IPL is over, the Games continue !!!

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!!!

IPL-Funny-Cartoon-Images-Ek-Se-Bure-Do

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

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April and the IPL Typhoid !!!

Come April and it’s that time of the year when sections of people in India hate Modi. Wait a minute! Before the Modi brigade start trolling me, let me clarify. This is not NaMo the usual object of hate generally but LaMo – Lalit Modi who six years ago created a product called the Indian Premier League (IPL) and shifted permanently the centre of gravity of Cricket economics to India forever.  While IPL has triggered a craze in the country and is attempting to bridge the gap between “Bat & Fad”, there are the following naysayers:

  • Women: Generally speaking in an average Indian home, the remote control is by and large with the woman. I meant the remote control of the TV ‘also’!!!  In between Cartoons/Disneys/Chota Bheems and Ram Kapoors/Jetha Lals/Parvati Bhabhis – it is not very unusual to see the Rajdeeps, Harshas & Barkas getting squeezed and edged out in the normal scheme of things. But come April, men who otherwise don’t get to establish their ‘control’ on the ‘remote’ have their last laugh and for 50 days – IPL takes over the airwaves inside the house. So, no wonder the moment the IPL promo ads start airing, you start hearing sounds of the grinding teeth amidst the “Gilli Gilli” sounds!
  • Film Makers: Since weekends are usually cramped with double headers starting from 4.00 pm in the IPL, the usual crowd in theatres during weekends goes missing. Film makers take a break from releasing their new movies when IPL is on fearing a Box office disaster. Last year a producer who released his movie during IPL was feted with “Bahaduri Ka Puraskar” (Bravery Award) to keep the chin up of the movie fraternity!!
  • Businessmen/Shopkeepers: In the pre-IPL days, weekends were times of heightened business activity as parents throng shops/outlets with children for ‘time-pass’ during vacation time and end up in a shopping spree.  Not any more. They themselves have to keep a TV set in their shops and watch IPL matches to keep them occupied in IPL season. Surprising that our politicians who are against FDI in retail are not against IPL!!!
  • Hotels/Restaurants: This is a no brainer. If people stay indoors – there is certainly an effect on the eateries! Smart cookies started beaming IPL matches in big screens still to get people in. The jury is still out on if this strategy is working.
  • TV Channels other than MAX: It is that part of the year when all the GE TV channels just cool their heels without launching any new big-ticket programmes/Reality Shows,… So the Indian Idols, Big Boss’, Super Singers, KBCs and their ilk all take a break during IPL and return post June.  As far as the news channels are concerned – they board the IPL bandwagon with their own pre and post-match programming.  Something is better than nothing! In other cases, they just have to live with the ignominy of poor TRPs. Just today I saw a tweet from a news caster  which goes thus :

“If blore bats first against hyd at 8pm, gayle wl also take viewers away fm my spl report on blore’s woes ahead of elex n headlines today 😦 “

Guess it’s because of the venomous curse of the above groups that Lalit Modi is sitting in the fringe somewhere in the UK these days tweeting live updates on IPL matches instead of being at the centre of action in India during IPL!!!

Having said that, jokes apart – IPL has been a revelation. Inspite of the exit of its creator – Lalit Modi and the tribulations some of the team owners are going through oflate, it’s still proving that the success in the 1st few seasons was not a fluke.  And one must hand it over to Lalit Modi for first creating the product and then demonstrating how to manage the product successfully. I’ve no doubts in my mind that the last few years of IPL basically have been “Copy & Paste” of the formula Modi worked out in the formative years.  Whether it is the format, the auctions, opening and closing ceremonies, outsourced Game organization, telecast, pre and post-game hype and hoopla,… it has “Modi Chaap” even today. What is missing today is the orchestrated PR plugs which Modi had a penchant for.  I remember in the 1st few editions, there were deliberate attempts to keep IPL in the news during the long drawn campaign.  Just when the games start getting into a repetitive monotony (same teams playing against each other “n” number of times) there will emerge some scandalous off the field story which will bring IPL back in the news (Remember Harbhajan slapping Sreesanth in 2008???)

While I started this piece on a lighter vein with an introduction to IPL’s hate groups, on a serious note, its worth looking at IPL’s effects on the economy. I read somewhere that when Brazil wins the World Cup the country’s GDP in that year expands by an additional x % as people revel in the feel good ambience and end up spending a lot of money and a Baby Boom ensues!! I feel when Brazil loses, it also spurs the economy – only that this time it’s just the liquor economy as people keep drinking to drown their sorrow 🙂

Given this connection between sporting success and economy of the country, let’s look at the IPL effect on the economy:

  • The obvious one is its avatar as a “Job Fair”. Look at the opportunity it provides to so many fringe cricketers like the Gonys, Anirudhs,…who may find it hard to break into an Indian team. Then you have the band of ex – cricketers who get the chance to stay in the limelight as coaches/advisors,.. of IPL teams or get employed as experts and commentators on TV and some of them as columnists in newspapers/Web. Suddenly you find Kapil Dev who was the brand ambassador in the opposite camp (ICL) burying all animosity and doing the “Jumping Japak” routine with Sidhu and mouthing expert comments. Apart from that you have so many other indirect jobs – curators, security, catering, transport, bouncers,…,…
  • Then you have the other impact on the economy – Hotels, Airlines, Media, Consumer goods,…

The positive latent effect on the economy is what Shashi Tharoor cited as a main reason for his keenness on a Kochi team in IPL which he attempted to stitch together. Rightly so.

So what if there are a few hatemongers and worrywarts on IPL? Now that the IPL-6 typhoid has set in, let’s contribute to the IPL economy. As Farah Khan exhorts in that cool IPL-6 campaign – Sirf Dekhne Ka Nahi!!!

IPL toon