In a times of mourning such as these, ever are we reminded of the words of Virgil concerning the death of Julius Caeser:
“Who dare say the Sun is false? He and no other warns us when dark uprisings threaten, when treachery and hidden wars are gathering strength. He and no other was moved to pity Rome on the day that Caesar died, when he veiled his radiance in gloom and darkness, and a godless age feared everlasting night.”
As true as it was for the Roman Republic as it is now for the IPL, the darkness threatens to overthrow all. The IPL is dead. Long live the IPL.
All of which may sound a little overdone, if not unnecessarily morbid, but with the murder of the Pune Warriors the IPL as a whole is nothing but a corpse to us now. Sure we may have defended it until this point, encouraged others to look past its warts to see the beauty inside (if the IPL could have a personality, it would be ‘bubbly’), but alas, we can delude overselves no longer. Even if the IPL somehow manages to clean up its act, remove the ridiculous restriction on the number of foreign players allowed to take the field and rid itself of Ravi Shastri’s histrionics, it would still be dead to us. The IPL we fell for is gone, never to return.
In truth the Pune Warriors were (it still hurts to use the past tense) one of, if not the, best things about the tournament. They were one of the few teams that seemed to have an actual identity. Sure that identity was largely based upon the appalling incompetence of its board, but at least it was something. All the other teams in the tournament sort of merge together into one giant ball of ordinariness; Pune had their home fans, the half-finished Subrata Roy Stadium and cheerleaders dressed in traditional Indian costume. In a sea of hype and hyperbole there was something compelling about the Pune Warriors, as if they were the only outfit that didn’t portray itself as a rich man’s plaything. Sure, they were a rich man’s plaything, which is why we’re in this position today, but appearances can count for a lot. Especially in the IPL.
Our love affair with the Pune Warriors began in those frantic few hours before last year’s competition when they signed both Luke Wright and Steven Peter Devereux Smith. Those were halcyon days, particularly when they started the season in a rush, winning their first two games and threatening to take the competition by storm. Then everything started to go south, finishing with Pune rooted to the bottom of the table. But the journey itself was a memorable one, unveiling such memorable moments as Jesse Ryder’s running between wickets, Ashish Nehra’s 14th stump line, and that fielding effort from Devereux. Plus that time he was sick.
This season, in comparison, never even got off the ground. A woeful start was only brightened by Devereux going ballistic when finally recalled to the squad after four games, followed by Luke Wright twatting his first five IPL deliveries to the boundary, in one giant ‘fuck you’ to the team’s management. But beyond that it has been frankly awful and, to be honest, I personally didn’t bother watching a single game after Devereux was forced home injured. Even Gayle’s record innings seems a little sad in retrospect, like kicking a puppy. That they didn’t come dead last, and that another team (namely the Delhi Daredevils) could conceivably be worse than Pune were this season, frankly does not reflect well on the competition.
Of course players like Devereux and Luke Wright could pop up elsewhere next season. Their being signed at auction would normally be a sure bet, but this being the IPL it equally wouldn’t surprise if they were passed up in favour of signing Dan Christain for billions instead. But even if they are picked up, even if both by the same team, it will never be the same again. The IPL’s greatest issue, as we have discussed previously, is that it makes no effort to to advertise itself to anyone but its domestic audience. At the end of the day it is an Indian domestic T20 competition that just happens to have the means to attract a large number of international players. For us at least, Pune were a way into this otherwise unintelligible morass of cash dominated hubris. Now there just doesn’t seem to be a reason to bother paying attention anymore. Unless they get Katy Perry back that is. That should do the trick.