IPL, the birthday teen, now an integral part of the Indian summer

Kapil Dev and ICL (Image: Instagram)

Happy birthday, IPL. Many fans will cut a cake and celebrate the birth of the premier domestic limited-overs (T20) cricket tournament, born in 2008. Thousands, if not lakhs, from this young teen generation watching the IPL would be unaware that the birth of this ‘murderous’ T20 format, if you go by the centuries now being belted out, can be traced back to Kapil Dev.

The legend of Kapil, winning captain of the 1983 Prudential World Cup, is intact. However, for those who are not too familiar with the nuances, Kapil’s decision to float the Indian Cricket League (ICL) in 2007 was seen as an act of defiance. It left the BCCI both red-faced and angry, and the ICL was extinct so soon that it has vanished from the collective public memory. Many IPL fans over the last 15 years may remember Ambati Rayudu for his exploits until 2023, but he was also very much a part of the ICL.

As a concept, a radical one at that, what Kapil started was fresh. It was new and had to deal with plenty of uncertainties in 2007. It was planned in a hurry, tying up with a media house as a partner.

In comparison with the rocking IPL baby today, the ICL was weak. Yet, none can take credit away from Kapil for having conceived the ICL and instant cricket. It caught on like fire.

The fact that Kapil was the chairman of the National Cricket Academy (NCA) at the time was seen as a conflict of interest by the BCCI. So, given the BCCI’s might, the ICL did run into trouble and vanished in less than three years, leaving behind financial woes as well. Goodbye ICL, enter IPL in 2008.


As the IPL today celebrates another teen birthday, it has become a boom for many. Boom in a financial sense, boom in terms of business and organisation, and how it has given much older leagues across the world in different sports a run for their money. Yes, the IPL, which was created by Lalit Modi, soared and despite controversies, it has been “Staying Alive” like the Bee Gees song from Saturday Night Fever. It may be tempting to recall controversies, like what Sreesanth did or how two teams were banned, and the damage that spot-fixing did to the reputation of the sport. But the IPL survived those controversies, navigated a way through the dangerous Covid-19 pandemic, and is now rocking as hard as ever.

Across the 16 years, the one constant has been change. The effort has been to make the IPL boom and flourish. All the naysayers now say ‘Oh Wow’ when they see the IPL live, whether on TV or on gadgets in India and overseas. Cricket plus commerce. Serious cricket or entertainment, let the fans decide. Lovable, yes, though spare a thought for bowlers who are getting hammered like hell.

The IPL has brought so many things to a standstill during match days. For those who say “viewership is dipping”, please go to railway stations, airports, malls, and other public places on these summer evenings. The IPL has to be discussed, whether you like it or loathe it.

And for all those who think the IPL is only for a young audience, that’s a lie. The richest club cricket event is seen and heard, with commentary in multiple languages across India. Having traveled from North to South India during this IPL 2024 season, and hearing commentary in languages like Bhojpuri, Hindi, Malayalam, Tamil, and others, it was clear that the IPL speaks only one language – T20 cricket. Sorry, how could I forget English, the main language where commentary roles are grabbed by former cricketers.

There is a bit of the IPL in all of us – teenagers, senior citizens like me, and Sri VS Raman, my 87-year-old father-in-law who has been like a parent to me. That’s the IPL for you. Yes, we remember the maiden 100 by Brendon McCullum for being the first day, first show. That, and many more such memories, can never be erased.

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