Why is the Indian Premier League floundering?

 
Kieron Pollard of Mumbai Indians plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket match against Rajasthan Royals in Mumbai, India, Wednesday, April 11, 2012. Viewer ratings have fallen

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Are cricket fans turning their backs on the ongoing fifth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the world's showcase fast cricket contest?

If TV ratings figures are to be believed, fans have had enough of cricket despite the nine-team, 76-match, seven-week Twenty20 tourney.

Viewer ratings were down 18.7% in the first six games - a time when interest in the tournament traditionally peaks - compared with the same period last year.

That's not all. Season V began on a wrong note with a tawdry Bollywood song-and-dance opening show which even appears to have put off fans. Two top sponsors have withdrawn. Brand and communication consultants are warning that the IPL brand is in "choppy waters", and the league needs a "stronger game plan to rejuvenate the brand". One brand consultancy firm has downgraded the league's value to $3.67bn, down 11% from 2010.

Remember, the response to IPL Season IV last year was lukewarm. TV ratings dropped by 29% and even the final met a tepid response. Cricket fans were savouring India's spectacular win in the World Cup which preceded the tournament, and had little appetite for more cricket.

Why is the thrill gone this year - at least in the early stages of the tournament? After all, this is the tournament which combines the sublime (sledgehammer batting, close finishes) and the ridiculous (Bollywood entertainment, cheerleaders, "strategic time outs" in the middle of the games to facilitate advertising breaks). Indians love tamasha (entertainment), and the IPL is still the best tamasha on offer.

For one, after the song and dances are over, it's finally all about cricket. India is still licking its wounds after a nightmarish international season in which it lost eight overseas Test matches on the trot - its worst run since the 1960s. Though Sachin Tendulkar's 100th international hundred in Dhaka last month was a welcome diversion, India failed to pick up the Asia Cup. Don't disrespect the fan, Rahul Dravid eloquently said at last year's Bradman Oration, and to expect fans to flock to cheer non-performing cricketers at the highest level is a bit fey.

Also, Indian stars are the league's biggest draw, and most of them have been performing indifferently or are absent in the ongoing edition. Tendulkar is hurt after the first game, and Sehwag and Dhoni, two big hitters, haven't fired yet. VVS Laxman isn't playing this season. Yuvraj Singh is recovering from cancer and is out of the game for a while. Saurav Ganguly's batting is past its sell-by date. Rahul Dravid is playing a post-retirement nostalgia gig. Yusuf Pathan, a Twenty20 star, has fizzled out. When the stars are largely down and out, fans stay away.

Fans also seem to be confused about whom to support. The IPL is a city-based league aiming to build up fan bases in half-a-dozen big Indian cities. But when Calcutta's icon Saurav Ganguly, Delhi's favourite Gautam Gambhir and Bangalore's biggest star Rahul Dravid end up leading the teams of Pune, Calcutta and Rajasthan, fan loyalties to home teams can begin to fray easily.

Interest will possibly pick up during the knockouts and the final at the fag end of the league. It may even pick up with more high-scoring games, edge-of-the-seat finishes, and big-bang batting by the stars.

But authorities simply cannot afford to let the IPL crash.

Listen to Sharda Ugra, India's top cricket writer, and you know why. "The IPL has now become a key component of world cricket's economy," she writes. "If it falters and fails because it is not alert to the audience climate around it, the domino effect around the cricket world will be damaging. Cricket's superstar status in many parts of its empire will be downgraded from club class to cattle class - all holy cows included."

 
Soutik Biswas Article written by Soutik Biswas Soutik Biswas Delhi correspondent

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  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 37.

    IPL is a real opportunity to take cricket to next level. A lot of people started to love IPL, just because it doesn't drag like one-day/test matches. Lack of quality players from Pakistan, Sri-Lanka, England etc would be one of the obvious reasons for this situation. Too much egos here and there makes things more complicated (like Kevin Pietersen's comment about England on IPL).

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 36.

    I wonder why BBC is publishing article like this and not covering IPL itself.

    I am agree with the point that viewership of the IPL is going down. But i think the T20 game has big impact on ODI and tests because we are seeing high scoring games and close encounters in ODI matches and more match results in test matches. The striking rate of the batsmen in test matches is improving as well.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 35.

