity, stature or organization. Whether other competitions are held or not, the IPL must be staged every year. It should not be forgotten that both in 2009 and 2014 because it coincided with national elections it was shifted to South Africa and the UAE but there was no break. Even last year when there were serious doubts whether it could be staged because of the pandemic and even as other competitions and tours were either cancelled or the fixtures were changed the IPL was held in the UAE – albeit following a six month postponement.

It would be easy to say that is because it is such a massive money spinner with the involvement of so many agencies. But surely that cannot be the only reason. Over the years the IPL has come to be recognized as an event which gives rise to deserving talent. Relatively unknown cricketers have become household names with their performances in the IPL.

Several cricketers have excelled in the tournament and thereafter become international stars as the T-20 game has gained status as serious cricket, a version of the sport which now involves strategy and tactics and is no longer slam-bang stuff.

Every cricketer in the world – whether a rookie or a major star - wants to play and do well in the IPL and every team strains every sinew in their effort to take the trophy home. Their planning right from the auction to the training methods they adopt are of the most meticulous standards.

It is not that the IPL has not been without its seamier side. It has been hit by controversies, even scandals and several charges and allegations have been made against it. These have been well chronicled and need no repeating here. But after 13 years it is still very much the premier T-20 tournament in the game drawing the best players and being matchless in its popularity, structure and organization.

Even the cynics who used to be dismissive of it in the early years have come to accept it as a cricket competition par excellence. It certainly is the most eagerly awaiting event for players and fans alike.

As regards this year’s tournament it is futile to predict the winner. With the format being T-20 all talk of teams being strong or weak is poppycock. Sure there will be planning and execution, strategy and tactics but given the format it is all a question of who does well on a particular day.

The very fact that half a dozen teams have won the trophy in 13 years underlines this. It will be better to just sit back and enjoy the scintillating fare the IPL regularly dishes out complete with stand out performances and pulsating finishes.

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