Recently, the tenth edition of the Indian Premier League began amid much fanfare and this gives us an apt opportunity to reflect on the past ten years of this cash rich extravaganza.
IPL, which began in the year 2008, was launched by BCCI with the aim to counter the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL).
ICL was a private cricket league founded by Subhash Chandra and Kapil Dev. It was designed to run in parallel with the BCCI, but BCCI refused to recognize ICL as a cricket league. ICC also refused to recognize it unless BCCI first recognized it. BCCI took a number of steps to dissuade cricketers from joining ICL. The Prize money for all domestic cricket tournaments were increased and the players who had joined ICL were banned by BCCI. But, it was the launch of IPL in 2008 which sounded the death knell for ICL. Merely a year after the launch of IPL, ICL was shutdown.
Since its inception, the IPL has come a long way and is now the most popular cricket league in the world. The official broadcaster of IPL, Sony Pictures Network, claimed that the viewership of the 9th edition of IPL stood at 361 million. The broadcaster seems confident that this figure will be breached by the ongoing 10th edition of the league.
The IPL also holds the distinction of being the first sporting event in the world to be broadcast live on the video-sharing website YouTube.
Every year since IPL began, cricketers from various parts of the world cross the barriers of nationality, language and religion and come together to celebrate the biggest festival of T20 cricket in the months of April and May. This not only helps the young and upcoming cricketers but also the seasoned ones to get accustomed to the playing conditions and the cricket culture in India. Over the years, many players from Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies have not just taken part in the tournament but have been key players for their respective sides. Apart from players from the Test playing nations, talented players from Associate nations have also participated in the IPL. Tanmay Mishra from Kenya, Ryan ten Doeschate from Netherlands and most recently Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan from Afghanistan have been picked by IPL teams.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the IPL have been the young Indian cricketers. Many talented uncapped players, with no or very little first class experience, got the opportunity to play alongside some of the best players in the game. For most youngsters this has done a world of good and this can be seen from their improved performances in other domestic tournaments. Earlier, most of the Indian domestic players were unknown to the fans until they managed to get into the national team but now, thanks to IPL, domestic players like Pawan Negi, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson, Krunal Pandya, Shahbaz Nadeem etc. have already become stars in India.
Another positive impact of IPL in India has been its contribution to the development of cricketing infrastructure in India. Many new venues like Raipur, Ranchi, Kanpur and Indore are now getting to host IPL matches. A portion of revenue which is generated by hosting matches also goes to the development of infrastructure in the country. Since the past 10 years, there has been improvement in the condition of stadiums all over the country.
The IPL, apart from being one of the most entertaining domestic tournaments in the world, also mints big money for the BCCI. According to a report, the 2016 edition of IPL generated gross revenue of more than 370 million USD. Advertisements were the biggest contributors to this revenue. Sponsorship, merchandising and ticket sales were some other sources of revenue.
Although the IPL has benefitted many young and upcoming Indian cricketers but many experts believe that it has harmed them in an equal proportion. The IPL gives them easy money and fame but at the same time it affects their technique and temperament. Now a days the classic cover drive has been replaced by switch hits and the straight drive by ugly swipes down the ground. For the IPL-generation of batsmen only runs matter not the manner in which they come.
The IPL only teaches these players how to play their shots and score runs, it doesn’t teach them the skills required to succeed in the longer formats of the game. The innovative switch-hits and scoops work in the shorter formats of the game but they are useless in Test matches. As a result, many of the IPL star batsmen find it very difficult to succeed in the longest format of the game.
The bowlers also have been affected due to IPL. Their goal, while bowling, has changed from picking up wickets to avoid being hit for a boundary. As a result, most of these bowlers have become over-defensive and are unable to pick wickets if the conditions don’t favor them.
Another negative impact which IPL has had on cricket was the introduction of “Club Vs Country” debate. The cricket boards of the international players plying their trade in IPL want their players to be available for national duty even during IPL season. On the other hand the IPL franchises, which splurge large volumes of money on the international stars, want them to be available throughout their IPL campaign. This conflict led to the BCCI requesting ICC for a separate IPL window in the Future Tours Program (FTP), which the ICC turned down. Now every time a player expresses his wish to skip an international game during IPL season, the “Club Vs Country” debate ensues, with most experts bashing the concerned player for opting for the riches of IPL rather than playing for his country.
In its 10 years, IPL has had its fair share of controversies. Suspension of IPL Chairman and Commissioner, Lalit Modi, was the first big controversy to have marred IPL. Modi was accused of misconduct, indiscipline and financial irregularities by BCCI. Enforcement Directorate (ED) launched an investigation against Modi for alleged financial irregularities. But he managed to move to London before this investigation began. Government of India revoked Modi’s passport in 2010 in a bid to bring him back from London. However, this decision was overturned by a High Court in 2014. This entire episode created lot of unnecessary drama outside the field and this was an early indication that IPL was not going to be free from controversies.
In 2012, a couple of years after ouster of Lalit Modi, IPL was marred with Spot-fixing controversy for the first time. A popular Hindi news channel aired a sting operation in which 5 domestic Indian players where shown to be involved in corrupt practices including spot fixing. The BCCI suspended all 5 players for varying periods of time, depending upon the level of offences committed by each of these players. However, this was just a trailer for the bigger controversy which was set to engulf the IPL the following year, in 2013.
In the year 2013, IPL, once again was rocked with Spot-fixing and betting scandal. 3 Rajasthan Royals players, S. Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankit Chavan, were arrested by Delhi Police for spot-fixing during IPL 2013. A number of bookies were also arrested along with Bollywood actor, Vindoo Dara Singh, and Son-in-law of BCCI president N. Srinivasan, Gurunath Meiyappan, for their link with bookies. Raj Kundra, co-owner of Rajasthan Royals, confessed to his involvement in betting and was immediately suspended by BCCI. Later, Supreme Court appointed Mudgal committee to probe the allegations of spot-fixing and betting in IPL. The Supreme Court also forced N. Srinivasan to step down as the President of BCCI. The Mudgal committee submitted its report in February 2014, which concluded that Meiyappan and Raj Kundra were both involved in betting. To decide the quantum of punishment for Meiyappan, Kundra and their respective IPL teams, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, Lodha Panel was formed. The panel suspended both CSK and RR for a period of 2 years and banned Meiyappan and Kundra for life from any involvement in cricket matches.
“Disrepute has been brought to cricket, the BCCI and the IPL to such an extent that there are doubts abound in the public whether the game is clean or not”- this comment of Justice Lodha summed up the entire episode very appropriately.
The IPL has been through a lot of controversies, many experts still debate the negative impact it had had on the technique and skill of young players. But still the IPL keeps providing the required dose of “cricketainment” to the people of an ever cricket-hungry nation every year. The IPL has been through a lots of ups and downs but thankfully its bandwagon has never stopped. People wait for the month of April to arrive so that they can see their favourite teams in action in the most spectator-friendly format of the game. It is true that the various controversies resulted in a decline in the total viewership of the tournament, but going by the recent stats, it looks like the IPL has left all the controversies behind, and is going full throttle once again.