Indian Premier League 2021
Love it or hate it, one cannot deny the fact that the Indian Premier League (IPL) is a big deal.
The Indian Premier League follows the T20 cricket format and is known for its entertainment value. Estimated to have contributed around $160 Million to the Indian GDP in 2015. The IPL is a highlight of the season for the cricket-mad nation. On a global scale, the league is rated 6th in terms of average crowd attendance across all sports leagues. Every year the auction for players is an eagerly watched event. Many cricketers have enjoyed both fame and fortune by participating in the IPL. Superstars such as Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers have all increased their personal value tenfold over the years. For the 2021 season South African Chris Morris became the most expensive player in IPL history. The Rajasthan Royals acquired him for $2.25 Million.
History and format of the IPL
Formed in 2007, the first Indian Premier League tournament took place in 2008, with Rajasthan Royals winning the inaugural title. In the subsequent years, Mumbai Indians have enjoyed the majority of tournament victories with their fifth win coming in last year’s tournament. The Chennai Super Kings are the only other team to have won more than 2 titles. The last of their 3 victories coming in 2018.
The tournament consists of 8 teams from 8 different Indian cities, and all teams play each other twice on a home and away basis. The top 4 teams then play each other in the playoff phase. The winners of 2 qualifying matches contest the final, where the eventual winner takes home a cool $3 Million (the 2021 amount). While some critics despise this shorter version of the game, we cannot deny the fact that the traditional formats of the game have benefitted from both T20 cricket and the popularity of the IPL.
The tournament has occurred outside of India on 3 occasions. In 2009, South Africa hosted the IPL due to the Indian general elections taking place. The subsequent safety concerns attributed to the elections were the reason for the decision to move the tournament. In 2014, the first half of the tournament was played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Again, the general elections and the related safety concern being the reason. The teams returned home after 20 games, and the 2014 season was able to conclude in India. The 2020 showpiece moved again to the UAE in response to high Coronavirus numbers within India. The financial benefit of hosting the tournament is significant. A reported $100 Million was injected into the South African economy during the 2009 edition. Considering this, only when the actual tournament is at risk will India consider alternative hosting venues.
South Africans and the IPL
Over the 13 seasons of the IPL, only a handful of South Africans have been on the side of the winning team. In the inaugural event, Graeme Smith and Morne Morkel were both in the winning team (albeit not in the match day 11). In subsequent years, South African’s have consistently been in the mix. There have been 14 South African winners over the years, with 5 of them doing it twice. The last of which being Quinton de Kock, who was part of the successful Mumbai Indians team in 2020.
Surprisingly, a few ‘big’ names are absent from this list of South African winners. None more so that AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn. Both widely considered to be the best at their trade during their careers, it is unfortunate that neither have ever lifted the winner’s trophy. While Steyn is no longer involved in the IPL, de Villiers still has a realistic chance of rectifying this stat. One of the form players in the 2021 Indian Premier League, de Villiers will be hoping his Royal Challengers Bangalore team can go all the way this year.
At the time of writing, the 2021 event has been postponed. Due to the rising cases of COVID-19 within India, the authorities took the sensible decision to halt the tournament. Whether the league can conclude at a later stage (in a different country perhaps) is unknown. We are currently at the halfway stage of the IPL, with last year’s runners-up, the Delhi Capitals in top spot. The Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore, and the Mumbai Indians round out the top 4.
In terms of performances, this year’s event has enjoyed some top cricket by South African players. Faf du Plessis has come into some good form, and he currently sits 3rd when it comes to runs scored. AB de Villiers has been in scintillating form with the bat, and one wonders how long the South African cricket selectors can ignore him- especially with the T20 World Cup on the horizon (we know the de Villiers case is more complex than this, but South African cricket is poorer without him). Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi have all had good spells with the ball. Another positive for the regular Protea squad members.
What’s next for the IPL 2021?
A lot of uncertainty surrounds this year’s tournament, and at this stage nobody knows how things will pan out. We saw in 2020 that sport could recover from such setbacks (think of the 2020 Six Nations), and so we can assume that some sort of conclusion will come about this year. Currently, the well-being of a nation and the health of players must be prioritized. We can only hope that when cricket returns for India that it can be in a happier and healthier time.
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