Muck-struck IPL

Muck-struck IPL

Cricketing extravaganza Controversies threaten to take the sheen off the T20 league

Muck-struck IPL

Since its inception in 2008, the Indian Premier League and controversies have been constant companions. Even considering the fact that Indians have never experienced a format like the IPL first-hand, a possible reason for the sharp reactions to some of the issues, the league’s propensity to land in problems has been quite astonishing.

But before moving forward let’s be clear about one fact -- the IPL is as much about high-quality cricket as it is about vulgar exhibition of money, glamour, Bollywood and manipulation skills that at times push the sporting part of the league to the background.  
You are kidding yourself by thinking that the nature of the IPL is going to change in the years to come, and if anything it’s going to be even more entertainment-oriented. It’s up to the spectators to take what they want from the league -- either entertainment or cricket or both. Unlike the English Premier League or NBA or NHL, the demarcation between entertainment, individual interests and sports is quite thin in the IPL, and that’s the root cause of the problems. Let’s retrace the controversies that have plagued the IPL from its birth-year.

The beginning could be the shifting of the IPL to South Africa in 2009. It could be hailed as Lalit Modi’s brilliance in event management and a daring battle against India’s lethargic bureaucracy, but in the subsequent days we read about tax evasion and payment issues, and the heat has consumed Gerald Majola, former chief of Cricket South Africa, who now faces charges of breaching his fiduciary duties during the IPL2.

Then came the news of Ravindra Jadeja, then a player with the Rajasthan Royals, negotiating with many franchises looking for a better deal, and the IPL Governing Council promptly banned him for a season. The Jadeja episode brought to light the confusion over player-retention clauses, and it was also an early indication of franchises resorting to under-the-table payment to players apart from the sum they were given in the open.

In 2010, a tweet by Modi had a stunning effect -- it brought a premature end to Shashi Tharoor’s term as a junior cabinet minister, revealed the hefty amount pledged to Sunanda Pushkar (girlfriend-turned-wife of Tharoor) as sweat money, adversely affected business equations before finally jettisoning Modi, who is now in exile in England, himself as the IPL Commissioner. It also saw Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) suspending Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals for violating franchise agreement before they moved to court and got sanction to compete in IPL4.

But the seismic waves created by Modi’s tweet were far from ceasing as they spilled over to the 2011 season as news of arm twisting during auction for two new IPL franchises, which was won by Kochi and Pune, came out, and the BCCI was eventually forced to scrap the Kochi Tuskers Kerala after the fourth season due to financial irregularities. Pune Warriors didn’t participate in the auction before the fifth edition of the tournament, and it took a massive effort from the authorities to prevent owners Sahara from boycotting the IPL5.

The fifth edition started under a cloud of controversies and crowd backlash, but apprehensions were soon swept aside as some command performances on the field was well-received by packed galleries. However, a sting operation by a TV channel revealed the dark sides of the IPL -- this time in the form of spot-fixing. It was just the beginning as Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shahrukh Khan was engaged in an ugly spat with Mumbai Cricket Association officials, courting a five-year ban from entering the Wankhede stadium, and the allegations of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Australian import Luke Pomersbach molesting a woman during an after-match party at New Delhi capped a totally unwanted chain of events.

Tough call

Unlike in the above-mentioned leagues abroad, the BCCI officials play an active role in the IPL, thereby, making it tough for them to take hard measures that can have a lasting impact, because then uncomfortable questions about double standards could arise.

This diluted sense of responsibility and thin boundaries are the biggest thorn in the flesh of the IPL. Despite the sleaze flying around, BCCI’s work in promoting the game cannot be discounted, as former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly, who led Pune Warriors in the absence of Yuvraj Singh, remarked.

“BCCI has run cricket far better than others, and should be given credit for managing Indian cricket well. They work with a lot of transparency, and I don’t think it’s the duty of the BCCI to let people know how they run the sport,” Ganguly had said.

The former Indian captain’s words are true to a large extent but BCCI can’t shy away from the responsibility of cleansing the IPL, an event on which crores have been spent, of its stigma and suspicions, and it is time too they took a much firmer hand over the league’s proceedings.

 

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