The literature on the Indian Premier League (IPL), so far, has been limited – to the criticism of the evils prevailing or the fanfare of the format, which invariable reads as a press release. Unlike the more traditional formats of the game, many a good writers haven’t been romantics of the tournament. And thus the literature on the game too seems weak, flooded with as much drama and masala as the tournament. The modest stories are yet to be unearthed; a virgin territory which indeed is the true essence of the tournament. The triumph over struggle is often missed in the fast-paced big-money IPL world.
In one of my conversations with the 2012 Under-19 World Cup winning left-armer Harmeet Singh last year, he had put it very simply that IPL means more than just big money. There are many a aspirations on hold, many a stories untold. For him, being in an IPL team meant acceptance at a higher level, a chance to rub shoulders with the more illustrious names in the game, an opportunity to be seen on television and a chance to impress the national selectors. In a hypothetical situation, even minus the money on offer, there is a lot at stake for these players.
How else can one explain the curious case of Pravin Tambe, a veteran in the Mumbai cricketing circuit, who went on to become a household name at 41. The tournament in all possibilities meant more than just money to him, more than just an added feather on his otherwise little-known cricketing career.
There was Paul Valthaty who triumphed over his struggle with vision to emerge as a champion in IPL 2009 under the trust of Adam Gilchrist.
From a family that does not have a television to a village that is grappling with the basics of getting electricity, know somewhere far their son is being watched by millions. A mason, an auto rickshaw driver among others have taken an off from their work, sacrificed their daily wages which possibly earns them the bare minimum, to watch their sons in action.
A watchman who heard the exploits of his son, who nearly dropped his cricketing ambitions after his mother’s death, over a radio set in 2008, today watches him become a superstar in the national side.
A mother who raised her three children as a single parent, having trouble to make ends meet, today watches her son assuming iconic status in the IPL
A state celebrates their acceptance in the national cricketing map after two of its players make little, but impactful contribution in the tournament.
There are innumerable stories, with as much heart, but often hidden like the work of a backstage organiser in a grand act. And it is not just about the personal struggles, but also about a larger picture that India as a nation has managed to put. At times when tournaments like the Commonwealth Games are (dis)organised, IPL proves, beyond all the criticisms of fixing and corruption that India can pull off a spectacle of world-class magnitude year after year with soothing ease. The world watches while India puts an act.
At a time, when politicians are dividing the nation on regional and religious basis, the tournament stands witness to the great camaraderie that players of different backgrounds can share.
To deny there is no evil in IPL would be to turn a blind eye. To believe that IPL is the ultimate form of cricket, would be too far-fetched. But the story of the format goes beyond just the mere realm of entertainment. There are many a tales of envious human spirit which remains the true essence of the format.