IPL and the sands of time

Unmindful of the disgusting acts by both the cricketers and the franchise coterie, the pulsating IPL cricket is growing in stature and has emerged as a most-saleable and most-sought-after venture. By J. R. Shridharan.

The cricket caravan has moved from the fertile Bengal delta to the Arabian desert, kick-starting yet another contest in the game’s shortest format.

The loud sound of the trumpet is already rupturing the ear drum as the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is set in motion in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In a circus-like ambience, where jesters make way for the gyrating cheerleaders, this entertaining format will be more of scoop shots than square cuts; front-foot smacks than bat-and-pad-close-together defence; toe-crushers than juicy full tosses and reverse sweeps than reciprocate smiles.

With bats used more like golf clubs and the region behind the wicket-keeper emerging as the busiest run-making area of the wagon-wheel, a brand new ‘copy’ book of cricket is written as every fresh edition of IPL unfolds.

This money-making mela of cricket will be clinically looked at by both the die-hard fans and the viewers in general, keeping in mind its share of controversies, scams and skirmishes in the earlier editions.

The shifting of the first leg to three venues in the UAE — Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai — owing to the general elections in India, will be an added burden to the game’s law and order arm, for the region was (is?) once considered the fountainhead of match-fixing. Remember the inglorious reputation the Cricketers Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) and the Sharjah Stadium acquired in the 80s?

This edition assumes significance for the 51-day competition will be overseen not by a cricket administrator, but by a former international and India’s original Little Master, Sunil Gavaskar, who is known for his heroic on-field battles.

High on the veteran opener’s priority list would be the steely resolve to present a clean contest because any unsavoury incident will tarnish his reputation. In fact the entire cricketing fraternity is hoping fervently for the fire-fighter’s (read Gavaskar) success as the head of IPL.

Right from its first edition, the neatly-wrapped cricket goodie of the BCCI has given a good number of palatable experiences to the viewers, while simultaneously popping up incidents which sullied the image of the game.

Various incidents of spot-fixing involving towel, wrist band and many other non-cricketing escapades have made the lives of the honest cricketers miserable because even the innocent wiping of sweat off the brow is seen as a signal to a bookie.

But, unmindful of the disgusting acts by both the cricketers and the franchise coterie, the pulsating IPL cricket is growing in stature and has emerged as a most-saleable and most-sought-after venture.

Adding to the already-bruised ego of the cricketing fraternity is the intervention of the Supreme Court and its stand on the conflict of interest.

However, the fraternity must be thankful to the apex court’s gesture of not scrapping the IPL and also not barring the two questionable teams — Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals — thus helping the tournament to retain its edge.

“It is good that IPL will be organised under Gavaskar’s direction. Though Sunny’s role is a stop-gap one it augurs well for the game, for I am a strong believer of cricketers running the game. He (Sunny) should interact with the mentors of the franchises to create an awareness among players about clean behaviour,” says former India skipper Ajit Wadekar.

Wadekar agrees that Gavaskar doesn’t have a magic wand to do away with all the ills of the game. “But it is a good beginning,” he avers.

One bad element is sufficient to spoil the reputation of the entire team. “A bad deed spreads like a virus. Players should be told how their careers would be ruined for a few dollars doled out by bookies,” says Wadekar.

He feels that the loopholes in the system should be identified and plugged. “Despite the all-pervasive Anti Corruption and Security Wing and the ICC’s committed resolve to curb all sorts of fixing these acts keep re-surfacing. Sunny should strengthen the law and order apparatus,” Wadekar opines.

Dilip Vengsarkar feels that the cosmetic changes will not do any good to IPL. “We need a thorough overhaul right from the top to the grassroots. Greed is killing the format, which is providing the all-important funds for the associations to spruce up quality infrastructure across the country. There is nothing wrong with the format.”

Vengsarkar says the ‘yatha raja thatha praja’ concept is ruining the IPL, for greedy administrators were indirectly encouraging and luring gullible players to resort to anti-social activities. “I blame avaricious stakeholders who are setting a bad example to the young players.”

Former India cricketers M. S. K. Prasad and Lalchand Rajput want the youngsters to concentrate on their core competency, which is playing cricket. “Any deviation will bring disrepute to them and destroy their careers. They (the players) should look for long-term benefits rather than short-term lure,” says Rajput.

“Gavaskar is the right person to educate the players for he is the living example who made name and fame with his clean behaviour for decades. He has seen the evolution of the game from close quarters. In fact, he is making more money now than during his playing days,” says M.S.K. Prasad.

The former Delhi run-machine K. Bhaskar Pillai is happy that the IPL is being staged as it provided the opportunity to several first-class and uncapped players to perform and make money. “The IPL has emerged as an important tournament in the calendar.”

While welcoming Gavaskar’s role as the temporary IPL chief, Pillai feels that there is no guarantee that all cricketers would graduate to become good administrators. “Though players like Chetan Chauhan, Javagal Srinath, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble did well in administration, some have failed,” he said.