File photos of tainted cricketers, clockwise from top left, TP Sudhindra, Mohnish Mishra, Abhinav Bali, Shalabh Srivatsava and Amit Yadav who were suspended by from all forms of cricket by the BCCI. All the players are accused of spot fixing. PTI Photo
It’s decision time for the IPL officials. Given all the adverse publicity surrounding the league in the last week — the suspension of local players for corruption, a high profile owner banned from a venue and an overseas player charged with assault — the IPL has to quickly decide which path it wants the future to take.
Is the IPL intent on being a leader, the epitome of what an elite T20 competition should be, or is it going to take the lowest common denominator approach? Will it become a vehicle for attracting big money and seedy headlines? It’s time to decide — does the IPL want to be good old-fashioned wholesome family entertainment, designed to help shape a prosperous future for the game of cricket, or will it be sex, drugs and rock n’ roll?
A flawed concept
The original IPL concept was brilliant but also flawed. The idea of packaging together cricket and entertainment with the added attraction of big money was designed to pique interest in important quarters; the players, the fans and the media. Maybe in hindsight, things like raging after-match parties and making rules on the run weren’t the best of plans.
The after parties may have been an added way of cementing the loyalty of players but they also create an impression in the mind of some that the cricket is only an interesting sidelight to the main game. The combination of sportsmen with a lot of money and time on their hands has always been a deadly duo and one that will attract enterprising criminals.
The fact that the IPL evolved quickly without being part of the international cricket structure is now creating enormous headaches. The counter argument — that the IPL is a domestic competition — doesn’t really address the problem when a large number of international players are competing. Try telling the West Indies Board (who have contributed greatly to their own headaches) it’s only a domestic competition when three or four of their best players are in India while the national team is struggling in England.
Only money matters
It doesn’t make sense to accuse players of greed when cricket administrators from all countries have made it clear in many of their dealings that the bottom line comes before the best interests of the game.
It’s hard not to be cynical when recent charges related to fixing are aimed at soft targets. In the same way, the recent jail sentences in England make it seem that Pakistan players are the only international ones involved in the scam, the suspension of five unknowns in the IPL gives the appearance that higher profile cricketers are blameless. I’m in the non-believers camp.
IPL V was heralded as a watershed season for the league — one where it either forged ahead or fell back. The recent massive negative publicity could be seen as a sign that the latter is occurring but if the officials (world-wide not just India) approach it the right way, this upheaval could be the catalyst that turns the IPL into a shining light for the game.
There’s a saying that’s appropriate in this case; “The fish stinks from the head.” It’s time for the officials throughout the game to show leadership and integrity. Do they want the IPL to be the role model for T20 franchising or are they going to let it be a plaything for the rich and the greedy?