Come for the Cricket, Stay for the Drama: How the IPL Became Our Favourite Reality Show

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Come for the Cricket, Stay for the Drama: How the IPL Became Our Favourite Reality Show

Illustration: Ahmed Sikander

For those who aren’t big fans of cricket, IPL season can be pretty rough — especially as we’ve moved from the league stage into the qualifier games. Today Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Capitals will clash for the right to play Mumbai Indians in the finals on Sunday. The tournament is down to the wire and these crucial matches will require several hours of pre-match analysis, post-mortem breakdowns, and predictions. Like Falguni Pathak during Navratri, Harsha Bhogle somehow manages to show up wherever you look. At this point, avoiding news about the IPL has become harder than dodging Game of Thrones spoilers.

But lucky for those who don’t care about cricket, IPL is the gift that keeps on giving. Turns out, you don’t have to focus on the game at all, thanks to the riveting human drama that comes with each match. There’s something about the combination of competitors from around the world who bring their own rivalries, and the pressure- cooker intensity of the tournament that brings out the true colours of cricketers. It’s the one tournament where no player can hide who they really are.

Why should anyone bother with Hina Khan on Bigg Boss when they can watch the season’s most controversial captain, KXIP’s Ravichandran Ashwin, say that the best spinner in the tournament is… himself? Sure, the only Purple Cap Ashwin can expect will be one that he buys. But we could all learn a thing or two from his unshakeable belief in himself.

That is, after all, how he became embroiled in a mankading scandal, called up for his supposedly unsporting dismissal of batsman Jos Buttler in a match against the Rajasthan Royals. Ashwin insisted that the runout at the non-striker’s end was within the rules, and refused to accept criticism for a legal action. He had to put up with trolling from India teammates Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan, but clearly, the Punjab captain decided that it was high time to secure a win for his team, which has only twice qualified for the playoffs.

It’s the one tournament where no player can hide who they really are.

Sadly, KXIP failed to make the top four again this year, and Ashwin could stand to take a leaf from Captain Cool’s playbook on winning at all costs. CSK skipper MS Dhoni has always been the backbone of what has consistently been the best team in the league, and knows that when you want a job done, you have to do it yourself. And like the latest collection on Myntra, Dhoni always brings his own impeccable style. CSK may have crumbled in front of Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 1, but days before, Dhoni stumped two Delhi Capitals batsmen in a single over, taking only a fraction of a second each time. This was shortly after he smashed a closing 44 off the last few overs — including a totally blind six — to clinch not only a victory, but a top-of-the-table score.

Who would have thought we’d ever see this godlike being storm onto the pitch during a match against the Rajasthan Royals to fight with the umpire over a no-ball call? RCB skipper Kohli also had plenty to say about the umpires missing a no-ball on the very last ball in a match against MI — one that RCB went on to lose by a mere six runs. Even the umpire, who kicked a locker room door in response to Kohli’s badgering, was not immune to the epidemic of IPL showmanship.

Nor do players keep their feelings to themselves when off the pitch. Star hitter from the star-crossed Kolkata Knight Riders, Andre Rusell, said team management had made bad decisions, including not promoting him up the batting order. Russell may have been taking lessons in self-confidence from Ashwin, but as a frontrunner for the Orange Cap, he’s put his money where his mouth is. Between in-fighting with his own team, battling the others, and the grudge he seems to hold against any cricket ball that comes his way, Russell alone is an endless fount of entertainment for viewers.

So when naysayers complain that the IPL, now in its twelfth season, has nothing fresh to offer besides rebranded team names and unfashionable jerseys, tell them to make some popcorn and settle down for a match. It’s not about the score, or whom you support — because eventually, every cricketer reveals himself as a player not just in the game, but in the drama.

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