A Saga of Controversy
For decades we have taken pride in being considered the world’s biggest cricket audience, which we believe we still are. Five years on and the Indian Premier League has given its incredible audience the best possible ‘cricketainment’ - to “Think beyond Cricket”. The co-founder of IPL Lalit Modi, who has laid the foundation of controversies, deserves accolades. From bribery, molestation, slap game, star tantrums to rave parties- it’s now all about cricket.
The hullabaloo created by the IPL has necessitated mulling over the idea and concept of the game. What is IPL all about? A game, where the bourgeoisie over snacks and drinks decide a player’s fate in the auction and according to the price set and the choices made, the players play for the concerned team. But, that’s not the end of it. The brand IPL has much more to give to its growing crowd. Enter the foreign cheerleaders to mesmerize the crowd.
The much awaited and needed part of the T20 extravaganza every year is the controversies clinging to it. The recent scuffle in Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium, wherein the Bollywood king and the co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, Shah Rukh Khan was served a five year ban by the Mumbai Cricket Association was one such controversy. It was alleged that the actor confronted and abused the guard under the influence of alcohol. However, the benevolent father-actor had a different story to narrate. Khan said that he had only reacted to rude behaviour of the guard towards the kids.
Another controversy surfaced which involved Luke Pomerbach. Now, who is Luke Pomersbach? He is an Australian batsman who has apparently expressed his strong and immense belief on the Indian Judiciary after getting released on bail for molesting a US woman of Indian origin and assaulting her fiancé at a five-star hotel in New Delhi. He was asked to surrender his passport till the investigation got over. This incident would definitely compel researchers to conduct a survey on whether the women in Delhi are safe during IPL. Luke’s visit to India can not be proved as futile; he has attracted media attention without playing for team Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Spot fixing might sound like stale news, but a sting operation conducted by a private television news channel this year has unveiled the dubious association and negotiation among the team owners, players and management. The players T.P. Sudhindra, Mohnish Mishra, Abhinav Bali, Shalabh Srivastava and Amit Yadav were caught on video tape in this connection. The indicted were suspended and an inquiry was ordered. Mishra, later admitted that franchises pay black money and he had received 1.2 crore, which was a part of this. When the young players can make easy money in IPL, why would they devote their time and energy playing for the Board of Cricket Control of India and contribute to the country? After all, IPL paves the way to making billions.
In another instance, the ‘teetotalers’ and the ‘decent guys’ - Pune Warrior players Rahul Sharma and Wayne Parnell claimed innocence after they were caught by the Mumbai police at a rave party in Oakwood Premier Hotel. The police had seized charas and 110 grams of cocaine from the spot. As usual, investigations are on.
|The BCCI which is tired of getting its image maligned for its association with the IPL has found a new voice in the Sports Minister Ajay Maken, who wants the BCCI to come under the Right to Information Act.|
Modi should be thankful to the BCCI for suspending and relieving him of his duties for financial impropriety, betting and other cases in early 2010 as the unending record of IPL controversies and irregularities would have left him behind bars by now. He has himself otherwise chosen to live in recluse. The then Minister of External Affairs Dr. Shahshi Tharoor’s resignation, Kings XI Punjab’s S Sreesanth getting slapped by Mumbai Indians’ Harbhajan Singh and the emotional footage aired on TV the entire day regarding the termination of the Kochi Tuskers Kerala, a cheerleader’s claims of the indecent approach of cricketers towards them (who was later sent back to her country), character assassination tweet by the liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s son Siddharth are a few among the many conflicts and controversies in the league. The IPL officials’ tactic in handling the odd side of it lies in reserving its comment till the investigation gets over, which may sound pragmatic to many. However, this is simply an innovation by them to alienate from the escalating issues as can be seen in the reaction from IPL chief Rajiv Shukla.
The BCCI which is tired of getting its image maligned for its association with the IPL has found a new voice in the Sports Minister Ajay Maken, who wants the BCCI to come under the Right to Information Act. Former Indian cricketer and a Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Kirti Azad demanded that IPL should be scrapped as it is entangled with controversies which in turn have led to politicization of sports. Sourav Ganguly has also put forward his independent views on the same, while praising BCCI for its contribution to Indian cricket.
The recent episodes might have garnered a lot of media and public attention. But, what actually got obliterated with the coming of IPL was the changing perspective of the people towards the game. Middle class families (who are the majority in India) in the earlier days enjoyed discussing politics and sports over a cup of tea. Sports especially cricket which was a religion to us and also a matter of knowledge and passion has become a part of entertainment similar to a Bollywood movie. Nowadays, people concentrate more on the personal life of the player and his off the field record.
Though all the controversies have left the cricket crazy fans undivided; cricket has merged to become a booming business entity. The views of the business tycoons like Harish Bijoor, CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults, who believes that controversies will help brand IPL, and Santosh Desai, MD and CEO of Futurebrands India who said that IPL is packaged in a way that simply goes beyond the sport of cricket, have also contributed in changing the face of Indian cricket.
What will be remembered after the end of 2012 IPL is only the controversies. Bad publicity has turned to be beneficial for the organizers in distinctive ways, after all IPL is all about demand and supply. Vodafone Essar, one of the biggest sponsors of the IPL, which has made a narrow escape from the 2G scam, has attracted a lot of eyeballs by branding itself with IPL. What we can expect from IPL 6 is a reinvigoration of itself with some new add-ons. If the IPL authority is planning to overcome its dilapidated state (from the side of unethical activities) then it should accelerate the pace of its organizers to tackle its present state.
It is high time for the IPL officials to rectify its paralyzed statement and take the onus to check the internal discrepancies and investigate on its own prior to the investigative department and be prepared to answer, rather than wait for others. Coming under the scrutiny of RTI, IPL might be more of cricket than other unwanted things. Cheerleaders may also end up sitting in the audience and enjoying the sport as a ‘sport’. It might be of some aid to IPL to overcome the sinking ‘cricketainment’ state. Azad has rightly demanded transparency, accountability and discipline. Let us see what graces the field next year.
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