This is the summer season. Not only does it bring blue skies and warm weather, but it also announces the arrival of the biggest cricketing carnival on the planet. The sporting extravaganza sends heartbeats soaring and gets the adrenaline pumping, setting the stage on fire. When this happens, you know that the Indian Premier League has arrived!
2018 was momentous for the IPL. A decade into its inception, it stepped into its adolescence. The year also marked the return of the heavyweights Chennai Super Kings and the perennial underdogs Rajasthan Royals after a two-year ban.
IPL in its twelve-year journey has weathered many storms. It has endured a murky spot-fixing saga which saw two highly popular teams banned for two years. The league dealt with security scares which prompted shifting the matches abroad during election years. Last but not least, it had to deal with other cricketing fixtures and World Cups until it found a place in the ICC international calendar. Yet it has kept its charm intact.
Every season of the Indian Premier League has a tale of its own. This creates the charm and charisma of the league. So what makes the season of 2019 different from its previous editions?
The year of 2019 is playing host to two global events which impact the IPL. In the past, we witnessed IPL coinciding either with the Indian general elections or with an ICC Cricket World Cup. This year the premier T20 cricketing league of the world has to contend with both the marquee events.
Earlier in 2009 and in 2014 the tournament shifted abroad as the security apparatus could not handle the elections alongside the T20 league. The entire second season in 2009 was held in South Africa. In 2014 the first leg of the tournament was played in Dubai for the same reasons.
But in 2019 things seem to be different. It is turning out to be a year of many firsts. The general elections to be held this year is the third general election India is facing after the inception of the Indian Premier League. And for the first time, the tournament is being hosted in the country along with the elections. It seems third time is the charm.
While this is good news for the cricketing fans and fraternity, there is another dark cloud hovering above the tournament. Unlike previous years, the current edition of the World Cup is scheduled after the IPL. This presents a case for the international teams to recall players early from the tournament to prepare for the World Cup.
There are reports doing the rounds that players of Australia, South Africa and England will bid adieu to this season of the IPL by the end of April to join their respective national teams to prepare for the World Cup.
The absence of key international players at the business end of the tournament will be quite a challenge for some of the franchises. It will be worth watching how the teams will cope without some of their talismans. This might end up skewing the odds in favour of a certain set of teams.
Now let us address the elephant in the room that is bound to crop up as the tournament inches towards the playoffs. Viewership! Foreign players add an extra bit of spice to the already flamboyant tournament. But will their absence in the decisive phase of the championship pull down the numbers of viewership and ticket sales?
What will happen this season? We do not know. How will the tournament unfold? We do not know. Only time and teams can answer these questions. All in all, it is shaping up to be quite an exciting and different IPL season.