By Shobhit Agarwal:
What is the first word that comes to mind at the mention of Indian Premiere League?
Entertainment, controversy, cheer-girls, match-fixing, Bollywood. The chances are that ‘Cricket’ will be way down the pecking order in the list. But that shouldn’t worry us because it was designed to be this way.
In the past five years, a lot of things have happened to and with the IPL. Being controversy’s own child has been one of its prime achievements. Moreover, it has generated a loyal set of critics, who have mastered the ability of picking apart anything and everything that happens in IPL. From the dressing of the cheer-girls to the after-game parties, from allowing entry to the owners in the playing area to allotting franchises on flimsy grounds, nothing has escaped the prying eyes of these critics. Upon ignoring the petty ones and focussing on just the primary concerns, we find two issues at the core of most criticism –
First – the IPL is anything but cricket.
Second — the league has brought shame after shame to the nation and should be scrapped.
Let us address the second concern first. Nothing excites us Indians more than seeing a desi name in any list of repute. So here is a piece of news that not many critics are aware of –the IPL is among the top-10 richest sporting leagues in the world, based on market value, estimated to be worth something to the tune of 2.9 billion dollars (it was close to 4 billion dollars at the end of second season). And it has some pretty esteemed company in Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), English Premiere League (EPL) and the likes. What adds to its credibility is that it has achieved so in the short span of 5 years. This is anything but to be shameful about.
As for cricket taking a backseat is concerned, the IPL was never meant to be just about cricket. Â Let us trace the roots of IPL. In 2007, after India’s disastrous campaign at the World Cup, where they were knocked out in the first round itself, Subhash Chandra, the chairman of ZEE network, announced the advent of a league — the Indian Cricket League (ICL), in order to help improve the quality of cricket being played in the country. Crying foul and seeing it as a challenge to its authority, the BCCI flexed all its power — both financial and administrative, and under the chairmanship of one Lalit K. Modi (who was little known at that time) unleashed this giant, conveniently naming it the IPL. During its ideation itself, cricket was never on the minds of its founding fathers.
IPL has always promised to be wholesome entertainment package and it has delivered big time on that front. It has managed to reciprocate, to a certain extent, what Ramayana and Mahabharata achieved when they were first aired on national television — brought families together in front of the television. Thanks to the dispersion of senior cricketers throughout the various franchises, you have support for multiple franchises emerging out of the same house, further adding to the excitement. From the barbers to autowallahs, from CEOs to businessman, none have escaped the influence of the IPL.
Which leads to the point — Why target the IPL by sensationalizing its shortcomings? There is no doubt the system has its share of defects, but why do we need to go on a character assassination spree of it? For every wrong there are 10 right things happening.Â The problem is that the temptation of having their 30 seconds of fame, lures many cynics into facing the camera, and blabbering their views at the top of their voices, at a time when close to 50,000 people on the ground, and several crores in front of their television screens are busy enjoying the spectacle unfold.
Leave the IPL alone and let it be in peace. If lack of issues is the driving force behind people attacking the IPL, then all one needs to do is take a walk across their neighbourhood — there are more important and urgent matters that needs people’s attention than the IPL.