With wistfulness, British media praises IPL opener as perfect

April 19th, 2008 - 4:05 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Madonna
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, April 19 (IANS) After months of watching a billion-dollar build-up with a mixture of admiration and nervousness, the British media Saturday gave the thumbs-up to the Indian Premier League (IPL), saying it heralded the future of global cricket. “Cricket, as we know it, did not end on a steamy evening in Bangalore. What happened, on this eagerly awaited first night of the IPL, was the seamless transfer of a 21st-century form of the game to its most natural habitat,” wrote the correspondent of The Times.

The Telegraph noted: “Grace Road, Canterbury and Chelmsford - hosting county matches yesterday - seemed a million miles away. It was the difference between a local karaoke night and a Madonna concert.”

The Guardian reported that the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), which has strongly discouraged England cricketers from playing in the IPL in 2008 and 2009, now planned to set up a Twenty20 league of its own - but based on the existing 18 county teams rather than any new city-based ones.

“But for all the well-meaning - if belated - intentions, it was hard yesterday evening to imagine an international event in England matching the IPL for sheer unadulterated hype. The opening ceremony in itself was worth the entrance fee, the laser show and firework display providing a devastating counterpoint to the feeble efforts at Lord’s at the start of the 1999 World Cup,” the paper said.

And with Brendon McCullum of the Kolkata Knight Riders launching into a record-breaking murderous 158, “not even the most outlandish pre-tournament hype could have written this script.”

The Times raised a note of concern, arising from the fact that the crowd of 55,000 in Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium cheered “far louder” for Kolkata’s Sourav Ganguly than home skipper Rahul Dravid.

“If it is a basic requirement of the franchise system that crowds must learn to support their city, even against their lifelong idols, then the IPL marketing men probably have some brainstorming to do, down the line,” the paper said.

Some writers pulled out the symbolism of the occasion - Bangalore and outsourcing; England and empire - including the literary-minded journalist Ian Jack.

In a piece stopping just short of nostalgia for English cricket played on the village green, Jack - former editor of the literary magazine Granta and a gentle supporter of most things Indian - went along to a county match between Surrey and Lancashire at Oval.

“It was cold,” Jack wrote in The Guardian.

“A small crowd, perhaps 1,000-strong, sat scattered across a couple of stands in gloves and woollen hats and the kind of tweed flat-cap that’s now usually confined to hunts. One or two had binoculars and were following the play attentively. Others filled in crosswords or read the paper…”

“They were the nicest group of people I have ever sat among in a sports ground, and I would think a good few could remember when India was coloured imperial red in the school atlas and we had a king-emperor. In short: the days when we were still changing India rather than India was changing us.”

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