One reason I keep this blog going despite occasionally feeling, like Short of a Length, an overwhelming sense of same old, same old, is the feedback — the pithy comments on here, and the longer arguments that land up in my mailbox. Here’s an example of one such: Mehul Shah, whose main interest is in tennis, got into an email discussion about how, despite adding two new teams, the IPL could be restructured to enhance interest and at the end of it all, crystallized his thoughts as a guest post:
Season 3 is just halfway done, and already there is some concern that Season 4 will finally push us over the boredom threshold: 10 teams, 91 games, 56 days, characterized by the shrill coverage — it all seems a bit much, even for the diehard cricket fan.
So how about tweaking the format, to get the best of all possible worlds? How about attempting to satisfy the craving of fans — and, importantly, the corporates — for at least one game between any two teams, while controlling the total number of games, and rationalizing the schedule?
Here’s how: Split the ten teams into two groups of five teams each. Within the group, each team plays the other twice (away and home). Teams across the groups play each other only once but at neutral venue to avoid any bias. The top two teams from each group qualify for the semis, the knock out phase.
The total number of matches at league stage will be then be 65, which is way less than the number we are going to get in IPL 4 when the number of teams swells to 10. The neutral venues for inter-group matches could be third party cities that currently do not have their own franchises, thus spreading the IPL to more centers, and helping to build excitement levels.
As for how the groups could be split, there are various options. You could follow American sports leagues wherein you have fixed groups for all seasons, based on regions or otherwise — a system that promotes lifelong rivalries that add to the excitement. This system may not be optimal for the IPL, though, since the number of teams is relatively smaller. So why not split the groups based on the ranking of the previous edition of the IPL, with teams ranked 1, 3, 5, 7 [and later 9] in one group and the rest in the other? Or seed 4 semi-finalists from the previous edition, split them into two groups and have a draw for the remaining 6 teams — which incidentally gives the IPL another opportunity for hoopla, with Bollywood stars participating in a high profile drawing ceremony.
Scheduling also can have creativity. You could play all the games within the groups first, say as Phase I. Teams will know where they stand with regards to the others within the same group at the end of it. Then play Phase II with all the inter-group games, to catch up or consolidate. While it will fundamentally not affect the qualification process, it could divide the otherwise long round-robin stage into two distinct phases and make the whole tournament a 3 phase event.
What works for you about this? And what doesn’t?
Right. Thoughts? Oh, and for those who asked: There’s nothing to this guest post business. Mail me what you want to write about [premp at yahoo-inc.com] and we’ll take it from there.