IPL vs Cricket: The battle to survive
When it began in 2008, it was unexpected that the Indian Premier League (IPL) will bring such a revolution in cricket. This mixture of sports, Bollywood and business was loved by all. From children to the old, IPL took everyone by storm and provided them the most exciting form of cricket ever.
Not only was it a treat to the cricket fans, IPL was a golden opportunity for all the cricketers in India, who despite putting in their blood and sweat into the sport, were not able to make a mark for themselves in international cricket. IPL provided them a platform to showcase their talent and fulfil their dreams.
However, IPL has gone through various controversies including betting and spot fixing scandals in its seven-year-long journey which has tarnished its image. The TV viewership has declined over the years and enthusiasm among fans is decreasing. And the direct impact of it is seen on the sport of cricket, which is losing its credibility and the title of being a gentleman’s game. The menace of corruption has increased in the IPL given the way it functions and has broken the link between the fans and their players.
Fans are the biggest stakeholders in success of any sport and the trust of the fans is what makes this game exciting. But repeated incidents of corruption have shaken their trust and left them betrayed. A lazy person may still be delighted in watching the game ignoring all sorts of rumours. But the game has lost a class of people who once used to enjoy the game and were very passionate about it.
Why IPL is not so good for Cricket? Can it bounce back and regain its lost glory?
The never-ending corruption
Corruption first reared its ugly head in cricket back in 2000. There have been quite a few other incidents in International cricket where cricketers have been involved in betting and fixing scandals. But, harsh punishments and strict attitude in dealing with offenders involved in such incidents proved useful in tackling the situation and make the world believe once more that the game was corruption free.
With IPL entering the scene, the Indian bookmakers got a golden opportunity to turn the tables and make as much money as they can. With Asia being the hub for bookies, betting and fixing became more evident and the spirit of the game was put at stake. The infamous Lalit Modi case, betting and spot fixing incident of IPL 2013 where three players from Rajasthan Royals’ team were booked for spot fixing and recent betting incidents reported in the on-going season of IPL are some of the known examples. With repeated incidents of corruption year after year, and with no signs of such incidents coming to an end, IPL is becoming a threat to the the credibility of the sport.
Pressure and performance
Cricket, though claimed to be a sport of physical strength by many, involves a lot of mental strength as well. IPL spans over a period of almost 2 months and leaves the players grumpy and tired both mentally and physically. IPL has brought together a plethora of players from cricket-loving nations from all over the world. The enthusiasm, rather passion, with which a cricketer approaches a match, is important and an overdose of cricket leaves the player in a state of despair which ultimately affects the performance of the player as well as the quality of cricket when played at the international level when a player represents his nation.
A player grows as he builds his character over time and the format of the IPL doesn’t provide scope for this development. There have been quite a few incidents in the past where players have lost their control and we have seen it followed up by something ugly happening on the field. Be it the Sreesanth-Harbhajan incident or the infamous Pollard-Stark face off or the Kohli-Gambhir spat, time and again IPL has been responsible for paving way for such incidents which are a matter of serious shame on the spirit of the sport.
Verbal arguments coming under sledging are a part of the sport and is the maximum which can be found in International cricket. In addition to this, long duration of the tournament leads to injuries to the players and this has ultimately affected their performance.
Tussle between money and integrity
With the emergence of the IPL in 2008, the country had started preparing players suitable for the short 20-20 format with the intention of minting more money. With business being an internal component of the league, monetary incentives are being prioritized over merit-based incentives. Cricket, which is all about the players, is now being dominated by politicians, actors and businessmen.
IPL gives the player glory, fame and money which reduce his determination to play for the country and concentrate his efforts elsewhere to remain in the limelight. This ultimately kills the integrity of the player and in that process a talent is lost.
After India’s loss in the 2009 Champions Trophy, BCCI Chief Administrative Officer, Ratnakar Shetty, said, “India's Champions Trophy debacle has not hurt the younger cricketers of the side much as they are losing focus due to the lure of easy money in cash-awash Twenty20 leagues. The amount of money the younger lot of cricketers is able to make these days through events like the Indian Premier League has made them lose focus from the game.”
There were hardly any players who debuted in IPL and were able to represent India at the international level. Even the ones who did weren’t there for a long time. The level of intensity and competition that brings the best in a player has eventually diminished. Adding to this, there have been incidents of internal clashes where players representing the same nation have had heated arguments and fights. The spirit of the game can’t be put at stake for mere excitement.
There is no doubt that IPL was not a complete rip off for Indian cricket, as it has got its own share of advantages even though they are outnumbered by its negatives. High-level cricketing talent, exciting cricket on the field and increased player-fan relationship is something IPL should be applauded for. It also has its own financial benefits to the country which no one can take away from it. But, at the end it is cricket we are talking about, which has its own charm and enthusiasm.
Thus, I believe that its side effects should be taken care of. IPL, if allowed to continue, might prove to be a disaster for the ‘sacred’ game of Cricket. Cricket is a game of integrity, commitment and devotion of which fans are the biggest stakeholders and the day fans lose their trust, cricket will no more be able to enthral the way it used to do.