Modern cricket is a rich sport. Players, officials, administrators and broadcasters are all very well compensated for their contribution to this game. With the advent of the T20 format, the commercial opportunities for cricket and those associated with this game have witnessed an exponential increase.
National duties have taken a backseat as professional cricketers are lured into freelancing their services to private franchises around the globe. And in this mad dash for mega cash, it is very easy for any cricketing nation and its governing cricket body to lose sight of the longer term future and sustainability of the sport.
Two such hugely popular T20 franchises are the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Australian edition known as the Big Bash League (BBL). The IPL will roll into its ninth year in 2016, while the fifth instalment of the BBL is being currently played out in Australia.
The IPL in a way reflects what its caretaker BCCI stands for in the eyes of an ordinary Indian cricket follower. Stubborn, secretive, extremely political, cash rich...
The IPL and BBL are respectively managed by the Board of Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) and Cricket Australia . Two of the most influential cricket governing bodies in World Cricket right now. Powerful, assertive and affluent.
India versus Australia is a great modern-day cricketing rivalry. Two proud nations with a rich cricketing heritage. In Australia, cricket is the official national sport. In India, it is a full-fledged religion. The great Don Bradman continues to be Australia's National pride. While, the indomitable Sachin Tendulkar is the official Indian demi-god. Both nations revere their cricketers. Past and present.
However, if one was to look closely, there appears to be a stark difference in the way the IPL and the BBL are played, managed, and promoted by the BCCI and Cricket Australia respectively. And in my opinion, the BCCI can afford to learn a few good things from Cricket Australia when it comes to nurturing, managing, and promoting cricket, especially the IPL franchise.
The IPL, to me, is more of a sporting circus synonymous with brand endorsements, Bollywood stars and drunken after-parties. Throw in a raft of "match fixing" allegations, corruption-prone officials, and banned franchises, and there you have it -- Brand IPL at its inglorious best. A perfect recipe to bastardise a popular sport.
The most disturbing part of this IPL equation is that the BCCI seems to be content (perhaps even thrilled), by such a projection of the IPL to the rest of the world. The BCCI, to a common person looking from the outside, remains a guarded organisation. Its office-bearers seem to be off-limits to any public scrutiny or debate about the governance of cricket in India. Power struggles, conflict of interests, politics and compromised governance appear to run right through its corridors.
The IPL in a way reflects what its caretaker BCCI stands for in the eyes of an ordinary Indian cricket follower. Stubborn, secretive, extremely political, cash rich, and unapproachable. In a way the IPL stands for all other things but the 'Cricket' that is at the very core of the tournament. Marred and infested with conflict and controversy.
There are no movie stars on display during the BBL. Nor their antics. After-parties do not exist. On the contrary, clubs endorse various social causes of their choice.
Now let's turn our attention to the Australian equivalent of the IPL.
The BBL has entered its fifth year and is an increasingly popular cricketing competition in the Australian sporting calendar. Much of BBL's growing appeal has to be attributed to Cricket Australia's unflinching commitment to promoting this franchise as a "family friendly" competition. At the heart of the BBL franchise remains a hard-fought cricketing encounter, which is played out to entertain kids and families alike. On TV, and on the ground. The economic success and viability is paramount for the BBL as well but the yardstick of success remains the popularity of the game amongst the Australian public.
There are no movie stars on display during the BBL. Nor their antics. After-parties do not exist. On the contrary, clubs endorse various social causes of their choice. The BBL smells and feels like a family carnival. Ticket pricing is affordable and a game at the BBL makes for great night out for the entire family.
This image of Brand BBL is no mere co-incidence. It is consistent with the overall Australian cricketing model focusing on the development of cricket in Australia through community participation at all levels, especially the grassroots level. Cricket Australia has a vision and strategy for the growth and popularity of cricket in Australia. Their singular focus being making cricket "Australia's Favourite Sport - A Sport For All Australians" .
The BCCI needs to come up with a vision for Brand IPL... that promotes the sport to the Indian youngsters and public as a clean, fair, responsible and competitive.
My aim here is not to criticise the IPL and glorify the BBL. Nor do I intend to belittle the cricketing efforts of the players that take the field in both these competitions. My grudge is with the BCCI and its stagnant outlook towards weeding out the perils infesting Indian cricket, especially the IPL brand.
The IPL is a magnificent opportunity for the BCCI and India to offer an enthralling cricketing tournament to the world. However, the BCCI needs to come up with a vision for Brand IPL. A vision that complements the spirit of cricket and promotes the sport to the Indian youngsters and public as clean, fair, responsible and competitive.
Also see on HuffPost: