By Sumeet Kaur:
If I may ask you a question, how many of you really like the IPL? The world’s richest cricket tournament constituting 9 teams in which top Indian and international players take part? Will your answers be the same today as they were sometime back when you simply loved watching IPL matches, when IPL was an amalgamation of entertainment and cricket for you and the cricketers were your heroes? Just think for a moment. Why have the owners, officials, players who are essentially men of power, position and repute failed to think about their public image and moral ethics? Are they so deeply engrossed in the business scenario that they do not even care to think of the crores of people who watch these matches with a lot of interest, and that they are what they are because of the trust and faith of millions of cricket fans who are watching them play, either live in the stadium or at home glued to their television sets? Cricket is the only game in India that has a mass appeal owing to the fact that it is played in the spirit of the game. Posters of cricketers are purchased in hundreds of rupees by the cricket fans and they are worshipped as Gods. How can you possibly forget the scene throughout the country; skyrockets shooting in the air whenever the Indian team wins a match? But a series of developments, if carefully looked upon and analysed, make us realize that are we hurting the game spirit as a whole.
Neeraj Vyas, Business Head of SET Max the official broadcaster of IPL, claims that “Television viewership ratings have remained stable despite controversies of spot fixing surrounding the tournament.” Others claim that there is a sharp 14 per cent drop in the television ratings (TVR) in the evening matches before and after the scam broke. We can’t predict as to who is telling the truth. But what if the Indian people come up with a resolution and stop watching cricket matches totally? What about the millions of advertisement revenue generated through match broadcasts? Who would like to watch a game which is tarnished, which doesn’t have any standards, a game which is no longer a game but solely business and the audience are nothing but mute spectators. And this is not the first time that the public should let it go and just wait for improvement from the players and the management. IPL has been in the news ever since its inception in 2008 for something or the other, right from franchise agreements or rave parties, allegations of cricket betting, money laundering or spot fixing. This time S Sreesanth, was arrested with two other teammates Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandola for spot-fixing, putting many players and teams under the scanner. Now N Srinivasan, the President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India himself in the spotlight, as his own son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, Chief of the Chennai Super Kings team has been arrested for connections with Vindoo Dara Singh, arrested for betting and links with bookies.
Can the people of India forget the previous controversies associated with this game of repute? The former IPL chairman Lalit Modi, the founder and architect of the T20 League and the Champions League, was sacked in 2010 after allegations about misappropriation of funds came to light. Shashi Tharoor, the Union minister in 2010 also had to resign and his wife Sunanda Pushkar, was also caught in a raging controversy over the IPL Kochi franchise as she was gifted a stake worth Rs 70 crore in Rendezvous Sports World. Pune Warriors’ Rahul Sharma and Wayne Parnell were among several people who were detained for allegedly taking drugs at a rave party in Mumbai last year. Indian bowlers Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh were involved in an on-field controversy in the first IPL season in 2008. In the year 2000, a big match-fixing scandal had come to light that involved top players like Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja. Last year a sting operation by a TV channel caught 5 players discussing ways of spot—fixing. Some earlier scandals dealt with the governance scenario and some dealt with the game itself. May it be in any form but, the people of India are definitely being cheated.
IPL is helping players earn more money and it does not surprise me that the spot fixing scandal has made the IPL the butt of all jokes, even online for that matter. Our law minister, Mr Kapil Sibal has said that the government will soon come out with a law to deal with malpractices in sports. We can only hope that this law comes up soon else millions of fans for whom cricket is almost like a religion, will feel cheated. The BCCI needs to take stern measures to revive the brand value of the IPL and not just turn a blind eye to the current state of affairs. Laws need to be strictly enforced. Even legalizing betting can be an option. There is a need for a massive clean-up for the credibility of the game to be restored, else cricket lovers will stop caring about the game and for cricket lovers to enjoy the game again, and quick action is the need of the hour. If all of this does not happen, watching the IPL will be just like watching a manipulated and pre-judged reality show on television, the contents of which are scripted and directed. I am still in a dilemma and forced to think as to what I should tell my children. Is it the money that counts or is it the game?