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India Needs The IPL Golden Goose To Stay Home

21/05/2016 8:11 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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SIPHIWE SIBEKO1 / Reuters
A cricket fan waves an Indian flag during the 2009 Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 cricket match between the Kings XI Punjab and the Deccan Chargers in Johannesburg May 17, 2009. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko (SOUTH AFRICA SPORT CRICKET)

Whether the success of the Indian Premier League resides in its format or Bollywood-ization, it cannot be denied that the IPL is a phenomenon. Neither controversy nor match-fixing seem to subdue its bounce. Now that the IPL's governing council has made a strong pitch to shift the IPL to either the UAE or South Africa, it is time to sit back and reflect.

The Indian Premier League is a far cry from the 50s and 60s, when watching a test match was as leisurely as gazing at a glorious sunset. Over the years, like films, cricket has become all about entertainment, entertainment and entertainment.

What is touted as tamasha is, in fact, serious business...the 2015 season of the IPL contributed ₹11.5 billion to the GDP.

For understandable reasons, the IPL is perceived to be a "tamasha". That's amusing, but wrong. What is touted as tamasha is, in fact, serious business. According to the BCCI, the 2015 season of the IPL contributed ₹11.5 billion to the GDP of our economy. As it happens, when you have a golden goose there is a mad scramble to claim the eggs. Since everyone wanted a share of the pie, controversies and spot-fixing scandals ensured that the IPL was on the back-foot. The BCCI tried to steady the IPL innings by introducing new teams like the Rising Pune Supergiants and the Gujarat Lions and removing the rotten apples -- the Rajasthan Royals and the Deccan Chargers. But the cup of IPL woes runneth over. The Lodha Committee recommendations have ensured that playing IPL with a straight bat is not going to be easy on a spinning home turf.

The IPL is a home-grown brand that needs to be nurtured, even if it requires regular weeding.

One of the abiding ironies is that cricket fans love cricket but love to hate the cricket governing body. Perception rules. Consequently, with every political controversy -- such as the Indo-Pak tie in Dharamsala and the matches shifted out of Maharashtra -- drought looms over the IPL. A volley of PILs have stumped the IPL. Moreover, playing under the glare of judicial activism and uncertainty is not the only problem. Adding to the discomfort is the ED surveillance on alleged Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violations.

Nonetheless, the IPL is a home-grown brand that needs to be nurtured, even if it requires regular weeding. Worldwide, sporting leagues have contributed in a positive way. The IPL too is contributing towards the popularity of cricket. Echoing the football phenomenon, Indian cricket players are making more money by participating in the league games instead of playing international tournaments.

A middle-class Indian was stingy when it came to shelling out big money to watch a game. IPL changed that in one straight drive.

You could shrug and say, how does the venue matter? The IPL had moved to South Africa and UAE on two occasions. Fine. But would the English Premier League (EPL) be as popular if it was, say, played in Singapore? Will someone in South Africa be as proud as apna Delhiite watching the Delhi Daredevils walk in? Closer home, a middle-class Indian was stingy when it came to shelling out big money to watch a game. IPL changed that in one straight drive. Financial backing by big names added to the brand value of the tournament. Let's face it: sport thrives on sponsorship and money.

A brand that debuted with a bang in India shouldn't go out of the country with a whimper.

If and when the golden goose flies away, TV contracts and sweetheart deals with owners and the BCCI might benefit cricketers, but will it benefit the average cricket fan? More significantly, should we ignore that the IPL was the trigger for various sporting leagues in kabaddi, tennis and badminton? Should we forget that IPL is a fertile breeding ground for young talent? Should we disregard that IPL has ensured the maintenance and upkeep of many stadiums? Should we not care for what IPL does for tourism in tier-two cities?

It is unfortunate that the "Indian People's League" has become a controversial punching bag. A brand that debuted with a bang in India shouldn't go out of the country with a whimper.

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