Sixth season of Indian Premier League (IPL) is just around the corner. In 2008 when IPL’s founder and former chairman Lalit Modi started the league nobody had imagined that the amalgam of showbiz and cricket, especially Twenty20, would have become such a success.

[caption id="attachment_284" align="alignright" width="275"]Can KKR defend their title under the captaincy of Gautam Gambhir? (Photo: AFP) Can KKR defend their title under the captaincy of Gautam Gambhir? (Photo: AFP)[/caption]

IPL has been through ups and downs in the past five years. The league shot to fame in the initial three years, but had to face many a challenge in the past two years to salvage its reputation and brand value. Especially, IPL was censured after the rift developed during team’s auction in 2009, corruption in shares of team owners and the sacking of then chairman Lalit Modi.

A number of former players, journalists and experts opined that the tournaments like IPL would result in the decline of cricket itself. They said that members of the national team, especially young players would become irresponsible towards the game because of the money and fame the league offers. And fans would become uninterested in Test cricket due to the environment the league was building.

But despite all the concerns, IPL made great strides to popularity. At the same time the league not only affected Indian cricket but the national cricket of other countries as well. Various Indian and foreign players, who participated in the IPL’s edition held just after the World Cup 2011, overlooked their national teams’ interests. National teams suffered badly as a result and were seen struggling even in their home grounds in Test matches.

Some cricketers who could play more for their national teams for a little while announced retirements prematurely just to prolong their IPL career. This affected performance of national teams. The latest example is of Australia.

However, there’s no denying that major changes were seen in Twenty20 and even in the one-day cricket because of the IPL. It unveiled obscure talent from across India and introduced players which later became part of the national team as well.

The effect IPL created did not remain confined to the Indian boundaries, but it also impacted the cricket world outside India. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have already started their premier leagues, and Pakistan and West Indies will also follow suit in the near future. West Indies will host its league in July. Pakistani league had been postponed for a year.

Besides, IPL also played quite a role in dampening regional bias in India. MS Dhoni and Gautum Gambhir might not have felt so much emotional attachment to Jarkhand and Delhi as much they felt towards Chennai and Kolkata in the IPL. The league also provided a chance to domestic Indian players to rub shoulders with great names like Shane Warne, Mathew Hayden, Chris Gayle, Adam Gilchrist and Muttiah Muralitharan.

The players’ auction for this year’s season was held on February 3rd in which Australia’s Glenn Maxwell came out as the most expensive player in a surprising turn of events. Maxwell has just been capped one Test and 11 ODIs for the national team. Interestingly, Rickey Ponting was sold at half the price as Maxwell’s. This proves that a player’s experience is not a guarantee that he will be successful in the IPL auction as well.

[caption id="attachment_283" align="alignright" width="296"]Australia’s Glenn Maxwell was the biggest buy in the IPL 6 player auction (Photo: Getty Images) Australia’s Glenn Maxwell was the biggest buy in the IPL 6 player auction (Photo: Getty Images)[/caption]

Initially there were eight teams in the league. After three years two teams, Pune and Kochi, were added. Pune Warriors was bought by Sahara Group in $370 million and Kochi was sold in $333.30 million. Kochi was later banned for not abiding by the rules and regulations of the board’s contract. Moreover, Hyderabad’s team Deccan Chargers was resold and was bought by Chennai’s Sun Groups and it renamed the side as Sunrisers Hyderabad. Thus, nine teams are participating in the IPL 2013.

IPL’s popularity and survival have been questioned for the past two years and the biggest challenge for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is to regain the old passion the fans showed towards the league. It has now become crystal clear Indian board is now more interested in IPL than in national team as it does not want to the goose that is laying the golden eggs.

To predict which team will lead in IPL 2013 would be premature because of two reasons. One, except 2010 and 2011 IPL had different winners in 2008, 2009 and 2012. The first edition of the league was won by Rajasthan Royals in 2008, second by Deccan Chargers in 2009, third and fourth by Chennai Super Kings in 2010 and 2011 and fifth by Kolkata Knight Riders in 2012. Second, to predict anything in Twenty20 cricket is very difficult as it is much more unpredictable than longer formats of the game.

A special thing in IPL 6 is that it is going to host many players who have left international cricket. Apart from Sourav Ganguly and Adam Gilchrist, many other cricketers who would give more time to their national teams are going to be part of the league. By the looks of it, the structure of national team would likely to collapse if the tradition of leaving the sides prematurely continues to prevail.
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