Cricket's hugely popular Indian Premier League (IPL) is being played in its sixth season. Despite recent controversies surrounding the event, its unabated success has started to inspire other sports formats.
The Indian Premier League (IPL), which is based on a twenty-over format - a much shorter version of the lengthy game of cricket - has proven to be a great success for the Indian cricket board, most of its owners, sponsors, the media, and also for the highly paid cricketers participating in it. The current sixth season of the tournament kicked off on April 3 and will end on May 26, 2013.
The success of the IPL has inspired other, less popular sports in India to replicate the tournament format.
In field hockey, for example, India successfully held the Hockey India League earlier this year. The country is also planning an IPL-style football league in early 2014. Similarly, in badminton, the Indian Badminton League is in the offing, whereas other sports like tennis, basketball, volleyball, and motorsports are contemplating similar events.
Matthew Taylor, a British sports expert who has lived in India for many years, is of the view that India does not have a league or a club culture like Europe and other parts of the world. The IPL, he says, has somewhat changed that, by in part incorporating a large entertainment factor, bringing together India's two biggest passions: cricket and Bollywood.
Taylor thinks that it will be difficult for other sports to copy the IPL success.
"A few years ago, there was only the football I-League in India. Then they tried and failed with the Premier Hockey League before the revolutionary IPL came about. The IPL has transformed the Indian sporting scene but we should not be too optimistic about its application in other sports," Taylor told DW.
Experts say that what works for cricket will not necessarily work for other sports. They argue that the best players from India and the rest of the world play in the IPL, which is certainly not the case in hockey and football.
Hockey - India's national sport
Before the start of the IPL, the Premier Hockey League (PHL) was launched by the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF) in 2005 with support from the television channel ESPN India. The PHL proved to be a TV success; it was more colorful than regular field hockey events held up to then and raked in a good amount of revenue from advertising. But the PHL was limited in its scope, and was played at only two venues with no home-and-away format to keep the costs down. The PHL eventually failed and was ended in 2008.
In 2012 came the World Series Hockey. This time, the tournament was better organized, and received a great deal of support from TV channels. But the internal tug-of-war between India's two hockey federations - the IHF and Hockey India - for control over the event, put an end to the tournament before it could play a second season.
Earlier this year, the Hockey India League was created by Hockey India, which took a lot of inspiration from the IPL, getting international hockey stars to play, and shortening the length of the tournament. It seems that India's third attempt at reviving its national sport is working this time.
Originally a football format
The IPL concept was originally intended for a football tournament in India but the All India Football Federation turned it down. It was later applied by businessman Lalit Modi to cricket. Ironically enough, the concept which was initially turned down by the football federation has once again been tossed in the hat as a possible format.
However, sports journalist Chris Punnakkattu Daniel is of the opinion that the IPL's concept will not be successful for football or other sports - for a number of reasons.
"Cricket is the most popular sport in the whole of the Indian subcontinent, and cricket federations have the required platform to implement it," Daniel told DW. Sports like football, he added, have been unsuccessfully trying to create and run similar models.
"The best example is the Premier League Soccer (PLS), which attracted international media attention by announcing that it was going to sign big names in football such as Fabio Cannavaro, Hernan Crespo and others. But the PLS failed miserably even before its start."
Despite the shortcomings and failures, other sports in India are still trying to emulate the success of the IPL. For that, they are also trying new strategies and formats. They say that if the IPL can work so well in India, there is a chance for other sports, too.