Mercifully IPL-6 has meandered to its hideously forgettable conclusion. By this I mean to say events on the field; events off the field will continue to hog the newspaper headlines and be the subject of extensive coverage on TV channels – needless to say much of it damning.
The competition will go down in the game’s history as the most corrupted event. There have been scandals and controversies to hit cricket over the years but there is little doubt that IPL-6 has been the worst as far as the seamy aspects are concerned. It has turned fanatical followers into a band of cynics.
It is unfortunate that the on the field activity was submerged by the nefarious off the field happenings. Perhaps the warning signals of the IPL being open to corruption had been hoisted in earlier editions.
But even the most vehement IPL basher would not have bargained for what happened during the last ten days of the event. The most alarming aspect is that there is no end to the sleazy developments as new skeletons are falling out of the cupboard every day.
One is just not sure as to which match was fixed, whether that no ball was genuine, whether that was a straightforward missed catch or a deliberate drop and how many players and officials are involved in corrupt acts. The average cricket fan goes to a match to witness a keen duel for supremacy and when he comes to know about the underhand dealings, he is hurt and disappointed at being let down.
But as I said in an earlier column 'Cricket in India is a Teflon sport', no scandal or controversy sticks to it for long. The fans are ready to forget and forgive. They just want to be entertained by the on the field happenings and are not really bothered by the off the field shenanigans.
This is a pity because the game is nothing without its devout followers and the sooner the fans display their anger openly at being taken for a ride after purchasing tickets at exorbitant rates and having to endure sub standard facilities at the stadium the better it will be for cricket.
Perhaps it is all part of a larger malaise. In India we are used to mediocrity and corruption in all walks of life. Worse, we have accepted it as part of our daily routine and very rarely do we protest. The packed crowds at the stadium and the millions watching the matches on television is something that IPL officials repeatedly pointed out in a bid to emphasize that the image of the competition had not taken a nosedive despite the seedy happenings off the field.
However stats released towards the end of the IPL made it clear that there was a significant drop in attendances and TRP ratings following the unraveling of the various scandals. In any case I am convinced that the huge crowds present at the stadium are not representative of the genuine cricket followers for a large section comes there for the ``tamasha’’ that is part and parcel of every IPL game.
I am actually sorry that the IPL has come to this, a subject matter for derision and a byword for corruption. Unlike others who had the remarkable perception to predict that it would ultimately be a product destroyed by sleaze and other such nastier aspects I was very enthusiastic about the event concentrating on its many good points and perhaps being unable or unwilling to see the mess beneath the gloss, glitz and glamour.
I embraced the fact that Indian and foreign players – sworn foes some of them – would be playing for the same team. I welcomed the higher standards of batting, bowling and fielding that would be inevitable following the participation of the world’s leading players.
I reckoned that the IPL would take the game’s newest and shortest format into a higher realm. I thought that the idea of cricketainment – a phrase coined by the IPL’s dizzy mix of cricket and entertainment with the involvement of Bollywood stars – was a rather cute one and would further broaden the sport’s appeal.
The entire concept of the IPL and the various eye catching names of the franchisees was all something very new and fresh and caught the imagination of even those only casually interested in cricket. IPL on the face of it was only a domestic competition but attracted considerable attention the world over for various obvious reasons. Its raging popularity gave rise to similar tournaments in Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and elsewhere.
In the last couple of years however the unedifying underbelly came sharply into focus and the cricket started to take a backseat. The IPL was hit by one controversy after another, the controversies turned into major scandals, the BCCI’s role came under intense scrutiny particularly with match fixing and then spot fixing rearing its ugly head.
Its detractors had predicted that the seemingly plus points of the IPL could in fact turn out to be the competition’s negative points. Underhand dealings were exposed and it was clear that the IPL was corrupt to the core.
The organizers however took these warning signs lightly and the rot really set in during the sixth edition. We now have to seriously ask whether there will be a seventh edition. If there is then several healing hands will be required to set in a place a cleansing process that has to begin right now.