Brave New Pitch
The Evolution of Modern Cricket
New Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in South Asian StudiesNew Books in SportsNew Books Network June 17, 2013 Bruce Berglund
The sixth season of the Indian Premier League recently concluded, and once again off-field problems cast light on the league’s growing pains. For the fifth year in a row, no Pakistani players were selected for the league’s teams, while other foreign cricketers were withdrawn by their national boards at various points in the tournament for service in international matches. Political and ethnic tensions in the state of Tamil Nadu required a change in host cities, from Chennai to Delhi, for playoff matches. After a dispute over franchise fees and three unsuccessful campaigns on the field, the franchise in Pune folded at the season’s end. And most significantly, the playoff rounds took place under the cloud of a spot-fixing scandal, as three players for the Rajasthan Royals and eleven bookies were arrested in Delhi in May. Following upon previous scandals, the fixing arrests brought another blow to the IPL’s integrity. Observers point to the flood of cash that has overwhelmed Indian cricket in such a short time, rendering franchise owners, administrators, and players unable to withstand its force. The question arises, as the IPL aspires to build a structure that will tower alongside the world’s other great sports brands, will it manage to establish solid footings?
Plenty of cricket fans take a good measure of satisfaction in watching the IPL’s problems. In its short life, the league has upended the game from its time-honored traditions. Samir Chopra is among those who lament some of the changes that the IPL and T20 have brought to the sport. But he also recognizes that the Indian Premier League offers a model that can potentially improve cricket. A philosopher at Brooklyn College and a regular contributor to ESPN Cricinfo, Samir is alert to the profound identity crisis in which world cricket finds itself. He plumbs various aspects of this current turmoil in his thoughtful and eloquent book Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket (HarperCollins, 2012). But rather than denouncing the IPL and all its vulgar wealth as the cause of the crisis, he points to a franchise-based form of international cricket, with players treated as professionals rather than servants indentured to national boards, as something that can potentially benefit all forms of the game.