'IPL is cricket's stepdad'
Jealousy, according to Kevin Pietersen, explains English cricket’s opposition to the Indian Premier League.
“The IPL is very much struggling to find acceptance back home,” said the batsman, who made his first tournament hundred this week.
“It saddens me because I have had an amazing time in India. It’s down to a lot of jealousy.”
There are, of course, two million reasons why the Devils’ mega-money signing loves the IPL. And who wouldn’t trade places with cricketers who earn fortunes in four weeks?
But English cricket at large isn’t jealous of the IPL. That’s an oversimplification. Actually, the best way to explain the IPL opposition felt by English fans, and those from many other countries too, is to think of a family.
If you are an Englishman, Test cricket is like a father to you. He is solid, steadfast and serious, and teaches you important lessons. He has always been there - indefatigable, and deserving of respect. The IPL is a stepdad. He’s new and loud and different.He's seduced your mother and moved into your home, and you’re angry with this impostor who’s put everything in a spin. You want things back to how they were.
But soon the stepdad buys you an iPad 2 and let’s you stay up late. Plus his car is cooler and he teaches you swearwords to impress your friends. It’s all very unsettling.
The stepdad has been really spoiling us in this season’s IPL. Pietersen’s ton (including a backfoot six over cover off a left-arm spinner), plus Chris Gayle’s five sixes, the David Hussey catch, the staggering genius of AB de Villiers - it’s been like a buffet of desserts.
Meanwhile, our real father can offer us only West Indies vs Australia - or Shivnarine Chanderpaul vs Australia - in front of an empty stadium on a dead wicket in Trinidad.
This is not to say the IPL has completely won me over. It is too long, too commercial, and too unfair on bowlers.
But it is maturing. It has fewer old lags like Shane Warne cashing in on their reputations these days. The best players in the IPL - De Villiers, Pietersen, Gayle, Lasith Malinga - will be the best players at the T20 World Cup. The broadcasts are less hysterical, Pakistanis are no longer banned and young Indians are finally learning how to field.
But ultimately, because it is a stepdad, it will never be loved. That would constitute a betrayal. Test cricket, after all, is in the blood.
It is also vulnerable. Because of the IPL, short series are squeezed in, the best players put cash before country, while others run on empty and pick up injuries. It’s probably corrupt as well. These are not the concerns caused by jealousy. They are real worries shared by many who love the game.
It’s no surprise that Pietersen - a mercenary who has switched countries, counties and franchises over the course of his cosmopolitan career - called this one wrongly. But I don’t blame him too much either.
Families can be hard things to understand.