TV channels battle for TRPs. High TRPs means high sponsorships for them. When we, as participants of a show, wonder why a weird thing is part of the show, we are told it will help TRPs. I don’t know whether it actually helps or not, and how accurate are the systems that measure TRPs. So, I have my own simple measure to gauge the popularity of a show or, say, a cricketing event. It never fails me—'Ticket Requests Parameter'. Yes, that is my TRP.
How many requests do I get for tickets before a cricket match defines the popularity of the event for me. The promoters of the event can create all the hype they want—‘The War’, ‘Aakraman', 'The Ultimate Cricket Series’—but if I don't get any phone calls or messages before the match for tickets, the event is doomed. My TRP is a reliable soothsayer. It has never been wrong. And this is where the Indian Premier League shows its class.
Indian cricket just finished a grand home season of international cricket, where we had four teams visiting us in one season. I wouldn't say that the Ticket Request Parameter for this was zero. Yes, there were some requests. But when it comes to the IPL, my ‘TRPs’ hit the roof! And this happens every summer without fail. People look forward to the IPL as much as they look forward to the Alphonso mango.
So what's the magic of the IPL? Why does it overshadow even international cricket? It's not rocket science, after all.
First, it is T20 cricket. A format that is modern and in keeping with modern tastes. Second is the timings. The match starts at 8pm and it lasts for just three and a half hours. If you take out the timeouts, it is even less. It is prime time viewing for people at the ground, so also on television. People can finish all their work for the day and unwind with the IPL.
The IPL is also not just about cricket. And that is why you have so many people who are not cricket fans come and watch the game. Take, for instance, my children. It is basically a fun event. Besides music, there are frequent public announcements, engaging the spectators with little games and contests in between all the action and what not! The spectators in the IPL are constantly entertained, mostly by the action on the field, but when there is no action, there is no drop in entertainment either. If you haven't watched an IPL game at the ground, you must do it, to actually experience what I am saying.
When it comes to world events like the World Cup or the T20 World Cup, international cricket does beat the IPL, and my TRP clearly shows that. But when it comes to random international cricket, the IPL beats the hell out of ODIs and Tests, and, sometimes, even T20s.
International cricket with its overdose and its randomness, unlike world events where you have a champion at the end, is hamstrung. It needs to take lessons from the IPL, before it's too late.
For such an action-packed format like T20s, there are so many outside elements packed in to entertain the crowd and the television viewers. In comparison we do almost nothing to jazz up Tests and ODI matches.
We must make mainstream nation versus nation cricket more fun to watch. There are far too many idle moments in between the action in these formats and sometimes the action itself is idle. Plus, the timings don’t help at all. Random international cricket is basically like an orphan left to fend for itself.