2010 Review

The IPL has fallen, long live the IPL

This was the year it all came crashing down for cricket's next big thing. But fundamentally hardly anything has changed

Sharda Ugra

January 1, 2011

Comments: 26 | Text size: A | A

Protestors shout anti-IPL slogans, New Delhi, April 24, 2010
Modi may have been cut out of the picture, but there's plenty wrong with the IPL still © AFP
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In Focus: The IPL Mess
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What about IPL 3 will you most remember? There's a damned good chance it won't be the cricket.

The IPL began 2010 as the league about to take over and roll over world cricket. It had expanded its competitive footprint from eight franchises to 10, its two new teams cost as much as its previous eight. Its brand value was pegged (out of thin, venture-capital air) at $4.13b. Season four would feature 74 matches instead of 60. The IPL was poised to obliterate ODIs, turn Tests into sepia-toned throwbacks and virtually redefine the stratosphere itself.

It has ended the year like a rattling jalopy, still moving towards auction day and opening night, but navigating by a roadmap that seems to contain more roundabouts and fewer exits.

In only its third year, this glitzy, ditzy "domestic" Indian event, which seduced the highest of priests, will leave 2010 looking like something out of, say, Indian hockey or weightlifting. It is swamped in public mudslinging, legal wrangles, ownership disputes, territorial battles, stay orders and stay orders on stay orders. Less than 10 days before that auction it is still not clear as to exactly who will be allowed in, how many teams will play in the next tournament and whether it will or will not feature playoffs.

Between October and December that number has oscillated between seven and 10. Everyone and his lawyer is involved in the scrimmage - the Enforcement Directorate, the Chennai police, the CBI, the Bombay High Court, several high-profile politicians and their kin. The IPL now has the full attention of all arms of the government - the executive, the legislature, the judiciary.

The single biggest "learning" from IPL 2010 must surely be that schoolkids now know what "facilitation fees" and "recusal" really mean. Kickbacks and abdication.

If the IPL has suffered nine months of infamy, both side are to blame. The events that followed El Modi's tweeting on about Kochi's ownership were the result of two years of utter lack of regulation within the BCCI. On Modi's part when doing IPL business in the BCCI's name. And on the BCCI's part for turning a blind eye to everything except the bottom line, under the excuse of the protection given to Modi by the Sharad Pawar regime.

The IPL was, in essence, a private club of Modi and his friends, where rules (whether the inspired invention of the "strategic time out" or the one of ads during overs) were made up as they went along. Its governing council did not govern and officials responded to questions about the IPL's practices by saying, "Look at how much money he makes for the board."

He has gone from being King Midas to the IPL's most rotten apple. Today, with two franchises fighting their termination by the IPL's new, unimproved governing council in courts, let's just say, he sure has company.

What should now be more than evident is that the tussle over the ownership and control of the IPL, between Lalit Modi and the men who were once his best buddies in the BCCI, is not that of new India versus old India. This tug of war is, in fact, a re-assertion of the BCCI's arrogance of monopoly and its overall lack of operational professionalism. On both sides of the argument we only see the self-importance of the Indian cricket establishment, differentiated merely by age. It is the worst of an India that has power, money and influence.

If the old BCCI's patriarchy handed out favours like Indian team managerships or committee posts to those who controlled its votes, Modi's IPL empire was built on business deals struck with friends and friends of friends, and IPL jobs doled out to well-connected children. The IPL was a 21st-century old boys' network, swirling with crony capitalism disguised by corporatespeak. It was nepotism in a Ferragamo suit, and it led to allegations of money-laundering and financial irregularities.

When the first of the dust settled and Modi was swiftly excised, all we could see was dirt. While many believe the departure of Modi was a chance for the BCCI to clean up the system, all the realist wanted was order and the installation of a stringent set of rules with little room for messing about. It was necessary because 2011 was to be a big year for the IPL. It should have kicked off phase two for the league, during which the entire player pack would be reshuffled in a new auction, and the arrival of two more teams would alter the league's geography and economics.

 
 
The tussle over the ownership and control of the IPL, between Lalit Modi and the men who were once his best buddies in the BCCI, is not that of new India versus old India. This tug of war is, in fact, a re-assertion of the BCCI's arrogance of monopoly and its overall lack of operational professionalism
 

What took place instead was a clumsy hatchet job. After Modi was booted out, hollering and tweeting, the BCCI then went about restructuring its governing council, seizing back control of the IPL by changing the constitution that Modi had himself pushed to get changed in order to allow BCCI office bearers a financial stake in his gold rush. Once that was done came the termination of the two franchises seen to be closest to Modi, Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals. Done without warning, done without discussion, negotiation or arbitration.

In what is a Modi-esque move, the IPL's rules continue to be constantly tinkered with, particularly those that benefit its most influential. This time it's about the "retention" of players. In a league where the Chennai Super Kings are successful on the field and owned by BCCI president-elect N Srinivasan, and the Mumbai Indians are, well, both very rich and very powerful, the IPL's playing field is bumpy for its less privileged. Only 12 players were retained in all, eight between these two teams.

