Wednesday, March 25, 2009

IPL and we the ppl

Of course, the IPL is not merely a domestic tournament. It is a life-altering phenomenon in cricket. It is domestic only in the sense that it is controlled by the BCCI, which also benefits the most from it; but it has felt like an unstoppable force, with the power to affect every aspect of international cricket. In so many ways, it already has. And that's why the attention of the cricket world has been riveted on the discussions, or rather the lack of them, between the IPL's organisers and the Indian government over the security arrangements.

There was no way the world’s largest and most complex election exercise would not have got priority over a splurge of Twenty20 entertainment. At the same time, the organizers were left with no choice. There was no other space for the tournament in the international calendar, and the cost of not holding it was immense. But with the government refusing to provide a categorical assurance about security, and in fact giving every indication that it would prefer the tournament to be postponed, the risk of going ahead with it in India as scheduled was even greater.

However, this will be the first time a domestic tournament will be held abroad from start to finish. The IPL brought about a revolution in cricket in its first year. Will the second season lead to another? Its relocation is having both, positive & negative aspects.

What we stand to loose:

The relocation is a huge setback for the IPL. It was a tournament founded on the concept of city loyalties, and the finest aspect of the first season, apart from the quality of the cricket, was the response it generated from local fans. The money was made from television, but the real success of the tournament was felt in the stands. Taking the games away would be to deny them their natural habitat.

India would have showcased its higher security prospects and thus would have created positive environment to organize high profile sports events such as commonwealth games, Asian games and cricket world cup which is hit by recent terror activities in the region.

BCCI has been said to loose Rs.200 crores due to its relocation. At any given point of time, IPL would have 10,000 people working on the tournament. They would have consuming 30,000 rooms in hotels and 10,000 airline tickets for the purpose of the tournament, India stands to loose it.

As a positive,

it might provide a template for, and hasten the process of, Pakistan's home games being played in England or elsewhere. And if the tournament succeeds beyond drawing eyeballs on television, it could end up expanding the IPL's base and providing a tangible alternative for all subcontinent teams in these uncertain times. Even the most loyal Indian supporters will agree that these parts are far more chaotic and inherently prone to security lapses than the developed nations. The bombings in London in 2005 were an exception.

Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, has said the South African economy will benefit enormously from staging the lucrative Twenty20 tournament. Speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg, Modi suggested the influx of players, coaches, support staff, media and spectators would inject many millions into South Africa over the league's five-week duration.

Gerald Majola and Lalit Modi at a press conference, Johannesburg, March 24, 2009

But in the end it is as inconceivable to think of cricket without India as it is to imagine India without cricket. Not only is India cricket's economic powerhouse, but despite all the flaws of its administrators and the excesses of its fans, nowhere else is the game more alive, more vibrant, and followed more passionately. The IPL happened to get its timing wrong, but for its own sake, cricket must return home.

Sometimes a controversy ends well, and this is one of those. No major bruises, though the Congress is left looking a bit sheepish. When the first ball of the second IPL is bowled, cricket aficionados in the country will be saluting Modi, Pawar and Jaitley.

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