Lalit Modi and his psychedelic creation called the IPL is still lurking menacingly in the shadows. After having caused a grievous blow to Indian cricket, it is now being revealed that Modi had even greater plans, which would have given him and his corporate masters control of world cricket as
England was his next target and he might have succeeded as well had he in his childish arrogance and conceit not overplayed his cards. The whole plot to create a League in England in defiance of the authorities may appear diabolical and even far-fetched, but once you treat sport as a property and brand, corporate greed will have no limits.
The seeds of this “takeover” were planted the day the BCCI allowed cricket to be sold and auctioned to the highest bidder. Two days after the bidding took place before the start of IPL I, I had written at length, warning of its dangers to international cricket. I quote from my column written on February 22, 2008: “Has cricket in India entered the age of sponsored gambling where its stake-holders are abdicating their responsibility and letting the 'free-market' forces take control of the sport? “What took place in Mumbai on February 20, 2008, could well be a watershed in the affairs of this sport and no one can foresee what direction it is headed for.
Is the IPL a fantasy created by the Indian Board, which has enticed the moneyed elite so much that they think by investing thousands of crores into a 44-day inter-city T20 league, they are inventing a goose that will lay golden eggs for them one day? “Even more importantly for the sport's future, are these massive sums being doled out so that direct control of the game swaps hands? And, will, what today is the Indian Board, tomorrow become a defunct body at the complete mercy of the very corporates who presided over the auctioning of the players and bought them at fancy prices?
“What the Indian Board has unwittingly done is pit the corporate world in India against the whole establishment of cricket. “Today, are we at the cusp of another cricketing revolution whose ramifications could be far more sweeping than what happened in the post-Packer period? Like Packer, this rebellion was also led by a television czar - Subhash Chandra, who owns the Zee network.
“That he seems to have failed has a lot to do with the Indian cricket establishment, which, fearing a loss of clout, used their own power of money to scuttle this rebellion. In the process they may have unleashed a monster that could one day not only devour them, but also the world's cricketing establishment. “There is too much money riding on this IPL now and that is why every effort, muscle and money, will be used to make it popular. If it succeeds, corporates will demand their pound of flesh and want it to become part of an international tournament.
“Money and the popularity of this format could mean the end of the way cricket is structured internationally. Who benefits and who loses is irrelevant to those for whom what finally matters is the flow of cash.”
Two years hence, it is really frightening to realize how close we were to this doomsday prediction. I doubt if the Indian Board has still realized what they have unleashed. They need to introspect and do much more than make it just a fight to the finish between them and Modi, if the future of cricket has to remain in safe and sane hands.