Some of the biggest stars in world of cricket were in India once again this week for the opening of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 6.
And it wasn’t just cricket, big pop names such as Pitbull, SRK and Katrina, turned up at Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium to wow the fans ahead of the sixth season of the most lucrative event of the sport’s calendar.
In 2012, England’s star batsman Kevin Pietersen was bought by the Delhi Daredevils for U.S. $2 million, a salary that would impress even English Premier League football players.
There are nine teams dotted around the sub-continent and unlike the five-day long test series still regarded by many as the core of the game, the IPL plays the 20-over game. In this format each team has only 120 “bowls” during which the batting team must score runs as quickly as possible. Matches typically last around three hours. It is fast and furious, though not the preferred style for traditionalists.
The big news is the arrival of Ricky Ponting. The Australian legend recently stepped down from international cricket, ending a glittering career.
In a fascinating twist, he will now captain the Mumbai Indians, a team that includes his former rival Sachin Tendulkar. The two have crossed bats a number of times over the past decade and are among the best players to ever step foot on the crease.
Ponting will be in action on Thursday in Bangalore when the fans, as always, come to see Tendulkar, who last year became the first cricketer in history to score one hundred international centuries.
Being on the Little Master’s team in his homeland will be an interesting experience for Ponting.
“We’re (Aussies) used to the whole ‘Saachin, Saachin’ chant when we step on the field,” Ponting said. “This time, we’ll be on the same side, so that’s going to be different.”
With cricket focused on the international game, there are concerns that such money being paid to players could see clubs start to take over, as they have in football.
“Yes, I do see that happening and it is important to protect international cricket,” Ponting added. “You’ll be judged by how well you’ve played your Test cricket. For me that was always important.”
But the IPL has a way to go. Pakistani players are still banned from competing in the league, while Sri Lankans have been barred from competing in Chennai. Further, in 2012 there were signs that the league’s novelty was wearing off.
This year is an important one for the competition. Corporate interest remains high, but it remains to be seen if the fans continue to embrace the tournament at the stadium and on television.