April 16, 2010

Get off the front page

The latest financial scandal could discredit the league and take away from the good that it has done by giving young players the chance to share the spotlight with the stars

So cricket again descends to the front pages, normally the abode of tragedies, scams, budgets, or lately, full-page ads. I am not sure it is the right place for sports - unless, of course, a shooter wins a gold medal at the Olympics. They belong on the back pages, where people go to feel good. But now the IPL is being dragged out of there and this is not good for a league that has achieved so much but is still very young.

As a sporting event, the IPL has been excellent so far. It has provided a platform for young talent, for players who plied their trade in less-reported areas, and were a name on a scoreboard if the sports editor thought it worthy. Saurabh Tiwary echoed those sentiments when he said he got more attention for a twenty in the IPL than for a hundred for Jharkhand. We might gather together and bemoan the lack of purity in strokeplay, but if we were Tiwary we would say the same and look to the IPL for the world to know of our existence.

The IPL has also allowed us another look at the ageing stars; cricketers we enjoyed watching and thought would now be available only on television reruns or DVDs. One of the most thrilling moments in recent times for me was watching Anil Kumble bowl the first over of a match to Virender Sehwag. And as a result of watching these stars we know now that many can make the journey from Tests to Twenty20, but the reverse remains unproven, even though Shane Watson did use the shortest format as a platform to return to Test cricket.

The IPL, I fear, runs the risk of being remembered for what is appearing on the front pages and in breaking-news headlines on television channels. The players can perform great deeds but eventually sport, like everything else, is run by finance, and the IPL has been as much a financial event as a sporting one. When auctions happen and resultant financial tangles emerge, everyone becomes an expert on all matters. I will not claim that position but will make just one observation. The two areas the IPL needs to be most careful about are the quality of its franchise owners, and therefore complete transparency, and the distance it can keep from match-fixing (or spot-fixing, which is more in the news lately).

The two areas the IPL needs to be most careful about are the quality of its franchise owners, and therefore complete transparency, and the distance it can keep from match-fixing (or spot-fixing, which is more in the news lately)

In the first round of bidding for teams, the IPL was lucky that established corporate houses like Reliance, United Breweries, GMR, Deccan Chronicle and India Cements came forth. After initial scepticism, Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta and the partners in King's XI also emerged as committed team owners. They had a big role to play in the early days of the IPL and the seamless movement to South Africa last year. Indeed Cricket South Africa offered its hand to a vulnerable child and the IPL owes it a bit too. Going ahead the IPL needs the same degree of commitment. You only need to look to the current fortunes of some teams in English football, or indeed to the trauma of the West Indies Cricket Board's Stanford association, to realise how easily things can go wrong.

But while storms rage in political and other worlds, you wouldn't know anything was wrong if you watched the cricket or were at the grounds. Kevin Pietersen's masterful performance against the Rajasthan Royals showed just why he is one of the great players of this generation. And Harmeet Singh's delightful spell reminded us of how unfancied players can be empowered. The IPL allows Harmeet, Jaskaran Singh, B Sumanth and others to rub shoulders with Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds and more of their kind, and that cannot be a bad thing.

Indeed, if there is something the last week at the IPL has reinforced, it is that teams need contributions from local players to survive. The revival of the Deccan Chargers was built around contributions from Tirumalasetti Suman and Harmeet. Till then they had looked an eight-man team, but like with the Mumbai Indians and the Royal Challengers, they look much better when there are many contributors.

And the league table can't be closer. The greatest strength of the IPL is the equalisation of resources brought about by the spending cap. In future, whether it is on the front pages or back, this will separate it from other leagues.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. He is on the IPL commentary team

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ravishankara on April 18, 2010, 17:01 GMT

    Now that Modi has taught a lesson to Tharoor, he should come clean on shareholdings of other franchisees also. I look forward to his tweets on RR, KXIP etc,, He should also disclose anyone related to IPL owners are working in his office

  • popcorn on April 18, 2010, 1:40 GMT

    The IPL is really the GREAT INDIAN LOTTERY.

