IPL 3 is now at a very interesting crossroads. One month of cricket has already been played and yet the semi-final line-up is not clear. After the matches on the 11th of April, only one team Mumbai Indians (MI) has qualified for the semi-finals. But for Kings XI Punjab, who have virtually no chance of making it to the semi-finals, rest of the six teams have a good chance of making it to the semis. A look at the points table tells us that 3 teams are bunched at 12 points and 3 teams at 10 points at this stage in the league when most teams have played 11 matches each and 2 teams have played 12 matches each.
There are 11 more league matches between 12th April today and the semi-finals on 21st April. Each of these matches features, atleast one team who has a must-win requirement to make the semi-finals. There are several matches where both the teams have a must-win requirement for example CSK vs KKR on the 13th of April. Thus making the last few league matches, a virtual knockout stage. Thus making the league very interesting.
These matches are virtual quarter finals. Although there are no official Q/F as per the league format, in IPL 3 this has come about. The question to ask is whether they have come about by accident or by design ?
Whereas, one would like to believe that these Q/Fs have come about by accident, there are quite a few indicators which point to the other side. The league matches in the last 10 days have thrown up very surprising results. Mumbai Indians which was cruising along beautifully, suddenly started losing to much lesser teams that too , 2 in a row. KXP which did nothing right in the first half of the league, suddenly starting becoming the giant-killer beating KKR even when they scored 200 and further beat up MI and DD which were at the top of the table. A large number of cricket enthusiasts point out to freak dismissals through run-outs, dropped catches etc to drive home the point that the script for the IPL 3 is not being written on the ground in which it is played.
The commercial angle to the need for Q/Fs is pretty clear. Well into the 4th week of the league, fatigue has set in among the TV viewers. The novelty of T20 namely sixes, run-outs, wickets, cheergirls has somewhat worn out already in the third year. News is coming out that the audience for IPL in theaters across India is very low. The summer heat this year, has been very severe, making it all the more diffcult for filling up the stadia. Many new centres like Nagpur, Dharamsala are hosting IPL matches for the first time, even though they have no home teams playing.
Much that I would like to attribute the results of the matches held in the last few weeks to ‘the glorious uncertainties of cricket’, one cannot ignore the huge commercial motive. Let’s not forget IPL is in the hands of Lalit Modi, who is a brilliant marketer/organiser but also a consummate gambler.
One can never be sure, if the Q/Fs are by accident or design. If it does come out that it is by design, one should treat IPL as no different from WWE, the wrestling competitions on TV.