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England's version of IPL clearly short on fizz

By Amrit Mathur
Thursday, July 12, 2021

Twenty20 tournaments are springing up everywhere, the latest being in Sri Lanka, but the IPL remains the benchmark. Given India's financial muscle, competing tournaments can only try to play catch up. England's IPL equivalent is Friends Life where county teams compete, not privately-owned franchises. The Oval hosted a series of these games last week, the matches had the same DNA as the IPL but somehow it wasn't quite the same. The tournament is far less entertaining and engaging.

Surprisingly, for a non-weekend game, the Oval sold 15000 tickets in advance, an impressive number considering that it is a struggle to fill seats in England.

Inside the stadium, the atmosphere resembled that of the IPL with music blaring from the PA system and regular announcements to introduce players, dressed in snazzy team colours. The loudest cheer, predictably, went up for Kevin Pietersen. Each time a six was smashed, cannons placed near the boundary spurted flames to celebrate the hit.

All this gimmickry, however, failed to lift the game and the match atmosphere remained flat, sadly devoid of the sizzle of IPL.

The biggest issue with England's IPL is not the lack of innovation but the quality of cricket on offer. The IPL's chief merit, besides being a great TV product, is it delivers quality cricket through top players from across the world. Surrey had Dirk Nannes and Murali Kartik, but most others in the eleven would struggle to get into a decent Ranji side.

Everywhere, T20 is considered the lifeline to financial health. Already, there are moves to restructure the event in England to make it more attractive.

Till now, the IPL has not asked the ICC for an exclusive window, knowing hefty contracts will pull in players anyway. But for Friends Life to become financially viable, it is vital that star players turn up regularly for their teams.

The writer is a Delhi Daredevils official

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