This year, thanks to ITV4, is the first year I have watched any of the brand of Cricket served up by the IPL. And to be fair, I have seen a lot of negatives written about the tournament and its rather overt commercialism. But I have seen quite a few encouraging positives too.
First things first. I consider myself a knowledgeable and committed cricket fan. I have played to a decent club standard in my time (and once sledged Marcus Trescothick....!) and have followed cricket since the mid 1980's - the Ashes in '87 aside, a pretty grim time for England it was too.
All this means my first love is test match cricket, and always will be. Very few ODI's stick in the memory, and I'd take one ashes series over a dozen world cups. But generally I love the game in all its forms.
Therefore I am presented with some FREE cricket on my television courtesy of the IPL. I dont have Sky Sports, I dont follow any other sports so I can't justify the monthly cost from our family budget. Anyway, I find TMS on Radio 4 immensely enjoyable and if I am honest, there is something that appeals to me in that I listen to a LW radio station that breaks for Prayers, Parliament and the Shipping Forecast in the age of the Internet.
So ITV4 are broadcasting this glitzy tournament and for me to have some free-to-air cricket is a massive plus. And to be fair, what I have seen so far has been pretty good. Well aside from the excruciating links. Poor Graeme Hick and Embers. The criciticism I have seen is that the tournament is a slog fest and is overly commercial - the renaming of sixes as a "DLF Maximum" and so on.
Well, despite my position as a test match purist of sorts, I beg to differ. I think we can look past some of these obvious commercialisms to see some pretty good cricket. Aside from Yusuf Pathan whacking a 37-ball hundred, the leading batsmen so far in this tournament have been Ravi Bopara and Jacques Kallis. Fair enough we are only two games in, but these are not sloggers. Bopara has played attractive wristy, but orthodox shots and Kallis has seemingly shaken his stodgy reputation and has looked to find the gaps. Neither of them has been seen playing the Switch Hit or the Scoop. The bowling too has been interesting, with swing and seam movement, and a number of leggies and offies on show.
The other major plus for me is seeing the major stars of world cricket, and some of the up and coming players especially Eoin Morgan, who has had a fantastic start to his international career.
I think the IPL is of benefit to world cricket, and may in fact help preserve test cricket for the fans like me who cherish the form of the game still played in whites. By grabbing the casual fan, hopefully there will be a greater fan base and finances to allow test cricket to continue.
Take Rugby. I'm a casual rugby fan, I like watching the game when I can. But I only played a little and I don't fully understand every technical nuance. So when its a backs-dominated, attritional game then I get a little disinterested that I cant see the ball, and there's no running or passing.
Now think about England against Bangladesh in this week's test match. Starting at 3:30am for English fans, this was a one-sided affair on a flat pitch, which, once England had scored 374/3 at the end of the first day, was pretty much an assured win for England. The fifth day saw a morning session with 80 runs from 30 overs, and no wickets. Still fascinating for the enthusiast, but not the greatest spectacle for the casual sports fan who is likely to want to see wickets tumbling and some boundaries.
So, fair play to ITV for giving cricket some vital free-to-air exposure. Had the BBC not shown cricket in the 80's I would never have been hooked in. And just maybe, the IPL and 20/20 cricket in general can have a role in preserving the game I love and not endangering its existence as the naysayers have stated previously. I for one will watch with interest.