Sunday 17 March 2024

IPL (Indian Premier League) - a concentrated study in character

Maheesh Theekshana - The Sri Lankan who is Chennai Super Kings's resident "mystery spinner" - 
in the midst of bowling one of his incomprehensible deliveries

Last year, my most enjoyable cricket included watching almost all of the IPL - Indian Premier League

It is quite surprising how much I enjoy this, but I think I understand some of the reasons. There are many characters on show - and, while Test Match cricket is the ultimate revelation of character in sport - character become concentrated in the shortest form of cricket. 

Each bowler has only a maximum of 24 legal deliveries - so that every single one counts for something.  With only 120 deliveries per innings; each batter is under immense pressure to score quickly, yet too much haste leads to disaster.  

Thus, after each delivery there is a significant shift of probabilities. And as the match reaches its close, the probability-shift per-delivery increases - so that there can be wider and wilder shifts on a ball-by-ball basis.

All this is enhanced by the stakes. The IPL is by-far the biggest-money competition in cricket; indeed on a per-hour basis, IPL cricket is among the highest paid of all sports. And India is a nation both in-love-with and obsessed-by cricket; and a nation that can flip from euphoria to utter misery, adulation to vilification, in the space of minutes. 

The escalating ball-by-ball pressure is squeezed against the skills of the player - honed by years of practice, but prone to the vagaries of form and the unique match situation. 

At the end of all this, it is character that often shines-through. Some characters break, others transcend the situation. 

And there can be only one winner.

Yet, on another day - in another situation, the personnel may be reversed: the once-mighty may be brought low, and the recently-humiliated may triumph.  


lgude said...

I am also a great admirer of Cricket, but didn't know of this intense IPL. My greatest clearacter moment watching cricket came in Bulawayo in the 90s where I was watching Zimbabwe play. One of the Zimbabwean players was a young black man I knew indirectly who was the school chum of a well to do gold miner friend. The ball was struck low and hard and he had to charge and throw himself forward at the last minute to have a chance of holding the catch. The outfield was rough and his whole body was getting knocked up and down as he skidded across the bumps. It was clear he was going to keep the ball off the ground and hold onto it no matter what. He did and got up grinning in triumph despite being visibly banged up. It is wonderful that sport can still bring out some of the best human characteristics in an time of exceptional civilizational decline.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Igude - What a vivid picture you paint! Catches like that are among the best moments of cricket - and diving forward to take a catch, is one of the most difficult and dangerous of actions on the field - even leaving aside what happens after the player hits the turf.

Luqman said...

Does this mean you have come round on T20 cricket in general?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Luqman. That's a loaded question, implying that I *used to be* against T20; which is untrue.

But, like Shane Warne, I have always believed that the rules need to be changed to allow at least a couple of the bowlers to bowl five (instead of four) overs per game - to better balance the potential impact of star batsman and bowler.