Akshar Patel of Kings X1 Punjab celebrates the wicket of Shane Watson of Rajatshan Royals during their IPL 7 match in Sharjah. (PTI Photo)
An event that virtually cut short India's World Cup victory celebrations in 2011 has lost a bit of shimmer. The Indian Premier League (IPL) changed the business of cricket around the world and inspired other sports to begin franchise leagues of their own but seems to be itself losing steam.
The IPL's average first-week viewership has dipped compared to last few seasons. The average Television Viewer Rating for the first week of IPL 7 is 3.1. It was 3.8 in 2013 (IPL 6) and 3.9 in 2012 (IPL 5) and And it isn't just viewership that's been hit.
Enrolment of children at cricket academies and sales of cricket goods have suffered as well.
Former India skipper Bishan Singh Bedi believes it's a logical progression. "I never believed that IPL was a long-term proposition, and it can never compare with Test cricket. It is bound to decline with time," he said.
Shikhar Dhawan's coach Madan Sharma, who runs a private academy, however, thinks the dip has more to do with the controversies surrounding the league. "The issues surrounding IPL has had an effect but also the fact that real talent isn't getting the recognition it deserves at the state or even at IPL level. When news of all the wrong things becomes popular, children and parents get detached," he said.
"There is something called alienation. And middle-class parents are beginning to realise the futility of investing too much time in cricket," says Sanjay Bhardwaj, Gautam Gambhir's coach who heads an academy.
"Compared to April last year, the sales of cricket gear to children between the age of 10 to 15 has declined. We are hoping it will pick up when summer holidays begin and IPL returns to India. Also, most parents are now interested in what Narendra Modi is doing. Once that is over, interest could rise," says Ankit Behl, owner of the Meerut-based PR bats.