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The IPL has become boring!

By Dhruv Munjal
May 23, 2016 09:59 IST
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For days now, the fan has sat in front of the telly every night hoping to see an IPL contest that would leave the nerves jangling.
Instead, he is served an insipid display that forces him to slumber the evening away, says Dhruv Munjal.

IMAGE: Sunrisers Hyderabad Skipper David Warner speaks with his teammates Eoin Morgan, Shikhar Dhawan and Moises Henriques. Photograph: BCCI

Poor Shikhar Dhawan. For weeks now, we've been waiting for him to reproduce that Graeme Pollock-like square cut. And the Brian Lara late cut. And the Kumar Sangakkara backfoot punch.

When he eventually did -- against Gujarat Lions on the night of April 21 -- there were very few in the stadium to witness it.

Dhawan sporadically dazzled, David Warner sumptuously entertained, Hyderabad coasted. But the match between the Lions and the Sunrisers was so dreary and so painfully prosaic that the chances of long queues outside the ticket counters at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium -- the modest cousin of Lord's -- before the next fixture are incredibly slim. The game's spectacle value bordered on the embarrassing.

The ninth edition of the Indian Premier League, or IPL, has churned out lopsided, sometimes unendurable three hour doses of T20 cricket. Performances may suggest otherwise, but yes, this is still T20 cricket. And, IPL is still the best T20 league in the world. Or we thought so.

Such a scornful dismissal of a league that, in the past, has so hysterically captured the imagination of the Indian audience, would be doing massive disrespect to Quinton de Kock who, the other day, played a T20 knock for the ages.

Or Gautam Gambhir, who can pull out half-centuries from his back pocket these days.

Or even Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has been so good that you sometimes wish it was him instead of Hardik Pandya with ball in hand on that hapless Mumbai evening against the West Indies some weeks ago.

But this trio is a stunning aberration in this unending cycle of mediocrity.

Ordinary performances have ensured that the tournament is wide open. But such disguised competitiveness doesn't always mean great quality.

For days now, the sanguine fan has sat in front of the telly every night hoping to see a contest that would leave the nerves jangling. Instead, he is served an insipid display that forces him to slumber the evening away.

More cringing is the predictable nature of the outcomes. Win the toss, bowl first and win. Surely, this isn't how it was planned.

The problem here goes beyond the quality of cricket. This IPL season has had to confront the inevitable fear of viewer fatigue, the kind that broadcasters and organisers dread the most.

India has been playing non-stop T20 cricket for the last three months. It hosted the T20 World Cup; it was Sri Lanka who came calling before that. That explains empty seats inside stadiums. And you seldom see the ones who are fortunate -- or unfortunate -- to land a seat gamboling in the aisles. You witness pensive faces desperately waiting to be put out of their misery instead.

Some seasons ago, even the thought of this heady cocktail of cricket and entertainment turning tedious was scandalous. It is a damning reality now. The entertainment quotient fizzled out a long time ago; now the cricket is suffering too.

Even the joy of the fours and sixes flowing is no longer unbridled. IPL, dare I say, has become boring.

Sometimes, rather than A B de Villiers magically swinging his bat and sending the ball soaring beyond the fence, you wish Dale Steyn would run in, full throttle, eyes bulging and shoulders pumping and beat the batsman with an immaculate outswinger. Maybe, IPL needs a new kind of thrill.

This whirlwind 45-day affair was always going to test viewer patience. After a point, the sight of 22 men doing battle in different-coloured uniforms -- some of them ghastly -- every night had to become stale.

I remember a man closely associated with the IPL telling me a year ago that the league will survive if fans are convinced that what's happening on the field is not a farce (the league was docked by charges of corruption at the time).

A year on, even without such damaging allegations, it faces a serious battle for survival. For now, it is holding on. But only just.

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Dhruv Munjal
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