India's Problem League

Unfortunately, they are all linked to cricket, more specifically the Indian Premier League (IPL), played in the shorted T20 format of encapsulated entertainment over the summer April-May months. There is five days test cricket, the one-day internationals and T20 in the IPL format in India, controlled and managed by the Board of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI), one of the richest sports bodies in the world.

Following the recent incidents, the unhappiest are one lot of politicians who have raised a hue and cry in Parliament calling for an IPL ban. Predictably, they are also the ones sidelined from cricket riches (read profits), so far. One is reportedly on hunger strike. The other lot of politicians, and there is many of them, involved closely with IPL and overall cricket returns, are of course quiet.

The happiest are the TV channels that do not need to re-deploy resources. They continue to speak to the same set of people about the different subjects. The captive audience is big. As it is with anything to do with cricket in India, IPL continues to be followed by millions across the country.

Upfront, T20 is all about good cricket, not very gentlemanly, but a bit more brutal, but not mindless. At the IPL, the sixes rain from the first to the last ball. Yet, make no mistake only genuine cricketers can succeed in the format. Try hitting a six out of the stadium or into the stands like Chris Gayle that the crowds enjoy the most or for that matter plucking a ball almost sailing over the boundary line, mid air.

This can be no fluke, computer graphics, special effects or science fiction. No wonder, the top performers Gayle, Virender Sehwag, Kevin Pietersen, Mahela Jayawardane are already big Test and One Day stars.

This year’s IPL has perhaps had some of the closest contests ever, with too many matches decided in the last over, last ball. There are worries about overdose of cricket, but it seems that Indians can never have enough of the game, like the 3-hour mandatory family time for a Bollywood masala movie, week after week. IPL franchisees, meanwhile, include liquor barons, Bollywood actors and actresses, industrialists, music, real estate and aviation honchos. They have pumped money into IPL with expectations of monetizing the Indian cricketing craze into profits.

The IPL business model is a success. The owners expect to make good money while the cricketers are happy signing the million dollar contracts for just two months of work. The IPL has created a bigger corpus of players, overseas and Indian, making a decent living out of the game. There is no dearth of sponsors. This is not illegitimate. There is much more amiss when the government decides to pump in Rs 300 billion of taxpayer money into the failing and badly managed so called national carrier Air India, or loses billions that could have been used to uplift the poor, by selling telecom spectrum at throwaway prices.

Over the recent past, IPL cricket has been subsumed by the controversies. If one were to go solely by the coverage on TV news channels, the IPL could stand for an orgy about everything apart from cricket. This is perhaps due to some overzealous organizers looking to turn the great cricket show into an even bigger party adding booze, women, sponsors, cricketers, backers, agents, some fixers and gate crashers for an even better time. All of this of course can easily be eliminated without cricket being impacted.

There is a self perpetuating buzz about good cricket in India. The game does not need any additional marketing props or gimmicks. How many fans, the folks who really matter ultimately, get to attend the IPL parties?

There is need to tone down the extra-curricular stuff a bit to bring the focus back on the game. Maybe Shahrukh Khan should take a bit of the back seat and Siddharth Mallya should stop tweeting. And, yes, there seems to be an unfair focus on the cheerleaders – the under attack girls are doing a fantastic job of doing what they are supposed to do --- dance. Try out some of the moves without spraining the back.

The BCCI has been running Indian cricket for long and quite profitably. It needs to root out the bad stuff and keep the good stuff going. The authorities need to step in where there are allegations of wrong doings as in the past by cracking down on match fixing, illegal betting, tax evasion etc. The cricket should go on.