A Crash Course in Non-Baseball


The Indian Premier League (IPL) trails only the NFL and English Premier Leagues in terms of the most popular professional leagues in the world. However, even though ESPN+ picked up their games, the average American may not have ever heard about the IPL. Since the four-team playoffs began on Sunday and end under the lights in Dubai on Friday, here is a basic guide to T20 IPL Cricket.

What is T20 Cricket?

It’s really just baseball with fewer bases and more home runs. T20 is a lot like baseball—little things might make it seem a little unfamiliar in the beginning—but when you look past the differences in sponsorships and bat shape, it’s America’s favorite past-time played among the Commonwealth. It’s really just baseball with fewer innings and more British commentators. The T20 form of cricket was devised in the late 1990s to make the sport more appealing to younger audiences; a match of test cricket could span days of strategic, endurance-based play, but T20 allowed fans to tune in for a couple of hours, watch the match unfold, and return to their lives. It’s really just baseball with fewer locations and more brown people. In T20, a bowler (like a pitcher) bowls to a batsman (like a batter) who strategically hits the ball to score runs by reaching the other wicket (like a base). It’s really just baseball with fewer teams and more movie star owners. If the ball gets caught in the air (such as a pop-fly), a wicket has occurred (like an out), and ten wickets results in the early end of the inning. It’s really just baseball with fewer baseball gloves and more facial hair. That being said, the more common way for the innings to end is when the full 120 balls have been bowled or when the second team to bat outscores the first team’s total (like when a home-team skips the bottom of the ninth). It’s really just baseball with fewer $7 beers and more Hasan Minhaj coverage. Batmen can also skip the run-around by slamming a six (like a home run) or hitting the boundary for four points (such as if you got runs for hitting the outfield wall). It’s really just baseball with fewer pitching scandals more mariachi music. 

What team should I support?

The Chennai Super Kings (CSK)

The best team to start off with Chennai, who won their match on Sunday after sitting in 2nd place going into the playoffs. CSK is known for keeping their players and developing talent. They’ve missed the playoffs just once in the last decade, and despite suffering a three-game losing streak to end regular-season play, the Super Kings reigned supreme for most of the season. With the win in qualifiers 1, CSK is into the finals and should be well-rested for their match on Friday.

American Comparison: The Pittsburgh Steelers

The Delhi Capitals (DC)

The favorites going into the tournament were the Delhi Capitals. The Capitals were mere passengers as Super Kings captain MS Dhoni played home run derby to snatch a late victory on Sunday, but DC remains just two wins away from a title. Delhi is an up-and-coming franchise led by the young, former CSK prodigy Rishabh Pant and brandishes an impressive regular season record of 10-4. DC is plainly effective and chases its first championship this year.

American Comparison: The Buffalo Bills

The Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)

For those who prefer players to teams, Royal Challengers Bangalore is the way to go. RCB is led by Virat Kohli, who captains the Indian T20 team and has an Instagram following akin to Neymar. Kohli led the Challengers to a strong end of regular-season play, hot on the heels of the top two, and the team will try to carry that momentum into qualifiers 2. Virat is affectionately known as “King Kohli” across the Indian subcontinent, and after a surprise announcement that this will be his last year as the Challengers’ leader, Kohli hopes to capture that elusive trophy before stepping down.

American Comparison: The Pittsburgh Penguins (if Sid never won a cup)

The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)

The Kolkata Knight Riders, much like their name, are the dark horses of this tournament. KKR went to the last day in their arduous, unlikely campaign to punch the last ticket to the playoffs. The Knight Riders were one of four teams which could move on when the final matches began, and they have earned their spot among the three giants. Those who can appreciate an underdog should keep KKR in their hearts this year.

American Comparison: The Phoenix Suns



Qualifiers 1: Sunday 8:30-1:30: Delhi Capitals #1 vs. Chennai Super Kings #2 play for trip to the finals  (Chennai won with just two balls left)

Eliminators: Monday 8:30-1:30: Royal Challengers Bangalore #3 vs. Kolkata Knight Riders #4 play in qualifiers 2:

Qualifiers 2: Wednesday 8:30-1:30: Delhi Capitals vs. winner of eliminators play for trip to the finals

Finals: Friday 8:30-1:30: Chennai Super Kings vs. winner of qualifiers 2