t has been five years since the first season of the Indian Premier League, not a long time for a league to change the face of a game which has centuries-old history. But being the first of its kind the league has made it possible for us to conceive possibilities that would have otherwise eluded cricket fans.
I have spent my whole childhood forming up dream elevens in my mind, team that would take into its fold Lara, Tendulkar, Jaysurya, Warne, Donald and all. But I knew it wouldn’t happen. My sole glimpse of utopia came once in many seasons when ICC would pity and schedule matches for World XI. But even then the 11 of their choice wouldn’t satisfy. Such elevens were calculated after much study, perfectly ascertaining the team composition — good for the game? Maybe — but it was too plain for a fan’s fancy.
Lalit Modi’s formula, and before that the short-lived Indian Cricket League, brought an end to such distaste. We could have players as many as we wanted, and from whatever countries we wanted them to be. We thought cricket finally had its answer for the football leagues we see abroad. There were added benefits that IPL brought for the young Indian players: better pay and better exposure both on and off the field. Without the IPL it wouldn’t have been possible for a Kamran Khan to be nurtured by Shane Warne. Without IPL Subramaniam Badrinath could not have received tips on sustenance from someone like Michael Hussey.
But these gains just came by, they weren’t really planned. And the league now in its fifth year, with dwindling television ratings, mindless organising and repeated charges of nepotism on it, makes evident that it was only a red-herring to attain individualistic goals.
One might argue that no businessman plans his venture without keeping in mind his personal gains, that service to society always ranks much lower in his radar. But if that is so, Modi the man in question has already been booted out, now the league caters to whose gains?
Wardrobe malfunction happens when a person fails to carry his/her attire with usual élan. Just when we thought no one can boast of being both hip and eccentric like Lady Gaga, BCCI president N. Srinivasan proved that we were counting him out. He wears two hats at the same and that we don’t notice or that we forget shows how easefully he does it. The president’s son-in-law owns India Cements that is the owner of Chennai Super Kings. But even then he denies there’s any clash of interest and we happily accept that there isn’t any.
he Indian Premier League is cricket in more than one ways and yet it fails to be. Veteran journalist MJ Akbar in his column for The Sunday Guardian writes, “If IPL was only about cricket, it would have been a pallid addition to the genre, and not that original either.” This very fact made it lively for the first few seasons. Its share of cheerleaders, Page3 presence and over-the-top commentary did excite like a new relationship but it failed to marry cricket and fans at the same time.
International cricketers have time and again preferred the money-minting league over their nation which hasn’t gone down well with administrators of some boards but who cares. Chris Gayle hasn’t played a Test match since almost 18 months and just it seemed there was some hope of negotiation with the WICB his IPL commitment ensured that his country has to wait.
Gayle has his reasons and he has played fair amount of international cricket by now, what concerns is the growing tendency among youngsters to do so. Off-spinner Sunil Narine’s absence from the West Indies Test team — after his mesmerising performance against Australia in the ODIs — has been downplayed by the team management, but voices say it was lucre that drove the teenager some 14,000 km away from national duty.
The Indian leg-spinner Piyush Chawla, who shot to fame in early teenage after dismissing Tendulkar in a Challenger Trophy game, couldn’t live up to the expectations and faltered away from the international scene. He did make a surprise comeback last year when he was named in the World Cup squad, but is yet to convince the selectors that he is better than his contemporaries.
Chawla represents Kings XI Punjab in the IPL and plays for Sussex in the English County competition. At the age of 23 when a player usually focuses on polishing the blunt areas of his game, it looks like Chawla is content with what he has. During his stint with Sussex, he once enthusiastically told a journalist, “People might have forgotten me as I don’t play for India anymore, but I’m happy to represent Sussex.”
It isn’t IPL alone that’s killing the game. But it is contributing largely to cricket’s demise. County cricket has been there since the time cricket was born, but it had an understated existence. Unlike the IPL, its organised structure helped cricketers improve. Most importantly it never promoted the club cricket as an alternative to internationals.
Things are only getting worse. In a survey done by Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations (FICA), around one-third of the cricketers said they would consider taking early retirement to play in lucrative leagues like the IPL. Around 40 percent said, they can think of a day not far away when cricketers would prefer T20 leagues over Test cricket. Unless proper remedial measures are taken now, cricket’s doomsday is round the corner.