The Indian Premier League, the 2018 version of which will end with a no-doubt glittering final in Mumbai tomorrow has looked and felt bigger than at any stage in its 11 years.
And it’s not just the fact that those who administer the League secured a $2.5-billion broadcast deal, as happened late last year.
Organisers have worked harder this year to give the event a more global feel, which one sees with the broadcasting. The fact so many top international stars have been in the commentary booths is a sign of the League trying to grow audiences beyond India.
Graeme Smith, Michael Vaughan, Lisa Sthalekar, Isa Guha, Mel Jones, David Lloyd, Michael Clarke, Ian Bishop and Kevin Pietersen are among the big names employed by broadcaster Star to commentate on matches making for a more rounded and global feel to the coverage.
Beyond the commentators the IPL is setting targets for globalisation which will see it snack at the same table as some of the most established and wealthiest leagues in the world.
The IPL’s chairman Rajeev Shukla said this week he is eyeing viewers and earnings at the level of global broadcast giants such as football’s English Premier League (EPL) and America’s National Basketball Association (NBA).
“We are not able to figure out where it (broadcast rights and sponsorship) will peak but I think after the EPL, this is the most important league. It can match any league,” he said.
And while cricket doesn’t have the global reach of football or even basketball, the IPL can take heart from how much money those two leagues have made from their respective broadcast deals, while others, like Major League Baseball and the National Football League in the US, are also able to attract huge sums, despite their main viewership still being American-based.
There has been some concern expressed in India that viewership growth this year - up 11% according to a research body in India - is not as big as Star would have liked given the massive financial outlay.
However that’s an increase only on television, a big part of Star’s deal involved on-line/ streaming platforms and in that regard the IPL is almost revolutionary.
Star India’s streaming service, HotStar, set a new record during Tuesday’s play-off match between the Chennai Super Kings and the Sunrisers Hyderabad, with 8.26-million concurrent viewers tuning in on the service as Faf du Plessis and Lungi Ngidi played starring roles in Chennai’s thrilling advance to the final.
That on-line arena is one in which the IPL along with the NBA are innovators, marrying the live content on TV with up-to-date content on-line.
One major hurdle for the IPL as it seeks to increase its global footprint is actually the restrictions on team selection that has made Indian cricket so strong.
Currently just four overseas (non-Indian) players are allowed in a starting team.
However, there have been whispers from some franchise owners about changing that rule, increasing the number to five, while there continue to be talks about creating new franchises – initially adding two more to the current eight and possibly going to as high as 14 teams.
That growth will have an enormous effect on the sport, and change the landscape to one similar to football where clubs hold sway except for the odd international tournament every few years.
The IPL was long ago a game-changer for the sport of cricket, it’s growth seems virtually unstoppable.
How South Africans at the IPL performed in 2018:
Chennai Super Kings:
Faf du Plessis
5 matches - 152 runs (Strike Rate: 128.81).
Forget whatever came before Tuesday, because that innings of 67 not out defines Du Plessis’ IPL this year. Who cares now that the excellent form of Shane Watson and Ambati Rayudu had seen the Proteas captain benched for the most part? It’s as much when you make your runs as how many you make, and taking your team to the IPL final with a performance as ballsy as that, is what Du Plessis will be remembered for, for a long time.
6 matches - 6 wickets (Economy Rate: 9.09)
Will be disappointed he’s not played more of a part, but Watson and Dwayne Bravo take up two of the four overseas spots and Chennai are already well served in the spin department by Ravi Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh. Not a bad record this year, but not done enough to convince he deserves to be in the starting XI.
6 matches - 10 wickets (economy Rate: 5.90)
Missed part of the tournament due to the death of his father but has shown resilience and terrific form when he’s played. Ngidi’s been aggressive, bowling with lively pace and hitting his lengths hard causing opposing batsmen discomfort.His rapid growth has been a real boon for the Proteas in the post Morne Morkel era
Kagiso Rabada (injured)
Chris Morris (injured)
4 matches - 3 wickets (Economy Rate: 10.21); 46 runs (Strike Rate: 176.92)
He looked lethargic. Control and consistency just weren’t there, but if he’d been able to pick up wickets - as he has done often in the past - he could be carried, but he didn’t. Morris’ three wickets were claimed once every four and a half overs on average, and that’s simply not enough to get the job done. He eventually departed India with a back strain
1 match - 0 wickets (economy rate: 11.33)
Just the one match against Bangalore, which didn’t go well as the nerves got to him.
Kings XI Punjab
3 matches - 74 runs (Strike Rate 115.62)
Strangely under-utilised when you consider some of the out of form players Punjab carried throughout the competition.
Kolkota Knight Riders
Cameron Delport (Not played)
6 matches - 0 wickets (economy Rate 12); 36 runs (Strike Rate: 90)
A quiet campaign, in which he’s batted too low down the order to make an impact, and not bowled enough.
4 matches - 57 runs (Strike Rate: 121.27) Catches - 3 Stumpings - 4
Brought in to replace Steve Smith, and failed to take some early chances that came his way. Benched while Jos Buttler dominated much of the league phase, but after the Englishman’s call up for the Test team, Klaasen returned to start again, playing a crucial role in the Royals qualifying for the play-offs with a rapid 32 off 21 balls, and taking a catch and three stumpings in the vital win over Bangalore. Disappointing ending to the campaign as he failed to fire in the last play-off game against Kolkota. Will learn plenty from sharing a dressing room with Shane Warne, the Royals coach.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
AB de Villiers
12 matches - 480 runs (Strike Rate: 174.54)
Took the form that helped South Africa beat Australia with him to the IPL and dominated. Adored in India, he’s provided the public over there with many new memories producing some terrific innings’ alongside his good pal Virat. Has two years left on his contract and is sure to provide more thrills.
Quinton de Kock
8 matches - 200 runs (Strike Rate 124.07) Catches - 7 Stumpings - 3
Had to break to attend a wedding and subsequently lost his starting spot to Parthiv Patel. Before then De Kock showed reasonable form with the bat, but the inability of anyone to provide proper support alongside him placed extra burden on the superstar pair at 3 and 4.