After a failed footballing coup in Europe, it’s time we spoke about the IPL


April 2021 was a turbulent time in the world of football after a proposed takeover of the European game by the continent’s elite clubs was scuppered. It may have ended as quickly as it began, but there will still be a degree of scar tissue that football will have to carry going forward. Indeed, even though a ball wasn’t kicked, the idea behind the deeply cynical breakaway Super League has been enough to send football into somewhat of an existential crisis.

As things stand, though, and so long as this type of self-serving concept doesn’t rear its head again, the game of football should be able to heal in time. But, after everything that has taken place, there are uncomfortable questions that now need to be asked about cricket’s version of a breakaway tournament, the Indian Premier League, and how that was left unopposed to start in 2008.

Indeed, we have had 13 years of the IPL and, perhaps now, we can imagine that cricket today is the blueprint of what football could have looked like had the Super League been given the green light. Naturally, there will be those who passionately argue that the advent of the IPL has been good for cricket but a decade and a half on, it’s very hard to see what those benefits are from an international standpoint.

Cry, the beloved country

In essence, the IPL is where the money in cricket can be made. There isn’t an international cricket association in the world that can compete with the wages that are paid in the T20 event; and that has unsurprisingly left players with a far greater sense of loyalty towards their IPL franchises. In reality, it takes just a few productive seasons in the IPL for players to secure their financial futures. In many respects, one can’t blame them for doing this, after all, a cricketer’s career is short. However, that’s not to say that a full international career wouldn’t have provided enough money for retirement, but it would have taken longer, and there would have had to be a lot more dedication to the cause.

Indeed, the likes of Chris Gayle would have had to spend scorching days on end in the slip cordon during a Test series against Bangladesh in Chittagong had it not been for the IPL. Instead, the self-proclaimed Universal Boss can pitch up for a game that takes a few hours and leave a multimillionaire.

Needless to say, most of the younger players coming through have identified this path as the most rewarding one, which has seen a lack of Test and ODI specialists coming through the ranks at the academy level. Once again, this may not necessarily be a problem for those who prefer T20 cricket, but it’s just another lasting legacy of the IPL that all other formats have become somewhat obsolete. In reality, this has left international teams with a shortage of skills in the other formats.

The Proteas left in tatters after IPL exodus

You just need to look at South Africa, once a fierce cricketing nation that has now been brought to its knees by the IPL, and the latest odds by Asian bookmakers on their chances at the 2023 World Cup in India, help us to understand how much worse off the national team is thanks to the IPL. Indeed, these expert Asian bookies who go out of their way to target European punters as well, have priced the Proteas at 9/1 to win the 2023 showpiece. One must remember that across the board, the biggest Asian bookies offer the best odds for their punters but in general, the 9/1 odds are more or less accurate and illustrate what a tragic state cricket in South Africa has become.

A telling incident happened not long ago that speaks of the current disarray in the South African setup. On this occasion, David Miller walked out on the Proteas halfway through their recent ODI series against Pakistan to play for the usual IPL pacesetters the Rajasthan Royals. Could you imagine Marcus Rashford leaving England duty to play an Audi Cup game for Manchester United?

Like the Super League threatened to do, the IPL has steamrolled over the older format of the game in a bid to generate more money for organisers. This, of course, is a travesty when you consider that, if you were to speak to the paying public at Lords, Newlands, or the Gabba, you would find the majority hold a deep love for Test cricket.

In fact, the out-of-touch Florentino Perez, who was the proposed chairman for the Super League, sounds very similar to the ICC all those years back when they said that the game needs to be shortened in order to cater to a new generation of fans. Only, that is at total odds with what fans actually wanted. Football was able to stop these fact-free ideas in their tracks, alas, cricket has changed forever.