Through Sunday night, India’s most talked about reality show, the Indian Premier League, was temporarily eclipsed by India’s most popular sporting event, the Indian Premier League. The final match itself was an extraordinary affair, played between one team led by India’s favourite sportsman Sachin Tendulkar and the other, led by the Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Even purists, unable to stomach the Twenty20 format of the game — and for whom the IPL has been a tossed salad of top-class cricketers and those of the more garden variety — had to recognise that the tournament in its third chapter has been an unstoppable juggernaut. For seven straight weeks, the imagination of a nation with the attention span of a humming bird’s wing flaps was hooked to the sporting spectacle. That despite the off-the-field din about malpractices and shady deals, the noisy sports festival managed to reach a fitting climax with the IPL trophy being lofted by the Chennai Super Kings is a testament to how successful the tournament has been.
Which is exactly why the IPL needs to be saved. Some would say that since April 11, when Lalit Modi decided to turn the tournament into a stadium-sized battle of egos, the IPL brand was destroyed. The fact that the IPL has been battered by charges and countercharges of corruption and wheeling-dealings cannot be doubted. Mr Modi’s sheer talent to create and firm up a $4 billion-plus industry cannot hide the fact that something equally gargantuan and unsavoury in its business practices has come out in the public domain. This thick patina of sleaze must be removed.
While the media, hungry to fill up every incremental gap in a developing story, has been feeding off leaks and allegations, at the core of the issue lies the need to keep the IPL baby and throw out the muddy bathwater. This can be done only by having a transparent IPL in place, where the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) cleans its stables, if for nothing else, but to make a very successful sporting brand not become synonymous with corporate thievery and shenanigans. It was evident on Sunday night, when players including Tendulkar and Dhoni spoke about the success of the IPL and how they look forward to next year’s tournament, how much of a success the IPL has been. It’s wrong to think that the tournament’s survival depends on under-the-table deals. Make it a fully transparent, professional body and everyone can reap the rewards of one of the biggest mega-events in the world without being having to be tarnished by muck.