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Whether the success of the Indian Premier League (IPL) resides in its format or Bollywood-isation, it cannot be denied that the IPL is a phenomenon. Neither controversy nor match fixing seem to dampen its bounce. Now that the IPL’s governing council has made a strong pitch to shift the IPL to either the UAE or South Africa, it is time to reflect.
The Indian Premier League has come a long way since the fifties when watching test matches was as leisurely as watching a glorious sunset. Back then, cricket was best represented by an old bra – no cups and hardly any support. Over the years, like films, cricket has become all about entertainment, entertainment and entertainment.
For understandable reasons, the IPL is perceived to be a Tamasha. That’s amusing, but wrong. What is touted as Tamasha is in fact, serious business. According to the BCCI, the 2015 season of IPL contributed Rs 11.5 billion to the GDP of our economy. When you have a golden goose there is a mad scramble to claim the eggs. Controversies abound. In an attempt to steady the IPL innings, the BCCI introduced new teams and removed the rotting fish. And yet, the cup of IPL woes runneth over. The Lodha Committee recommendations have ensured that playing IPL with a straight bat is not going to be easy on a spinning home turf.
One of the abiding ironies is that cricket fans love cricket but love to hate the cricket governing body. Perception rules. Consequently, every political controversy like Indo-Pak ties (Dharamsala match) and Marthwada (matches shifted out of Maharashtra) drought washes up on the shores of the IPL. A volley of PILs have stumped the IPL. Adding to the discomfort is the ED surveillance on alleged Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations.
Nonetheless, the IPL is a home grown brand that needs to be nurtured even if it requires regular weeding. Worldwide, sporting leagues have contributed towards their respective sport. Like football and basketball, Indian cricket players are making more money by participating in the league games instead of playing international games.
You could shrug and say, how does the venue matter? After all, the IPL had moved to South Africa and UAE on two occasions. Fine. But would English Premier League (EPL) be as popular if it was, say, played in Singapore? Will someone in South Africa be as proud as apna Delhi-ite watching Delhi Daredevils walk in? An average middle class Indian was stingy when it came to shelling big money to watch a game. IPL changed that in one straight drive. Financial backing by big brands added to the brand value of the tournament. Let’s face it - sport thrives on sponsorship and money.
If and when the golden goose flies away, TV contracts and sweetheart deals with owners and the BCCI might benefit cricketers, but will it benefit an average cricket fan? More significantly, should we ignore that IPL was the trigger for various sporting leagues in Kabaddi, Tennis and Badminton? Should we forget that IPL is a fertile breeding ground for young talent? Should we disregard that IPL has ensured the maintenance and upkeep of many stadiums? Should we not care for what IPL does for tourism in tier-two cities?
It is unfortunate that ‘Indian Peoples League’ has become controversial punching bag. A brand that debuted with a bang in India shouldn’t go out with a whimper.
(Full article in Diplomacy&Beyond)