There is something different about the 2019 Indian Premier League season, right from the auction till the tournament. The IPL auction, normally a January or a February affair will be held on December 18 and 19 this year. In 2009 and 2014, the Assembly elections forced the IPL to be played in South Africa and partly in the United Arab Emirates respectively. In 2019, the General Elections will once again be held in India around the April-May period, which could mean that the IPL could be played on foreign shores from March end to the starting of May, majority of which could be in South Africa or the UAE. However, 2019 is the year of the World Cup and this has forced the marquee Twenty20 tournament to be consigned to a mere sideshow.
The main reason will be that for the first time in the history of the tournament, the IPL will be played before the World Cup. In 2011 and in 2015, the tournament was played after the end of the World Cup. In 2011, the World Cup final ended on May 2 and almost a week later, the first match between Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders was played in Chepauk. In 2015, with the World Cup being played according to the Australian home summer which starts from October to March, the IPL could be played from April till May. However, this time, since the World Cup is being played in England, a country that has their international summer run from May to September, the dynamics of player priorities and commitment has resulted in a massive change.
The BCCI are waiting for the General Election dates to be announced before they get moving on finalising venue and dates of the IPL. However, the preparation for the World Cup has forced many of the Cricket Boards to issue statements on their availability.
Cricket Australia has clearly said that players will not be available for the tournament from May 1. With their Sheffield Shield season coming to a close in March and with an upcoming ODI series against India after that, players like Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Starc have opted out of the tournament. Even the England Cricket Board has decided to protect players. With the World Cup beginning in the end of May, most international players will have to attend preparatory camps. Even the Committee of Administrators has said Indian players will have to attend a preparatory camp 15 days before the start of the tournament. Only New Zealand’s cricket board has given an assurance of players being available for the entire tournament.
Potential of low TRPs
In the past, when IPL was played after the World Cup and in overseas conditions, TRPs ie Television viewership has declined. In 2014, the first week of IPL which was played in the UAE recorded the lowest TRP for a long time. In 2011, the tournament did not have the best TRPs due to possible viewer fatigue after India’s glorious World Cup campaign. In 2009, due to the General Elections, the ratings declined by close to 20% at the start of the season.
This is the first time that the dual whammy of General Elections and World Cup at the same time has conspired to hurt the IPL. With 346 players in the auction, this event will see no Indian player in the elite base price of Rs 2 crore. The absence of star overseas players has also resulted in a lack of buzz. However, this could be the time when India truly explores the depth of their massive talent pool and give other youngsters a chance to shine on the big stage. Maybe, the 2019 Indian Premier League could truly be THE Indian Premier League.