Is IPL Cursed?
by Abhijit Burli
IPL is blessed. IPL is a glitzy glamorous glorious colorful sporting cricket league that has fans going crazy about. The big sixes, colorful jerseys, loud music have made sure cricket is more than sport, a sports-entertainment event. IPL is a first successful franchise based sporting league that’s spread across the cricketing world. IPL is blessed, but IPL is also cursed.
IPL is cursed
It all started with the launch of Indian Cricket League (ICL), a private league funded by Zee Entertainment Enterprises as an opposition to the mighty BCCI. Zee legitimately lost out on the rights to broadcast cricket matches. BCCI had reportedly declined its bid despite being the highest bid citing Zee’s insufficient sports marketing experience. Zee in response went on to launch an alternative cricket arena hoping to break the monopoly of BCCI. Without the blessings of BCCI and ICC and with stringent measures taken by BCCI on the set of players who made a move to ICL, ICL’s soon became incompetent to BCCI. Inspired from the ICL and with the success of ICC World T20 BCCI was tempted to have a T20 league of its own which was to be based on English Premier League, NBA and other popular franchise driven sports models.
ICC said “ICC would not recognize the ICL unless the BCCI chooses to recognise it. The ICC looks at the ICL as an issue to be sorted out by the BCCI”
Thus IPL was born and so were controversies. Then on controversies and IPL became synonyms. IPL-1 coincided with already scheduled domestic and international tourneys like the County Championship season and New Zealand’s tour of England due to which no major international players were signed NOC by England board. For many years, an English cricketer who opted for IPL earned a bad reputation in the eyes of ECB and English cricket fans. Harbhajan Singh, who was leading Mumbai Indians franchise in the absence of injured Sachin Tendulkar, was in a slap gate incident with Sreesanth. The incident was a first time two national players fought in an international arena.
Come 2009, IPL coming up with massive reputation lost its momentum after being denied a place in its own back yard. IPL lost its home for the multi-phased general elections where the entire nation felt that elections are a priority over entertainment. BCCI had to relocate IPL for that year and it went on to be hosted by South Africa (who in turn gained somewhere over a $ 100 million). Thus IPL lost its most popular thing in the country. Curse was in the form of general elections. Then again by 2010, it was a home coming event for IPL. When everything was running smooth the bomb scares shook the cricket in India. Couple of bombs went off in Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy stadium injuring group of people. Although the bombs were of low intensity and investigations revealed that they were locally made the damage was done to brand IPL. By the end of tournament, irony struck IPL again when man at the helm, Mr. Lalit Modi was suspended by the BCCI on the charges of bypassing the IPL governing council decisions where BCCI accused Modi of bid rigging, awarding contracts to his pals, accepting illicit money on a broadcast deal, selling franchises to members of his family in addition to betting and money laundering. This was a huge blow to the credibility of IPL, which still has been a scar on it. Corruption Changes was a Curse to IPL.
In 2011, just when IPL needed a reboot, it got one with fresh management and chairman. While it was hoped that IPL would again be a credible brand once again, the most over cricket league got morally unpopular as IPL-2011 coincided with Anna Hazare’s famous Lok Pal movement thus people accusing media and cricket fraternity for choosing money over nation. In 2012, Kochi Tuskers Kerala, who started a year back, got terminated for failing to provide bank guarantee. It was during this editing of IPL the spot-fixing claims started making rounds. Just when BCCI tried fixing the issues IPL-2013 lost one more team Deccan Chargers for breach of contract thus losing a team which had won a title in 2009. IPL into its sixth edition took a massive blow due to plethora of events. Firstly the spot fixing scandal leading to arrest of Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan then the involvement of Gurunath Meiyappan, the team principal for Chennai Super Kings accused of having contact with bookies through Vindu Dara Singh and followed by Raj Kundra a co-owner of Rajasthan Royals accused for betting. The events dented IPL’s credibility and many speculated this could be end of IPL.
