The Indian Premier League (IPL) is the professional league handling Twenty 20 cricket championships in India. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) gave the go-ahead to this league in 2008. The IPL is supervised by the BCCI Vice President Rajeev Shukla who is also the Chairman of the league. The IPL is generally considered to be the world’s showcase tournment for Twenty20 cricket. Top Indian and international players participate in IPL — the world’s richest cricket tournament. India’s biggest property developer DLF Group paid Rs. 2,694,100,000 (US$50 million) to become the title sponsor of the league for 5 years from 2008 to 2012. Other sponsorship agreements include deals with Hero Honda (now Hero Moto Corp) worth Rs. 1,217,905,750 (US$22.5 million), with PepsiCo worth Rs. 676,271,475 (US$12.5 million) and with beer and Airline conglomerate Kingfisher worth Rs. 1,433,275,865 (US$26.5-million). The brand value of the fifth season of IPL is estimated to be Rs. 161,107,000,000 (US$2.99 billion). However, the league has been engulfed by a series of corruption scandals where allegations of cricket betting, money laundering and spot fixing have been made. On 14 May 2012, India TV did a sting operation which accused 5 Indian players, who played in IPL involved in spot fixing. The five players were TP Sudhindra (Deccan Chargers), Mohnish Mishra (Pune Warriors), Amit Yadav (Kings XI Punjab), Shalabh Srivastava (Kings XI Punjab) and Abhinav Bali (Delhi Dare Devils). Reacting to the news, Rajeev Shukla immediately suspended the 5 players. The report claims that the alleged players agreed to bowl ‘no-balls’ and fix specific events. In August 2011, the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that the Income Tax Department is probing allegations of financial irregularities and criminal activities against some of the franchisees in the IPL.
IPL is providing chances and opportunities to young budding Indian cricketers to grow but is it is also resulting in deterioration of the cricketing culture of India. It is true of course that this shorter version of the game provides a lot of entertainment to fans but the question that has started bothering them and other cricket lovers is whether IPL is killing the spirit of what has long been lauded as ‘the Gentleman’s Game’.
Critics believe that on one side the IPL is providing chances and opportunities to young budding Indian cricketers to grow but is it is also resulting in deterioration of the cricketing culture of India. IPL matches have also seen clashes and aggression among Indian players. The Harbhajan-Sreesanth slap incident in the match between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore is a prime example. With the global audience reach of IPL and with impressionable young minds following its every move, these incidents do adversely affect the image of what cricketing spirit should be.
According to West Indies legend Carl Hooper, IPL is a big threat to cricket. After the West Indies recently won the 2012 Twenty20 World Cup held in Sri Lanka, Carl Hooper congratulated the team but also added a critical vein by saying that “Regrettably, the Windies have fielded Test sides diluted by IPL induced withdrawals. Superstar opener Chris Gayle, spin whiz Sunil Narine and all-rounder Dwanye Bravo were all unavailable for the Test series against Australia in April 2012 and England in May/June 2012 due to their IPL duty.” He also suggested that the West Indies Cricket Board should centrally ‘contract’ the cream of Caribbean talent so that they can be available during any coming series. The same thing happened with the Indian Cricket team when they went to play against England and Australia on their home soils. The only rationale behind India’s debacle in England was that a number of players were either unfit or picked up injuries during the tour. Zaheer Khan, who was India’s star bowler throughout the 2011 Cricket World Cup, struggled in the 2011 IPL season. He was unfit while he was playing the tournament. However, instead of being rested he played throughout the season. As a result he went to England without being 100 per cent fit and pulled out of the England series. The start couldn’t have been worse and things went further downhill as the tour progressed. India’s performance in Australia was also poor and as a result the question again arises : is the cash-rich IPL is doing more harm than good to Indian cricket ? The Indian team known for its batting strength failed consecutively in the two tours. Stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir etc. failed to perform to their potential. The chief reason for India’s batting failures can be attributed to the length of the T20 tournament. Most of the batsmen’s were so conditioned to playing shots that they couldn’t stick at the crease for even a reasonable amount of time. Arjuna Ranatunga, the Sri Lankan legend pointed out that “If the BCCI, instead, concentrates more on the IPL, it would end up becoming the ‘monster’ that’s killing Indian cricket.” The IPL is also dangerous from a patriotic aspect. Players are more keen to make money than play for their country.
It is true of course that this shorter version of the game provides a lot of entertainment to fans but the question that has started bothering them and other cricket lovers is whether IPL is killing the spirit of what has long been lauded as ‘the Gentleman’s Game’. It is the fervent wish of every cricket fan that the game stays away from dirty business and internal politics. Most important, it should retain fair play and a sportsman’s spirit.