It was all over at Chepauk as Albert Tuti Patriots emerged winners of the inaugural edition of the Tamil Nadu Premier League, defeating the Super Gillies in a finale of grandeur.
Lakshman Sivaramakrishnan was handling the presentation ceremony and he had just announced Ganesh Moorthi as the man of the match. Defending a total of 216, the left arm spinner couldn’t have provided a better start for Albert Tuti Patriots as he ran through the entire top order picking up four wickets in the very first over-inclusive of a hat trick. Speaking to Dean Jones, with a tinge of nervousness in his voice, he said his father was there to witness him play, pointing to the stands, with a spark of accomplishment in his eyes. Imagine him handing over the man of the match trophy to his father after the ceremony and the sense of happiness that would fill his heart. That’s the perpetual beauty of sport— it rewards dedication with success. It can make people hailing from humble backgrounds become heroes overnight. This TNPL was no exception and the story of Ganesh Moorthi from Udumalpet was just one among the lot.
TNPL – a brave attempt that TNCA passed with flying colors
Since the suspension of Chennai Super Kings and the change atop BCCI, the state did not get its deserved share of cricket. The people of Chennai had to withstand the sight of MS Dhoni sporting an odd purple and blue jersey, live with the fact that Chepauk was not one among the T20 World cup venues, and go through the phase with no international cricket to witness in person. In came the initiative from the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, the brainchild of N. Srinivasan – Tamil Nadu Premier League — a brave attempt that the TNCA passed with flying colors.
A local T20 tournament featuring players from the state is no new thing considering Karnataka Premier League is stepping into its fifth year but it is the mere scale of the event which surprised everyone. From bagging the country’s premier sports television Star Sports as its broadcasting partners to TNCA achieving three times the bidding amount expected for the franchise ownership, the tournament hit a Virender Sehwag mode hitting a boundary off the very first delivery.
“A total of 33.24 crores per annum will be the franchise fee that the TNPL will receive which is the 3.3 times the basic bid” – PS Raman, TNPL Chairman.
With MS Dhoni writing the pillayar suzhi for the tournament by launching the trophy and giving a humblest of speeches at the launch coupled with a modest opening ceremony to follow up with, the tournament started on a subtle yet positive note.
“They are very knowledgeable and appreciate good cricket from the visiting team too. I have come back to Chennai after nine months. This is the longest gap for me between visits to Chennai in past several years. Hopefully my next visit to the city will be much quicker.” – MS Dhoni during the trophy launch.
The limited presence of the featured players like Murali Vijay, Ravichandran Ashwin, Dinesh Karthik, Baba Aparjith and Abhinav Mukund due to their Duleep Trophy duties and no clearances from BCCI did raise a concern about the quality of cricket that was about to be exhibited but the statement was made clear in the very third match of the season where Ruby Kanchi Warriors defeated a stronger Lyca Kovai Kings in a low scoring thriller courtesy of a super over.
A captain’s knock in the form of a century from Baba Aparjith in a big chase, couple of low scoring super over victories, a couple of hat-tricks inclusive of one on his wedding anniversary for MKS Siva, a couple of five wickets hauls inclusive of one for the veteran Lakshmipathi Balaji, half-a-dozen classic knocks from the player of the tournament N Jagadeesan, an on-field feud featuring Ravichandran Ashwin, and the fact that the semi-final line ups were not finalized until the final league match spoke volume about the quality and intensity of cricket that unfolded amidst criticism and doubts from every nook and corner.
The effective branding of TNPL and the resultant TRPs
While the all-around quality of cricket did take the center stage, a lot has to be said about the branding of the entire league and the local flavor adopted by the star sports telecast which worked wonders. Capitalizing on the local culture and people love’s for music and cinema– the league as a whole and the individual franchises had a clear idea of their branding strategy with every franchise fielding in a proper digital media campaign which led to the rise in the tournament’s brand awareness and a resultant TRP rates. The scenes of fun filled galleries at Natham and Tirunelveli coupled with Damkutla Damkutla playing at the break, the aura surrounding the game was visible and well captured throughout the tournament.
It was former Chennai Super Kings opener, Mathew Hayden who was at the core of #TSwag promotional activities off the field as the brand ambassador of the tournament – from visiting Madurai Meenakshi to making Tirunelveli halwas. Star Sports fielded a strong English commentary team for the tournament featuring Brett Lee (who played Neruppu Da in his guitar), Dean Jones (who had a go at full meals in a local mess), Scott Styris (who did thoppu-karanams on Ganesh Chathurthi) and former Tamil Nadu cricketers Lakshman Sivaramakrishnan, Kris Srikanth and Sadagopan Ramesh; all of that besides little cameos from the Caribbean calypso Chris Gayle and the local favourite Dwayne Bravo.
Speaking about the response from the public, N Srinivasan, the TNCA president expressed positivity.
“Star has told us they are very happy – a good thing considering that it is the first priority. When I spoke to Star, they were happy about the terrific response. I have watched games in Natham, Tirunelveli and Chennai, and have observed that there is a lot of enthusiasm.”
Things seemed to have clicked for Tamil Nadu Premier League and the governing council is already looking at ways to enhance the same in the upcoming seasons – Introduction of venues in two new districts, better scheduling to avoid overlaps with other tournaments and participation of outfield players into consideration.
Regardless of how the tournament shapes up in terms of its entertainment and financial factors, it shall remain a genuine platform to showcase the local cricketing talents at the heart of the things. It’s a bitter reality that not everyone who takes up cricket as a career can be successfully donning the Indian blues or the IPL colors and that is exactly where tournaments like TNPL shall play a role in giving them a share of success, limelight, and memories.