The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

19 May,2023




By Shailesh Kapoor


Shailesh KapoorThe 16th edition of Indian Premier League is in its last leg now. The 2023 edition has been the most closely-fought of the 16, and by some margin. At the time of writing this, five games are left in the league stage, and yet, only one team (2022 winners Gujarat Titans) have qualified for the playoffs. Seven of the remaining nine are in the reckoning for the remaining three spots, though two of them have only an outside mathematical chance.


How IPL manages to grow in stature year-on-year is quite extraordinary. And it’s not just growth in commercial stature (viewership, revenue, etc.). The impact of IPL in shaping Indian and international cricket is unmistakable. The meteoric rise of Yashasvi Jaiswal in the last six weeks is a topical example. Jaiswal’s humble background makes for a great underdog or rags-to-riches story. He’s almost certain to earn an India cap this year itself. But it’s difficult to imagine how that would have happened if there was no IPL.


From a media perspective, IPL pretty much stands at the last marquee media event standing in India. The clutter of infinite options has fragmented audience consumption over the last decade, and it seems that days of a hit show that will unify the entire country (or even the Hindi markets) are long gone. But IPL bucks that trend. To borrow a term from the theatrical business, it’s the biggest ‘pan India’ property in business today.


By offering IPL free to stream, JioCinema has managed to add to the property’s stature, by giving it recognition as a brand of the ‘masses’. Premium properties can be mass too, and IPL is a fine example of that. One hopes that JioCinema doesn’t relook at this proposition next year, now that the platform has entered the SVOD business.


There’s another big-ticket cricket event later this year, the ODI World Cup in India. The ODI format is in a bit of a no-man’s-land, sandwiched between the popular entertainment offering of T20 and the connoisseur-backed Test cricket format. ICC is not the most nimble-footed organisation, which is why the ODI format continues to drag on. In the process, it’s damaging the global prospects of the sport of cricket irrevocably. Logically, this should be the last ODI World Cup. It’s only imminent that curtains are drawn on this format sooner than later.


But nevertheless, the 2023 ODI World Cup will be a commercial success, especially because it’s being held in India, which opens up a wide array of advertising and association options for Indian brands, that are not available in an overseas tournament.


But even as its best, a World Cup (ODI or T20) cannot match the brand power of IPL, an idea that continues to grow bigger with time.


This column is taking a summer break, and restart from Friday, June 16, 2023


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