However, IPL started fresh again by re-booting the system yet again by cleaning up the mess and hoping to regain some much needed credibility with a new title sponsor Pepsi after DLF made a business exit deciding to not renew its title sponsorship deal with IPL, which was supposed to be the biggest event of Indian sport. BCCI was inching to make IPL a credible brand again although it began the tournament after losing Sahara Pune Warriors India due to various issues with BCCI. By mid-2015, IPL perhaps was hit by a massive blow after Supreme Court of India appointed Lodha Committee suspended two popular teams Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings from the IPL for a period of two years. When the verdict was meted out, Ajay Shirke, member of the IPL governing council said it is a very challenging situation for the BCCI; the IPL brand is going to be affected big time. Exit route had to be shown for these two top-tier teams which had a massive numbers of fans and money associated with the brands. This dented the IPL brand to an all-time low. Following these events, Pepsi also made an exit from IPL family even when the contract was active. IPL by then had lost 5 teams in a matter of 8 years (out of which 3 teams that were part of the inaugural edition) of its existence.
Big names in ICL
Kapil Dev, Chris Cairns, Brian Lara, Inzamam Ul Haq, Shane Bond, Lance Klusener, Jason Gillispie
IPL players who also played in ICL
Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, Azhar Mahmood, Abu Nechim, Syed Mohammed
Apart from the tournament, people associated with IPL too have gone through some rough phases ever since their association with the league. Here are a few instances,
Shah Rukh Khan
Shah Rukh Khan was our beloved SRK till he owned a franchise Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in IPL. His name popped up for wrong reasons when the team he owned performed poorly during first three years of the tournament. SRK was barred from visiting player dugout and dressing rooms during the matches by the ICC Anti-Corruption unit which was not received well by the “celebrity” SRK. Then during the second edition of IPL, the franchise dropped Sourav Ganguly as captain which wasn’t received well by the passionate Bengal fans who in turn turned on SRK. The franchise hired already successful and controversial John Buchanan as team coach and the team adopted a new idea of multiple captain theory which came under severe criticism. SRK lashed out the Indian batting maestro, the legendary Sunil Gavaskar when he critically analyzed the multiple captain theory. SRK said “I respect Mr Gavaskar – his knowledge about cricket is a billion times better than me. This is an era where Mr Gavaskar has not indulged in” and he went on to say “I am the owner of the team, I bought it, if he wants to implement something, let him buy a team”. These statements from an infant of cricketing world said to the maestro did not go well with cricket fans and SRK was criticized heavily. By then, SRK was no more a flawless superstar any more. SRK even received hate mails for his actions. By 2011, after being hurt, SRK missed matches in many parts of the country due to the reception he garnered. SRK was booed everywhere and particularly in the heart of Mumbai, which has been a primary market destination for lot of his movies from decades. During IPL 2012, a reportedly drunk SRK hit a security guard and used abusive language against MCA officials at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. As a result MCA banned SRK from entering the Wankhede stadium for 5 years. SRK was not the same after all these incidents. SRK, post IPL is quite a shrunken brand when compared to SRK during pre-IPL.
In 2004, Sahara India was termed as “the second largest employer in India” by a magazine report. Subrata Roy was named among10 most influential businessmen in 2012. Sahara was a synonymous name to Indian cricket from decades ever since the new millennium had rolled out. In 2013, BCCI declared Sahara’s bid ineligible and even terminated contract with Sahara and Pune Warriors India and they were out of IPL. Post IPL stint, Supreme Court of India ordered the arrest of Subrata Roy for failing to appear before for different reasons other than cricket. He was even granted interim bail by Supreme Court of India on condition of depositing ₹10,000 crore with the market regulator SEBI. Subrata Roy is still trying to raise the money which has not been made and is still in jail. Post IPL, Subrata Roy was not the same person he previously was.
Raj Kundra, who was ranked as the 198th richest British Asian by the Success magazine invested in IPL team Rajasthan Royals team using an offshore Company along with his wife Shilpa Shetty. Both were intending to take their respective brands to a new level aligning with brand IPL. Shilpa Shetty was already a global brand ever since she won the Celebrity Big Brother-5 reality show in London. Just when the image of the team started getting big with their merchandising and media exposure curse stuck these individuals. Supreme Court of India imposed a life ban from cricket on Raj Kundra after he admitted that he had bet on his own team and ironically his brand value took a huge beating.
Vijay Mallya – A new Addition!
