A lot of tinkering needed, painting too

The Pune Warriors team has pulled out of the IPL owing to friction between the owners and the Board.-PTI

The Board is faced with the enormous challenge and responsibility of resuscitating the IPL. A new IPL chairman and a competent CEO would be the best way forward. The IPL, as Rahul Dravid argued, need not be scrapped. A lesser number of teams or reduced matches can make the league more competitive and credible too, writes Vijay Lokapally.

“ABC is winning tonight.” “How are you so sure?” I asked. “Have heard so,” my friend smiled. The joke was not to be missed. The spot-fixing scandal had reduced the Indian Premier League matches to a mockery. Every match was under scrutiny, every move on the field viewed with suspicion.

Of course, not all players were looked upon with disdain, but the IPL had suffered a huge dent in its reputation.

When the IPL was floated as an elite competition involving the cream of international cricket, there was scepticism in certain quarters, especially the purists, who were averse to any changes in the game. The pyjama cricket promoted by Kerry Packer in the late 1970s in Australia was also initially dismissed by the traditionalists, including the great Don Bradman. But Packer eventually emerged the winner and his coloured clothing stuff under floodlights, with a touch of glamour, soon became the subject of envy of all cricket administrators.

The brand that Lalit Modi introduced to Indian fans was no different. The city-based franchise was not his original idea. The Indian Cricket League, which had the expertise of Tony Greig, Kapil Dev and Kiran More, gave the Board the jitters. The IPL was fast-tracked and a great module to generate mind-blowing support from the market forces was born. The Board was rolling in riches and the players were laughing all the way to the bank.

The IPL grew in success. The stadiums were packed and cricket developed a new culture. Young girls and women thronged the venues. It was an unprecedented but welcome change from the past. Cricket was entertainment with cheer girls, music, film stars and other celebrities lending their support and names to the league. The result was a great platform for even mediocre cricketers to share space with some of the biggest international stars. It should have been the catalyst for the youngsters to make the most of it. Sadly, it did not.

The IPL began with eight teams in 2008 and two more added in the fourth edition. In between, the tournament was played in South Africa in 2009. Last season, the IPL lost Kochi Tuskers and then Deccan Chargers paved the way for Sunrisers Hyderabad this year. Pune Warriors will not figure in the IPL anymore. Three teams have been disbanded since the first IPL. But it hardly impacted the success story of the league even though it clearly exposed the disharmony that existed between the team owners and the Board.

Even as the franchisees clamoured for greater say in controlling the players and directing the league, the spot-fixing scandal rocked the IPL. This was the least that the league would have needed at a time when questions were raised in many quarters concerning the high-handed manner in which the IPL General Council was allowing Chennai Super Kings to have its way. The IPL Chairman Rajiv Shukla, ever the facilitator of those in power, appeared a spineless administrator by allowing CSK to play its matches at home against opponents who were denied the services of their Sri Lankan recruits. CSK and its opponents were not on equal terms and the home team gained an unfair advantage. Interestingly, the Chief Executive Officer of the IPL remained a mute spectator and managed to escape the attention of everyone for failing in his duty.

The focus on entertainment had reduced the IPL to carnival cricket. The mediocrity of the contests, the monotonous nature of the games and the long duration of the tournament was bound to throw up many meaningless matches. It also allowed corruption to creep in with spot-fixing luring some players into the trap of bookies. The ghost of fixing had returned to haunt Indian cricket after 13 years.

The Board paid the price for giving the franchisees free access to the players for a long period. Shady elements occupied the mind and time of the players after matches and the parties and so-called promotional events were not watched closely.

Rahul Dravid is not for scrapping the IPL, but for having better security measures in place.-V.V. SUBRAMANIYAM

As a result, some of the players were influenced easily and lost their focus. Cricket suffered and nothing underlined the degeneration more than a player like S. Sreesanth allegedly selling himself.

IPL 6 limped to a finish. It did not matter who won. The fans stood disillusioned and cricket bled. The purists had a laugh, but then spot-fixing had ravaged the game in its other forms also. That it engulfed the Indians came as a rude shock to fans who revere these over-paid and over-rated cricketers. What a shame that such ugly deeds were plotted by players who had no respect for a leader like Rahul Dravid!

The IPL faces a gloomy future. The sponsors would obviously rethink their strategy to associate themselves with such a corrupt league. Even the icons, embellishing this league with their presence, even if token in some cases, should reconsider their future. Their presence gives the IPL a bloated image.

The Board is faced with the enormous challenge and responsibility of resuscitating the IPL. Fresh auction and a new team in the place of Pune Warriors would give the league a revamped look. The test would be to sustain the interest of the fans who have, rightly, felt cheated following the spot-fixing scandals.

A new IPL chairman and a competent CEO would be the best way forward. The IPL, as Dravid argued, need not be scrapped. A lesser number of teams or reduced matches can make the league more competitive and credible too.

With Sachin Tendulkar choosing to end his innings in IPL, the onus is now on other icons to disassociate themselves with the tainted tournament. Gentlemen cricketers like Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman, Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag need to rethink their presence in the IPL next year. Obviously they cannot stop spot-fixing, but they can stop their name being linked to this mediocre domestic tournament of the Board. The championship is more about entertainment than cricket. The icons should remember that.