    Maybe the Indian public's increasing indifference to the IPL represents a maturing of the Indian public's tastes, beyond the vulgarity of gaudy and over-hustled cricket tournaments. It seems like a good development.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 34.

    IPL tailing off - good, as it is not 'proper cricket'.

    Whereas I'm a purist and love Test cricket, I do feel that Test cricket needs a overhall - It simply doesn't attract the crowds bar the Ashes and other head-to-heads like Auz Vs SA.

    Cricket is sadly dying as long term it is financially unsustainable.

    The solution? I don't know and I don't think the 'fuddy duddies' at the top know!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 33.

    It was always going to happen. 20/20 was exciting at first, then the authorities milked it dry. 20/20 cricket is one-dimensional, lacking the myriad subtleties of Test cricket. Slogging gets boring after a while. Real cricket fans want to see players having to be more clever.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 32.

    Well, it is quite difficult to ascertain the reason for the decline in the TV viewership. It could be true but do not forget the power cuts for 8-9 hours, especially during the broadcast of IPL. Perhaps, people do not have electricity to watch TV.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 31.

    IPL is pure business and I don't see any game in it!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 30.

    Appears the writer is one 3rd rate journalist chosen by BBC to pick negatives of events in India, haven't read any of his articles which highlights positive aspects and he criticises for the sake of doing it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 29.

    Not convinced almost everyone has that at all tbh. Think digital has decreased that on the whole. Still think it could improve the viewing figures.
    The interviews with players on field during play are weird.

    Funniest thing so far has been suggestions that it could help KP get to grips with spin. Now if he'd not already played in this to no obvious improvement I'd have thought that a solid point.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 28.

    Post 27. Almost everyone has some sort of TV technology to allow delayed coverage, so use it rather than suggest spoiling it for those who crave live sport. I usually record a game and start watching after 1 hour to allow me to fast-forward the adverts and the rather silly time-outs, and be able to see the end of the game close enough to real time. A anti 'Danny Morrison' filter would be great.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 27.

    Don't think it was well advertised by itv tbh which won't have done the figures much good.

    The tv timing seems less than ideal, ordinarily I'd rather watch live sport but don't think delayed coverage would harm this much. Not like the scores will be everywhere before that. Guess it fills itv4s schedule more easily this way.

    The commentary and analysis can be a bit third rate at times.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 26.

    As someone else said with no real affiliation for any team it gets a bit samey after a while. Especially with two teams wearing very similar kits the other day. If going to wear the same kit might as well go with traditional white

    Some of the matches you can see how it's going to go after just few overs of 2nd teams innings. That said already been two close matches that I've really enjoyed.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 25.

    IPL has done more than good to game. The players are auctioned like commodities The complete commercialisation of the game is anthema to game lovers.It is not surprising that they are moving away. In any case, IPl has ruined test cricket.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 24.

    If you have ice cream everyday day for every meal after a while you miss potatoes.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 23.

    I've always held the view that IPL [this T20 stuff] is a terribly obnoxious idea, that's succeeded in ruining the lovable game of Cricket. Tests/50-50 should be the only formats. The greedy Indian cricket establishment has been doing everything to belittle the spirit of the game. In the interest of the game, IPL should be dismantled immediately and we should focus on CRICKET, pure & simple.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 22.

    i wouldnt be surprised if it wa because of all the ads, i tried to watch some games last weekend and it was painful, an ad after nearly every ball. crazy. i watched some of it in India a couple of years ago and they have ads in play, stupid!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 21.

    PS "fag end of the league" is a horrible phrase

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 20.

    Busy international calendar means IPL teams never have time for proper training camp or bonding. This will always be a challenge, given the FTP [Future Tours Programme] as well as domestic commitments of uncapped players. Some teams have opted for "mental skills" coach.
    Also some of IPL franchises are feeling financial strain.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 19.

    I'm going to say it, the matches are too long (Gasp) and the season is too short (to call it a league). It clearly has an identity crisis. Limit games to 2 hours (like a grand prix or soccer) to make it easier to watch and if it is a league have a season for 3/4 of the year - else call it different.

    If there is going to be expensive stars get more Auz, WI and Eng players in

 

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