The Indian Premier League (IPL) cheerleaders have little to cheer about if the ugly events of the past few days is anything to go by. Crass commercialism and lack of checks and balances seem to have tripped up the multi-million dollar league which was seen as a perfect coming together of
entertainment and sport. The league's critics had all but been silenced when things began to unravel so publicly and so badly. The TV sting has brought the presence of black money in the IPL to the fore once again. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which runs the league, has suspended five players caught on camera talking about black money and spot-fixing. But it has let the franchises, who also face serious questions, get off scot-free. The cricket board chief N Srinivasan has said the owners are people of stature but no such clean chit was given to the players involved.
The Shah Rukh Khan affair at the Wankhede stadium, and the latest and most shocking - Royal Challengers Bangalore's Australian player Luke Pomersbach being arrested by the Delhi police on charges of molesting a woman and assaulting her male partner in the team hotel - are indications of the sense of entitlement that those in the IPL have come to have, whether it is the players or the owners. The Mumbai Cricket Association has ban-ned Mr Khan from entering the ground for five years after filing a police complaint. The BCCI has surprisingly intervened and said only it can take any action to ban him. A senior Kolkata Knight Riders official tweeted that barring Mr Khan from the Wankhede would mean nothing for the Bollywood Badshah. While the last word hasn't been said on the issue, the comment suggests an arrogance that doesn't go with the spirit of what was once a gentleman's game. Not unlike Mr Khan, the RCB owner Siddhartha Mallya tweeted angrily, raising questions about the character of the woman who filed the complaint against Pomersbach. Controversy has dogged the IPL since its first season, when Harbhajan Singh slapped S Sreesanth. The Shashi Tharoor-Lalit Modi clash in 2010 led to investigations into the financial dealings of the league. While sports minister Ajay Maken wants a probe into the allegations of black money in the league, many questions about the franchises' dealings remain unanswered.
Cricket is increasingly facing a crisis of credibility. Despite the economic downturn, fans still flock to the game, but it may not take too long for the goodwill to vanish unless urgent measures are taken by the BCCI and the government. With cricket in a win-win situation, there is hardly any whistle-blower on the horizon, which is a big challenge for those hoping the game will undergo some form of course correction in India. The time has come for the cricket board to realise that with bigger cash chests come bigger administrative responsibilities. The authorities have to ensure that financial dealings by IPL franchises are closely and constantly scrutinised. Otherwise, it may be too late to salvage the situation.