  • phenom_007 on April 17, 2010, 21:08 GMT

    @ Jaysh. The piece of my mind, which I had penned in my prior post, was only confine to an unexampled support IPL received from the Indians all across the globe & the sheer apathy which was shown towards the Stanford.

    Having said that, the fact that in the process IPL went onto become one of the world's top notch sporting event just goes onto proof that one of us (in this case it was Mr. Modi) had in him to give birth to a billion dollar baby (although man and birth don't go hand in hand!). Though, I do concur with you that a puffy wallet is more often than not is the cause of all the sins in the world. And hence, it becomes that much more important for the BCCI to make sure that the above line doesn't imply on the IPL. It's great that the baby is celebrating its 3rd birthday, but the real ask would be to keep it away from all the evils in the world, though I do know that nothing in this world ever takes place in the vacuum. But let's hope for an exception.

  • mmoosa on April 17, 2010, 19:34 GMT

    Its difficult to comprehend why a 7 week tournament is being lambasted by so many when it should be lauded as the hottest cricket ticket on earth. Sounds like sour grapes and jealousy.Limited overs cricket was the original doomsday for cricket-unfortunately what accrued was a new cricketing test nation (S.L),BETTER TAIL END BATTERS,better fielding and faster run rates in test cricket with more results. 20 over cricket is bringing a new fan base to cricket and in time too will add to other forms of the game-apart from the doom and gloomers!

  • S.N.Singh on April 17, 2010, 17:06 GMT

    Most of the comments here are in tune of what is going on. IPL is not for producing Test Cricketers. But the advantage in it is that people get to have some sort of entertainment where they can say I have enjoyed the couple of hours. IPL is just "Lashing the Ball." On the other hand to gives the Indian and other players a chance to "Earn Something" from cricket. Most of these players will not get the chance to play Test Cricket. They can say at anytime that I earn some money by playing cricket. It's a different entertainment for the players and the fans. What governing body do is up to them providing they do not break the law. S.N.Singh USA

  • fisher2 on April 17, 2010, 16:20 GMT

    of course players like shane warne or anil kumbel wil open the attack when you dont have champs like the aamir's or the gul's i totaly disagree with the writer twenty20 is all about agresion about firepower i want heve my mony worth when i go to see twenty20.

  • Crazicket on April 17, 2010, 14:09 GMT

    Adding to the present scenario of the crisis, lots of comments has been seen about the politics should be kept away from IPL. Just think back who added politics flavor to IPL. Was it the Jr.Modi for the Sr. Modi? Remember second season of IPL, during the general elections in India. The home ministry wanted the dates to be extended for the security reasons. But Jr.Modi, wanted to take it away, Sr.Modi offered Gujarath. But it was taken to SA. What is more important to IPL? Money or Democracy? We have seen it.

  • henchart on April 17, 2010, 12:27 GMT

    The after effects of IPL........Indians get a pasting at T 20 World Cup in WI and skipper Dhoni blames lack of rest before such a crucial tournament.

  • khmayecha on April 17, 2010, 10:18 GMT

    Excellently written, Harsha. IPL is where it is solely for the reason that it is found more in the front page than the sports page. Its all politics and money matters being fired from the shoulders of young cricketers and retired cricketers with a big name - though the good part is that they are also being benefitted far more than what they had ever imagined - in terms of exposure as well as financially. Modi has done what needed to be done and i think now it should be handed over to the more cricket minded leaders of BCCI. The head must be an ex cricketer in conjunction with an able administrator. Modi has bitten more than he can chew so he must hibernate for some time.

  • kpradyu060 on April 17, 2010, 8:56 GMT

    Harsha Bhogle is the best commentator and always smiling.i wish espn would start the school quiz again.it was fantastic

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