IPL and the degradation of cricket

Published: May 24, 2013
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The writer is a consulting editor with The Statesman and writes widely for several newspapers in India

The writer is a consulting editor with The Statesman and writes widely for several newspapers in India

The hullabaloo raised over the Indian Premier League (IPL) scandal is to be expected, but certain questions raised by cricket buffs ever since cricket was twisted into these high voltage Twenty20 games remain unanswered. Each day, new names and new links of the sleaze underlying the IPL teams, the individuals and the game itself, are revealed as television anchors churn out a slew of exclamation marks, almost hysterical at every revelation. The latest link connects the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to the sleaze, which are sufficient to make the exclamation marks jump up and down on television screens.

There was something wrong when ‘privatisation’ hit cricket to the point where cricketers were sold to the highest bidders and persons with little knowledge, or for that matter, even interest in cricket, made mind-blowing bids for cricket teams and emerged as their proud owners. In fact, the owners — many being movie stars and celebrities in their own right — dominated the sport, with several younger and relatively new cricketers being pushed to the sidelines insofar as the world of publicity was concerned. The media could not get over the list of celebrities that had taken over the sport and the IPL soon became a household name with sports lovers, giving way to Bollywood fans. In fact, to the casual observer, there was less of cricket and more of women, money, fashion and parties and all the rest that goes with it.

The cricketers were introduced to a new lifestyle that clearly took them to levels they did not know existed. Most of them from humble backgrounds took to the IPL and what it stood for like pigeons to water and all would have been well except that proximity to money fuelled at least two of those seven deadly sins: greed and lust. And here we are, with daily stories about the antics of those supposedly playing cricket, our noses wrinkled up in disdain, our eyebrows raised in dismay, our voices laced with disbelief: “how can they do this, how can they sell us and our country out”. We all act as if we had not heard it before, but just after the spot-fixing story broke, this columnist pulled out past clippings of news surrounding the IPL and it was all there. Women, money, parties, politics, nastiness, along with fixing matches for a sum that has hit the IPL a little harder this time around. In other words, the soup was being cooked, only the last ingredient has now been added. And this was so potent that the pressure cooker has burst, staining all those involved in the league.

Memory is short, but new records are being set today with many having conveniently forgotten that the BCCI had taken control of the IPL in India. Big ticket deals were struck, money started pouring in with the BCCI worthies too star and money-struck to restore some level of decorum and decency. All the names associated with the cricketing world would make sad comments about rave parties, or sexual escapades, knowing fully well that they would do nothing to check the dirt that had attached itself to the IPL.

The financiers and the ruthless bookies played the cricketers like a song. Cricket was dressed up to resemble a Bollywood set with the players being treated as successful actors. The IPL was no longer just cricket; it was entertainment with Bollywood stars, models, music, drugs, parties all rolled into one. And no one, repeat no one, seemed to want to do anything about this.

Serious cricketers, long retired, were critical as were many sports writers. But such is the atmosphere of wealth in Delhi, that they were dismissed by the majority — including media houses as their owners/editors were part of the select glittering classes — as being too cynical, or just losers who were critical because they could not get the spoils. The result is that good advice from cricket commentators were ignored and those who dared agree with them dubbed ‘old-fashioned’. The sport is evolving, was the argument, and people have the patience only to sit through the IPL’sTwenty20s.

The crassness surrounding the IPL has finally exploded, and at the moment, everyone is rushing for cover. The Delhi police claims that it has uncovered only part of the grime and this has certainly acted as a dampener. It remains to be seen whether the investigation will be fair and free, and whether all involved (including the politicians) will be held accountable. Somehow, in Delhi, investigations die out after the first flush of success and publicity, as vested interests and linkages come into play to ensure that just the tip of the iceberg is revealed. A second round of deals are then struck at levels not visible to the naked eye and the story disappears as suddenly as it had emerged. The media, of course, does not believe in follow-ups, and all in the spotlight today know that it is just a question of hunkering down and waiting for the storm to pass.

This is because there is no interest in ensuring that the system is institutionalised to a point where scamsters are not able to avoid the law. And not just this, that along with the police and legal work, the system is made accountable and a cleansing operation takes place so that such scams do not occur again. The BCCI, which seems to be compromised too, will have to critically examine the IPL, tear down the edifice of glitz and restore cricket as a respectable sport. It is a tall order and it does seem that after its first meeting following the spot-fixing details coming to light, the BCCI does not seem to be particularly interested in taking drastic action to stem the rot. Homilies cannot be a substitute for action, and at the moment, there seems to be no indication that anyone in authority is actually interested in restoring cricket as a sport and not as a money, women, drugs spinner that it seems to have become.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Nero
    May 24, 2013 - 11:39PM

