Leading Edge: The IPL – bigger than Bradman, but not Jesus

Sunday Times


THE Indian Premier League, which started screaming from a television near you on Wednesday and will not shut up for the next six weeks, is the 68-million answer.

To what question? “IPL”, as entered into a friendly, globalhood internet search engine this week. That’s right, 68-million results popped up.

By way of comparison, Virat Kohli is worth a piddling 8.78-million on the googlemetre. He’s likely to throw a moisturiser bottle at you in pouty petulance for pointing out such an unalternative fact. An empty moisturiser bottle, of course – he wouldn’t waste a drop of the stuff. Or maybe he won’t let fly given that dodgy shoulder.

Just as John Lennon had it damn straight when – or if – he said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, it’s unarguably true that the IPL is bigger than Virat. Or AB. Or any player dead, alive or immortal.

Yes, the IPL is bigger than WG Grace – 640 000 – or Donald Bradman – 398 000 – could ever have become.

It’s also bigger than the Ashes – 25.9-million – the World Cup – 28.4-million – and any other competition cricket can throw at us.

You know it. I know it. We know it. Even Jacob bloody Zuma – 10.9-million – knows it. Well, perhaps not.

Now, bigger does not mean better. Anyone who argues otherwise probably also believes colonialism had its highlights. Helen bloody Zille? A mere 489 000.

Unless they’re in India, where bigger is always better. Which is why the IPL could have become what it is only in that country of mad magic.

Size matters in India to an outrageous degree. Which, you might say, is only to be expected in a nation of 1.3-billion. And counting. Fast.

This obsession manifests itself in memorable ways. Like hotels that are, relatively, Versailles squashed into bachelor flats. Or wedding processions – horses, elephants, chariots, marching bands and all – that cause traffic to jam for kilometres behind them. Or robots that stay red for 15 minutes. Or air in Delhi that is 70 times more dirty than the World Heath Organisation deems safe for breathing.

Or food that proves the infinite creativity of the human mind. Or newspapers that are worth reading for their headlines alone, and that are attracting more readers even in these webworn times. Or the wonderful warmth of – it can feel like – all 1.3-billion of those people, many of whom consider you invited to their weddings the moment you take a photograph of the procession.   

So where else but India could the IPL survive, prosper and burst even its own bombastic banks?

The tournament is to cricket what Marmite is to toast – you either love it with giddy passion or hate it like Christians do John Lennon.

If you find yourself among the haters, consider that the IPL is less about cricket and more about impossibly gaudy playing kit, impossibly ordinary bowling, impossibly cheesy cheerleaders wearing impossibly tight grins, and impossibly famous movie stars you might never have known existed.

It’s also about suspending your cricketing disbelief for a few weeks. Like Lennon did when he said the Beatles – 73-million – were bigger than Jesus – 887-million. Amen.


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