Well, all spotlights for wrong reasons are now on the liquor baron Vijay Mallya who has also been a member of the World Motor Sport Council representing India in the FIA, he owns Kingfisher East Bengal F.C, a professional football club that competes in Hero I-League. In 2008, Mallya won the bid for IPL team to be based in Bengaluru for a whopping $ 111.6 million which was second highest bid to Ambani’s $ 111.9 million. Kingfisher airlines lunched in 2005 was ranked third in the survey on India’s Most Successful Brand launch of 2005 and had received three global awards at the Skytrax World Airline Awards 2010 under the Brand Derby Survey conducted by Business Standard and it was also listed in the top 100 most trusted brand in “The Brand Trust Report” which is an annual study based on a primary research conducted across Indian cities. In March-2016, after having associated with IPL for 8 years Vijay Mallya resigned from his all his positions which include his position as director of Royal Challengers Sports Pvt Ltd. and has no longer authority to represent RCB team and its operations. In March 2016, a consortium of banks approached the Supreme Court of India to stop Mallya from going abroad due to the pending money his companies owed them but he had already left India, although court in Hyderabad issued a non-bailable warrant for Mallya’s arrest. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) even suspended his diplomatic passport who has failed to appear before the agency thrice in connection with its money laundering probe in the ₹ 900 crore IDBI bank loan fraud case.
Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman hailed as fab-four have been champions in Indian cricket. The credibility they bring is widely respected across the globe. In 2008, all four batsmen were appointed as icon players for their teams Mumbai Indians, KKR, Royal Challengers of Bangalore and Deccan Changers (defunct). Irony struck when Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly were ousted from captaincy following the inaugural year. We have read how the Ganguly-SRK relationship was not at its best for KKR, Vijay Mallya on the other end accused Rahul Dravid of buying a team that that had test match specialists. Mallya who was keen on buying the likes of M S Dhoni was left disappointed with the team he got and went on to accuse Dravid of fooling him for his money and the whole of the situation turned ugly. However the fab-four is now in a much respected role with Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman constituting the cricket advisory committee for BCCI and Rahul Dravid assigned with Coaching of India A team and U19 teams.
Come 2016, IPL into ninth edition, the speculations were high, but credits to BCCI who made right and bold decision to drop CSK and RR from IPL-2016. BCCI performed a major surgery by keeping N. Srinivasan out of all equations, resolved conflict of interest issues and ensured IPL-2016 will be fairer and cleaner. Vivo became the title sponsor and IPL-2016 was scheduled. BCCI after doing everything right and transparent, one had assumed IPL-2016 will go flawless. However the destiny had its curse yet again in form of drought in Maharashtra. All started when a NGO challenged the use of 60 lakh liters of water for ground management for over 20 IPL matches despite drought in the state and sought for all the matches to be shifted out of Maharashtra. As a result, matches scheduled after April are moved out of Maharashtra. Justice V M Kanade said State Government should do something and it is really disgusting and disgraceful to use forty lakh liters of water for maintaining pitches when there is drought in the state. Saving water for crisis during the drought takes a higher precedence over use of water for entertainment purpose and one should welcome the court’s instruction to move IPL matches out of Maharashtra. Some people have voiced their opinions against shifting matches out of IPL, should realize that IPL matches have been moved and not banned. Those matches would still happen.
IPL is blessed!
On the other side, IPL has brought spectators back to domestic cricket; IPL has brought India at the center of operations. It has helped all those 120 plus cricketers at the domestic circuit to make a living who wouldn’t have represented their nation at all. IPL today is one of the most followed sports league in the world. According to BCCI, the 2015 IPL season contributed ₹11.5 billion (US$182 million) to the GDP of Indian economy. IPL has emerged as a global brand and people in 182 countries watch the tournament. Success of IPL has prompted Indian sport to have a league of its own in Hockey, Badminton, Football and Kabaddi. Can’t IPL have the special status? Can’t we think it’s more than just glitz-glamorous entertainment and give its fair share and allow it to function like it would want? IPL officials have felt that there are some people who want to destroy the tournament. IPL Chairman Mr. Rajiv Shukla says “it is very difficult to build a brand, but it is very easy to destroy it and if such things keep happening, we will have to think of shifting the game out of the country.” IPL has so far managed to hit back from all controversies and challenges thrown at it. But the question is how far it can handle. Empty stands and over exposure to cricket perhaps are the biggest curse IPL will have to address.