Revamping IPL for season 4

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] and we’ll take it from there.

19 thoughts on “Revamping IPL for season 4

  1. I would say go the whole hog…make SL & Bang boards official stake holders of IPL, get no. of teams upto say 14 – 10 that are now in IPL 4 + 2 extra Indian teams (Ahmedabad, UP, North East?) + Dhaka + Colombo teams…consider all SL and Bang players “local” (so any Indian, Bang, SL player in any o the teams would be not take up the quota of 4 foreign players)….have 2 conferences with teams playing the other 6 teams home & away, followed by the top from each conference playing a best of 3 final.

  2. surendra hit the nail on the head ! when has cricket mattered to LKM and co? Its all in the money honey !

  3. Love the kind of discussion these posts sometimes provoke 🙂 Will wait for it to settle, and see if I can’t repurpose all of this as a point/counterpoint post, to try and condense the views. Thanks, you guys. See you Monday, enjoy the Easter weekend.

  4. I think people should stop watching matches that they are not really concerned about. Currently we are watching each and every match religiously. Support a team and make sure u watch their matches and the IPL will not feel like a drag

  5. I agree with splitting the 10 teams into groups of 5 each. Where I differ from the rest is – have the teams within each group play home and away. Top 2 from each group through to the semis. In this way, you could personally pick and choose which group games to watch , or which team to follow – quite like how the EPL or La Liga is followed.

    Fat chance that any of this would come to fruition though !

  6. I don’t like neutral venues, although I’ve seen crowds cheer action even if it was the away team score runs or take wickets. I hope with time fans to choose a team and support it.

    If it’s 10 teams, I like Mehul’s idea but I’d change it slightly. 2 Groups of 5 teams

    Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Kolkata, Mumbai
    Pune, Deccan, Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi

    Teams play the teams in their group home and away. For teams in the other group, teams play two of them home, two of them away, and one team home and away. That one team would be the team that finished in the same position in their group last season. For example, if Delhi and Chennai topped their respective groups in 2010 they would play each other home and away in 2011 while the rest of the teams in the other group either home or away. This also brings some competitive balance.

    So this means each team plays 14 games, same as they do now, before the semi-finals. Total number of games is 70. Add the four knockout games and you have 74 games in all.

  7. Excuse me for my anti-stand to the arguments by Mehul. I guess I am doing this very often on this forum, but where else do you get a good audience to speak to.

    This is to Mehul, to begin IPL is turning a little boring right now,and i get the same vibes from people around me. And this is all where I agree to you with.

    The universe is much bigger than just you , me and few more people around us and like us.Connected always , easy access to mobile, scores, live updates and also access to more sources of entertainment. We are a more critical lot, everything has to meet our own standards of quality, else we become extremely vocal expressing our angst.

    If I go by the viewer-ship details in media, they claim a much higher number of eyeballs compared to previous audience.Where do you think this audience is coming in from. There is a vast population which drools over IPL or aspires to an access to a jazz like this. Some of us may have doubts over the viewer-ship numbers , so be it. I would go be it, until and unless somebody comes up with something more credible. IPL will continue to grow for sometime in numbers. My guess is, the number of people following IPL will always be more than those losing interest.

    Look at the brands riding on the IPL hoopla. Most of the stuff like Karbonn mobile, Maxx, Vodafone…they are looking at the not so urban India, there is a bigger market in the hinterlands and thats what they are targeting.

    And as Swamy said, it may go the EPL way. Choose your favorite team and stick with that.

    But, there is no way IPL will reduce the number of matches, the audience is large enough for an tournament of the size of the current IPL or the next season and yeah the money too is big enough.

  8. my suggestion is similar to mehul shah’s – 2 divisions of 5 teams each:

    The Vindhyas division (or cauvery division) is kochi, bangalore, chennai, hyderabad and pune. The Himalayas division (or Ganga division) is Mumbai, Delhi, Rajasthan, Punjab and Kolkata.

    Each team plays other teams in its own division 2 twice a year (home and away), but plays all teams in the other division only once – the difference with Mehul Shah’s plan is to have the inter-division games at the home of one of the two teams. So they play each other at home over a two year period.

    I don’t like the non-fixed divisions – to appeal to American sports again, there is a lot made of intra divisional rivalries there – Red Sox vs Yankees in baseball, Steelers vs Ravens. Steelers vs Browns etc in NFL. I think it builds rivalries and fan excitement more, rather than the creating divisions based on previous year rankings. I don’t mean to suggest there can’t be hated rivalries between teams from different divisions (ex. Colts vs Patriots in NFL).

    Also, now that all teams are stocked well, I would rather they went to a draft system (based on previous year rankings) rather than auctions, atleast for non-international players. More chance for all teams to get a crack at fresh new talent rather than those willing to spend more money.

    if two more team come up, then lets make it 3 divisions of 4 teams and go from there. ofcourse you will need longer than 6 weeks for the entire thing to finish. i certainly wouldn’t want a longer tournament. there is only some many t20 games i can take.


  9. EPL has so many matches. Not every one watches ALL the matches. Over a period of time, the IPL fans will develop franchisee loyalty and would drift towards watching only those in which they are interested. In India, we are used to watching all the matches, be it Test, ODI or T 20. The new generation will be choosy and limited in their viewing in the future.

      • Mahek: I was not comparing the no.of matches in EPL and IPL. I was responding to people telling they have to watch 90 plus matches next season in IPL. Hence my comment that fans will become choosy as to what to watch.

        • Exactly what I was thinking. The NBA has 82 games per season for each team, plus the playoffs. I was an avid NBA watcher for at least a decade. I would watch 2-3 games a week, and almost everything in the playoffs.

          91 games is not really that huge a deal. Some improvements I would look for are in terms of encouraging home advantage. eg.

          1.) I HATE the suggestion of using neutral venues. Go to the match between Australia and New Zealand at the next world cup to see what I mean.

          2.) Building on my previous point, make league standings more meaningful. A semi-final between Seed 1 and Seed 4 should logically be played at Seed 1’s home ground.

  10. Yes, if such a system is implemented then no. of matches can be limited…but we all know Lalit Modi…he sees an opportunity in everything. Very difficult to cnvince him of this formula. As less matches means less tv-time, less coverage, less ads, less money…doesnt work for him. Nope…

    Even if someone does drill down this plan of dividing teams into 2 groups he would come up with another brilliant idea – how about further 2 more teams..have a group of 6 each and no. of matches go up again…selling of 2 franchises means more money…Ahmedabad is waiting !!!

  11. Only thing is, less matches means less revenue. IPL is not purely about cricket, its about money too, isn’t it?

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