The lone smart move from the IPL this year has been to ally itself with the other national boards and so channel the supply of overseas talent into the league. The overseas players' boards will send out lists of certified players available for the IPL and also receive 10% of these players' contracted salaries. In putting this Soviet bloc-style system in place, the IPL has sidelined the player-agent completely and created a new source of earning for less wealthy boards. All the better to carve out tomorrow's unofficial IPL window with. And while IPL 4 will not have any after-parties, it will continue to remain out of bounds for Pakistani cricketers - and the Kremlin will not talk about that.

For all the fireworks of its first two years, the chest-thumping pride of India's "global branding" through it, and despite the regular announcements of new sponsorships, the IPL still looks and acts like what it says it is: a BCCI sub-committee rather than a contemporary cricket operation.

Between now and opening night, the IPL will be scrambling. Even the croniest of capitalists knows that only the cricket can improve the IPL's image, bolster its precious brand and rescue its reputation. It begins five days after the World Cup and the cream of international players must refresh themselves to provide both sparkle and stature. Many fingers will be crossed. Not merely those of the franchises but also of the IPL's governors. As much as all of India will want to win the World Cup, the BCCI top brass will want to stage an IPL that is efficient, successful, lucrative. And Modi-free. If it happens they will befriend the franchises again and all will be forgiven. And all will stay the same.

A few months after Modi was sent into the outer darkness, a journalist predicted great gloom for the IPL. Without "Lalit", he said, the IPL was doomed to be "middle class." Maybe he had actually been misheard. Perhaps he was actually being prescient. The IPL today is distinctly muddle-class.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at Cricinfo

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Posted by   on (January 2, 2011, 22:47 GMT)

"They should sack srinivasan. He is a egoist and destined for destruction."

+ INFINITY.....!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Posted by   on (January 2, 2011, 21:53 GMT)

oh come one..Why doe cricinfo keeps crying abt IPL..lalit modi is a genius! I think southies r just jealous..suck an egg will u?

Posted by DoubleDs on (January 2, 2011, 7:23 GMT)

Whiny Cricinfo continues to try and disparage IPL on a daily basis. It's getting boring.

Posted by   on (January 2, 2011, 0:05 GMT)

Now i point some aspect of IPL in world cricket. Cricket belived to be 2nd most popular game in the world. But the fact is that its rarely be 2nd most popular sport outside sub continent. So the revival of this sport lies in IPL like league structure. Ice hockey or baseball, perhaps would be dead in this world if NHL or MLB wernt there. Live in a fact that this sport needs a qualitative professional league like IPL. If IPL wont there then some others but we cant ignore it.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2011, 23:37 GMT)

One request to our gentleman indians. What have u acheived in the world as a pride. Ipl brings a kind of proud feeling to we indians that see we r devloped. We can hold a tournament that is merely comparable to worlds mighty NFL and NBA. We cand make a sports brand that can valued in billions. And neither lalit nor bcci, its we, one and only people of india had made ipl worlds sixth best league brand. We r the people behind its success. And so we have to support it in its gloomy days.

Posted by   on (January 1, 2011, 21:00 GMT)

@RAAJ101 - just because you type in CAPS does not mean you are right. IPL is a mockery of a pretty viable format of cricket. Only because of the IPL overdose, cricket fans are burnt out by 20-20 and sadly has started the decline of 20-20. On top that, Test cricket is seeing a revival with the playign field evening out and more teams becoming suitable for the top spot. IPL on the other hand, is a typical Indian way of business management. Greed is plentiful and only a powerful few run the show and bend the rules to suit them. IPL was never a long term prospect like the NFL or NBA, which is the template that IPL had chosen, because NBA and NFL dont mess around with the ground rules and keep it fair, so that everyone involved have a vested interest in keeping alive for as long as possible. It's all going to come crashing down on these douchebags who claim to know what they are doing. It's a soap opera that in its last season.

Posted by Zahidsaltin on (January 1, 2011, 20:10 GMT)

HERE IS THE FORMULA: As every product has a cycle, IPL cycle is on its decline. You need to develope it to add some rivalary and other dimentions. Keep the number of indian teams to 5, add two pakistani teams from Lahore and Karachi, Take one team from SL and then take one each team from SA, AUS and England. Let the SA, AUS and ENG team to base in India during the compition but give home grounds to Lahore, Karachi and Colombo to keep their home grounds. Scrap the Champ. trophy. THIS FORMULA WILL GIVE IT SOMETHING WHICH FANS NEED. You may not get the full pie but you will have it running for a very long time to come.

Posted by syedahmed91 on (January 1, 2011, 17:19 GMT)

IPL has made cricket boring. It's all about money in ipl and not about cricket; pride and passion. It's all about finishing the season without getting injured so you can pick up the check and sleep well at night. I wish so much money wasn't invested in ipl and it was more about competing and winning than it would've been real fun to watch.

Posted by RAAJ101 on (January 1, 2011, 16:49 GMT)

IPL IS COMPETITIVE CRICKET AT ITS BEST. IN 2011 IPL WILL BE HAVING 10 COMPETITIVE TEAMS WORLD CRICKET IS BORING BECAUSE TODAY IN WORLD RICKET THERE ARE ONLY THREE OR FOUR COMPETITVE TEAMS

Posted by Knightriders_suck on (January 1, 2011, 14:59 GMT)

IPL is great, Though coming 5 days after WC it may be overkill. But I will watch it everyday. It is my evening TV fix for a month and half.

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