    Madam please! IPL just provides some entertainment to general public and lots of money to some people involved. This “degradation of cricket” argument just smacks of plain racism and jealousy, which is the usual preserve of British press. T20 started way before IPL. Infact other IPL like formats were tried, and are still being tried, in places which call IPL “degrading” – including Britain. IPL is no different from EPL. Cricket as a respectable sport? Like the one where batsman won’t walk out even after being given out by the umpire because “spectators have come to see me bat”? Or the one where people of color were not allowed to play? Or the “rebel” tourists? Or the one where London could decide everything? Please spare us. It has got nothing to do with “respectability” of the sport. IPL just suffers from problems which India suffers from, that is, corruption. Trying to pretend that non-IPL cricket is somehow “pure and respectable” is silly. Cricket has finally become a mass entertainment with IPL. So it would suffer all the problems which afflict mass entertainment – sleaze, corruption & monetary dishonesty – just like football in Europe.

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  • BlackJack
    May 24, 2013 - 11:45PM

    There is nothing sordid about private investment in sport, since it has been taking place in football, basketball, baseball for ages – and with it, there are parties, after-parties and hobnobbing with celebrities. In India, the only communities with money to invest big-time are businessmen, cinema stars and other sports celebrities, and we find that those involved typically fall somewhere within this cozy triangle. The issue with cricket (especially T20) is that it allows for much more individual control over the outcome than most other fast-paced team sports, and if IPL can be fixed, so can the the World T20 and the Champions League – should we cancel all of them now? The solution is not to get rid of the IPL, but to put in place strict controls, and possibly to legalize betting so that it can be closely monitored for match/ spot fixing. If the Govt can make money off alcohol and tobacco, I think betting is a great way to skim money off those who can afford to dream of winning the odds.

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  • Reddy
    May 25, 2013 - 7:23PM

    yes, absolutely a person who doesn’t know the difference between long on and long off starts writing comprehensive articles on how a billion$$ league should be run or how they should’t have had it in the first place…remaining is quite self explanatory

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  • Weirditt
    May 25, 2013 - 9:27PM

    Would she say the same thing against FIFA since it also has a big entertainment element including involvement of celebrities and curruption? Looks like this is another cheap way for her to attack her country of birth because of her identity issues.

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  • Vivek
    May 25, 2013 - 11:24PM

    This lady has a single minded agenda of running down India from a foreign publication.

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  • antanu
    May 25, 2013 - 11:30PM

    @Nero
    accept it or not…..IPL is a circus….nt cricket.offcourse you may call it money minting machine…nothing else.Recommend

  • gp65
    May 26, 2013 - 7:20AM

    @antanu: So even if it not cricket and just entertainment, what is wrong? In the 70s it is Indian cricketers who used to vie to go and play English county cricket. Today it is English cricketers who vie to play in India. Indians get entertainment at doorstep and some people make money along the way. Where is the harm? Those who want to watch traditional 5 day matches can continue to do so.

    No this author’s issue is exactly what @Weirditt and @Vivek mentioned.

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  • Nasir
    May 26, 2013 - 11:37AM

    As a Pakistani I can say I look forward to watching the IPL each year , it is fantastic entertainment and I love the fact that you have Bollywood stars, cheerleaders , flashy outfits and music at each match.
    Cricket was pretty boring until the Aussies introduced coloured kits in the 1992 World Cup , the IPL is building on that concept, well done and keep us all entertained

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  • Pasha Saab
    May 26, 2013 - 11:43AM

    The difference is that in Pakistan we would have never have found any wrong doing, the sad fact is we outsource that job to the British authorities rather then cleaning up our own house. Well done Dehli police you are doing your job well, but we cannot taint the whole of the IPL due to the behaviour of a few idiots in the IPL
    I look forward to the final today, IPL zindabad !

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  • Nero
    May 26, 2013 - 9:43PM

    @antanu: Yes. IPL is a circus, but no more than EPL and NFL. People watch them for entertainment. The argument that IPL is “degrading” cricket just smacks of plain old racism and is the most illogical argument I have heard in a long time. What format is IPL? T20. Do other countries don’t play T20? Are there no other T20 formats in other places? England is trying desperately to start an equivalent of IPL. IPL is just T20 with some tamasha, borrowed from EPL and NFL. Don’t you know of match fixing scandals in European football leagues, all ignored by FIFA? US Postal team was running organized doping for decades. Criticizing IPL as being “degrading” is just a fanciful statement of British press ruing the loss of control of world cricket by Britain. Nothing else! There is definitely lot of sleaze and corruption in IPL. But what do you expect? Big money attracts sharks, in every place of the world.

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