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It’s time for BCCI to clean up Brand IPL
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 are endless.
National duties take a back seat 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 proud 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 9th year in 2016, while the 5th instalment of the BBL is being currently played out in Australia.
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. Both are powerful, assertive and affluent.
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 two boards. 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, a money-making juggernaut 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 its methods of governance. Power struggles, conflicts of interest, 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, and unapproachable.
Now let’s turn our attention to the Australian equivalent of the IPL.
In its fifth year now, the BBL is gaining in popularity on the Australian sporting calendar. Much of its 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. 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. After-parties do not exist. On the contrary, clubs choose to 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 co-incidence. It is consistent with the overall Australian cricketing model focusing on the development of cricket in the country through community participation at all levels, especially at the grass roots. 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”.
My aim here is not to criticise the IPL and glorify the BBL. Nor do I intend 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 better vision for Brand IPL, a vision that complements the spirit of the game and promotes the sport to the Indian public as a clean, fair, responsible, competitive sport.