The end of the central government’s five-year term is a moment Indian Premier League (IPL) officials dread. At the expense of incurring extra costs, the BCCI is forced to shift the T20 league every five years for the dates clash with the general elections. In 2009, BCCI was forced to airlift the entire IPL jamboree to South Africa.
People say the task is monumental. Whether the host board will be accommodating enough to ensure a smooth conduct, will the crowds come to the party, will it be cost effective, security concerns, whether their players will adjust to the conditions, are some questions, organisers and team owners are sweating over.
In 2009, no franchise adjusted to the last-minute shift better than the now-defunct Deccan Chargers. V Shankar, who wrote the book ‘Chairman’s choice: Not just cricket, how DC transformed themselves from losers to a winning team’ based on his experience as administrative head of the IPL 2 winners, says the challenge to move will be bigger this time.
“IPL 2 was based on ego; the government’s stance had almost created a death-like situation for the league. The entire BCCI machinery worked to make it a success, which is lacking this time,” says Shankar. “IPL 2 could be managed owing to the type of bureaucratic freedom they were given. In the backdrop of the DRI (Directorate of Revenue Intelligence) issues (that came to light later), they will be careful this time.
“Lalit Modi was the one-stop man for everything then. This time, Ranjib Biswal is the boss but for every decision he will have to go to the president and there will be someone from India Cements who may say this can’t be done,” observes Shankar, sitting at his Sion office overlooking Mumbai’s bustling Eastern Express Highway.
“Since there was no time for lengthy visa formalities, Modi ensured diplomatic status was given to IPL people; South Africa customs were relaxed and having a cricket label ensured smooth baggage passage.”
For successful execution of the shift, Sundar Raman will be the key, says Shankar. “Sundar Raman is the common factor, was CEO in 2009 too, who will understand things better.”
For the franchises, the cost level will get substantially higher. Obviously, they are not happy with the situation. Shankar observes the bigger challenge will be if BCCI tries to bring half of the IPL back to India. “The cost will escalate; the players will find it difficult to adjust. It’s not a great idea. A new government will be in office and all attention will be on them.”
The venue is still not officially declared. For the former Chargers’ chairman, it should be South Africa for the simple reason, a known devil is better. “Then, the crusaders of corruption are sitting in the middle-east. During IPL 2 CSA went out of its way to make it a success. They had realised, there is money to be made.”
The perception now is that corruption is very high in the IPL and the event will be more vulnerable away from home. Shankar says SA locals will not be involved and it’s the Indian bookies who are the troublemakers. “It has never been engineered by the spectators in SA. Betting is legalised and common in SA, so that’s a big difference.
“The SA police were uncomprising when it came to security, very orderly and their movements are brilliantly orchestrated.”
The biggest losers will be the young cricketers. For the first-time, uncapped players were part of the auction, but they are likely to be sacrificed when the teams look to trim their travel baggage, observes Shankar.
“The young players will lose out, they will be the first to be sacrificed by the franchises so the noble cause, of providing a platform for young talent, will not be served if the tournament is moved out.”