Who would have imagined that almost a week after IPL is over, news channels would continuously keep breaking news ON IPL, this time on the games people play off the field!!! Well, that’s what has been happening today – a staid Sunday afternoon when normally breaking news take a break not to mention of the celebrity anchors. However today, since morning channels have been covering non-stop the BCCI meeting saga and by the end of the day we will come to know if “Srini was” or still “is” the BCCI president!!!
It all started with the police picking up a few players of Rajasthan Royals on charges of betting and spot fixing during the last stage of IPL-6. From then on the action shifted from “on the field” to “off the field” not that IPL is generally quiet off the field. These certainly took the sheen off the much awaited IPL win of the Mumbai Indians. For the channels here was a great opportunity to hit back at the IPL which was running away with all the TRPs when the matches were on. The spot fixing allegations on players, the busting of betting rackets in different cities, involvement of Bollywood side-kicks (Vindu Dara Singh is hardly a star) and finally the prize catch of a team owner and that too, the BCCI President’s son in law with his hands soaked in the betting saga all meant that the T-20 tournament became a T-24*7 daily soap with its intrinsic twists and turns. That Cricket was a “Game of Glorious uncertainties” (to borrow a very boring commentators’ cliché) was proved beyond doubt, only that the main uncertainty was who were all involved!!! It was time for the naysayers and the cynics to dub IPL as the next “gate” involving players, stars, politicians, cricket administrators and Ex-cricketers,… From then on there have been loud calls to ban the IPL which now came with a suffix called “Tamasha”!!!
The question is do we need such a knee jerk reaction? The fact is IPL has been a great product. From the time it was conceived it was meant to be Cricket laced with entertainment. So branding of teams, roping in glamorous stars and not so glamorous but wealthy industrialists, auctioning of players and live telecast of the same, Jazzy and glitzy opening /closing ceremonies, cheer girls on the field, cheer girls in the studio, pretty women as anchors, not so pretty but legends as commentators, the IPL parties, Slapping drama,..,…were all part of this package and part of the script. I myself witnessed an IPL match along with my colleagues in season 4 – Mumbai Vs. Delhi (when they were really “Dare Devils”) and could sense that irrespective of the way the match was going we were having ball of a time. So did thousands of other spectators, I realized. That day I got convinced on the “Cricketainment” model espoused by IPL!!! The going was good for the IPL till few weeks back irrespective of whether Lalit Modi was helming it or not. But somewhere down the line the script went awry. Twists emerged in the form of Betting and Fixing and,…
The prima facie charge on the cricketers who got caught is “Betting” which is illegal in India. The question is why this hypocrisy? Like their counterparts in other parts of the world Indians also like betting. As we speak, there must be huge bets riding on if N. Srinivasan will resign today or not. ‘Shart lagata hai? (Want to bet?) is part of day today lingo. Betting happens round the clock on issues of National importance like “Whether Modi will be announced as the PM candidate next week by the BJP” or “Will PM speak today” or “Whether monsoon will hit Mumbai on the 3rd”,..,… or other mundane issues like “Will Arnab Goswami smile on Newshour tonight” and so on. So in a country where as per me Cricket is the foremost unifying factor, to assume that there won’t be betting on Cricket matches is being naïve. The solution is to legalise betting and bleach the colour of the black betting economy.
However the issue where one feels cheated is when players involve in “Fixing” matches. Cricketers are what they are today because people like us watch them play either live or on TV. As more and more numbers watch, their valuation keeps going up. While we watch, we also support, cheer and applaud them when they do well. In the bargain we expect them to play sincerely and put up a good fight. So when they throw their wickets to lose a match (match fixing) or give away a certain number of runs in an over (spot fixing), it leaves a bitter taste in our mouths. Also imagine what would have gone through the minds of Rahul Dravid, the Rajasthan Royals captain and other honest players when they heard about their co-players’ involvement in spot fixing. So if there is no law today to prevent “fixing”, we need one certainly.
But frankly legalizing betting and enacting a new Anti-fixing law would not still prevent what is happening today. For a full clean up, cricket or for that matter any sports administration must be relieved of vested interests, politicians and other non-state actors. The concept of “honorary posts” in sports administration is utter gibberish which is leading to vested interests as it exists today. BCCI must be turned into a body run by professionals who are paid salaries and are accountable to a Board of Directors and a constitution which will protect National interests. Till such time the Games will continue!!!
P.S: I think one person who must be blamed for all this betting in Cricket is that Ashotosh Gowarikar 🙂 who in his movie ‘Lagaan’ showed that betting in Cricket happened even during the British Raj and romanticized the same. Remember that classic scene from that film where General Russel taunts Bhuvan and walks him into a wager??? (Check this clip from the 3rd min. – Hum Shart Aur badathe hain!!!)
With all this happening around IPL the original acronym is already forgotten. Today does IPL stand for
Indian Party League ?
Indian Parivaar League ?
Indian Political League ?
Indian Punters League ?
Indian Pub League ?
Choose your pick!!!
Also read my earlier post on IPL before the recent rumblings: April and the IPL Typhoid