Thursday, May 26, 2011

IPL-country debate meaningless and politically motivated......

There really is no need for this controversy. Which one is more important than the other? IPL or country? Clearly, both are and asking a player.....or the country at choose one over the other is an unfair demand. The question’s being asked to players.....but in reality it’s a question that is being asked to the entire country.

Let’s be clear. IPL has brought India great fame and pride. For 45 days, the best of the best in the cricketing world descend on India. The lure of lucre brings them here. None of them complain about the heat and the dust. Can we remember the last time that the goras came to India and didn’t complain about the country??? For the IPL, they are willing to play in 40 degrees Centrigrade and 90% humidity levels; suffer serious shoulder and other injuries; bear the pain of many cramps and spasms, bear the uncouth behavior of our citizens, live through the pollution and the noise.....all this for the money that IPL “throws” at the players! If India is the centre of the cricket world, it’s a moment of glory for the country.

The money has made many international cricketers choose IPL over their countries. Especially those who are on the other side of their prime. Isn’t it interesting that Adam Gilchrist “retired” from the Australian side, even though he is happy to be the captain of an IPL squad here and a damn fit and energetic one at that?! Likewise Malinga. Happy to be out of the Sri Lankan side and play for the IPL. Ditto Gayle, Hussey, Brett Lee, Kallis and so many others. They have all chosen to play for the IPL and either retire or stay out of their country games. The recent row between the Sri Lankan Board and the IPL organizers was another manifestation of the same issue. But can anyone answer Malinga when he asks: How much money will I make in the last few years playing for Sri Lanka and how much will I make playing for the IPL?

Likewise, why fault the Indian players. They are in it at least partially for the money. If only 20-30 kids get the chance to play for India.....out of the millions who chance their hand at it......what’s wrong if they monetize their success? If cricket is the religion of India, what’s wrong if the gods of cricket make money? Even Indian gods make a lot of money....just check out the donations received at the various temples! Till the time regular ODI and test cricket start paying fantastic sums to the players, it will be unfair to ask players to stop playing the IPL. Playing for India gives them fame, honor and the ranking in the international and domestic order. Playing for the IPL gives them the money. The two go hand in hand. And most players can manage to do both most of the time. Once in a while, a Gambhir and a Sehwag do get injured....why make such a big fuss about it?

There is one other aspect to consider. What kind of content does a lousy cricket series with another country produce? I can understand Indian tournaments with Sri Lanka, Pakistan, England, South Africa and Australia. But really who’s bothered about the West Indies, Bangladesh and NZ. I had raised the same point during the ICC ODI world cup. There were so many “rotten” matches that the tournament overall never notched up much viewer interest. It was only at the knock-out stage when the matches became interesting and the viewers came back. If this is the truth, why have so many country-to-country matches at all?

The question also to ask is: If the IPL has become such a crucial fixture in the world of cricket, why are other tournaments organized at the same time? I am told the reason is that the IPL is not a “recognized” ICC event and hence it does not fit into the “calendar” of ICC. If it did, then there would be enough time provided before and after the IPL. Currently, the IPL has to fight for its place in the annual calendar. That it has been able to find itself such a big window is again because of the money around the tournament. Players and Boards bend over backwards to accommodate the timeline of IPL. But a few Boards will want to assert their independence (Sri Lanka, England).....a few will feel miffed that their players were not chosen in the IPL (Pakistan).....there is nothing unexpected here. But to fault the IPL for this is clearly unfair.

It’s the same in other talent-based sectors also. These days, top film stars choose to act in only one film or less a year. Take Aamir Khan. He acts in barely one film a year. Sometimes, he spaces his films two years apart. But in-between, he monetizes his popularity through advertising deals and other similar stuff. It’s my bet that Aamir makes about Rs 100 crores in the two years between his films. He probably makes only Rs 25-50 crores in the film itself. So two thirds of his earnings comes from non-film income. Does anyone ask Aamir to reverse this? To act in more films and do less of ads? Then why should Gambhir be asked a similar question? Why can’t he do both?

I think the reason such controversies are brought up every now and then is because there is a lot of envy for the IPL. Unfortunately, the envy is as much from Indian people and bodies as from international. There are many in India who grudge the BCCI the success the IPL has had. Within BCCI itself, there are many who feel left out of the jamboree. There are powerful ex-players who feel they have been sidelined. There are large corporates who feel they should have been in the game too. All of them conspire to create sensational stories around the event. In the past, they have cribbed about the after-match parties. What’s wrong with that? Sure, it takes a toll on the player’s fitness levels.....but isn’t it a tough world out there? Shouldn’t players be willing to slog their butts off for the money they make? Of course, there is also the omnipresent and all-powerful media which fans the controversies. By supporting even inane controversies, they lend credibility to them.

After all, when Arnab asks “Is it India before IPL”, there can only be one answer. It’s the same when the BJP raises ultra-nationalistic questions. Remember the ego issue around raising of the Indian flag at Srinagar on Jan 26th this year? “Isn’t Srinagar a part of India”??? Of course it is.....but there is also a lot of tension in that place. Can you just shut up?! Sometimes, a person’s and a party’s maturity comes from appreciating the nuances around an issue.....rather than fueling jingoism around it.

The real truth is that the current controversy around IPL v/s country is politically motivated. There are many who want to discredit the tournament. In fact, they would be happy to see it die. Since it’s an extremely popular fixture in the world of cricket, they cannot criticize it openly. So they trigger these kinds of controversies. The real truth also is that the IPL is more exciting than most rotten country-to-country tournaments. No one wants to watch a Bangladesh-India match or even a West Indies-India match. People would much rather watch the IPL! Hence I say: No reason to sweat about this controversy. This too shall pass!

1 comment:

  1. 50% of congratulation to you. Not for above, but for your earlier prediction on IPL4 Finals. First part of your prediction has come good. Chennai is there in the final. And you must be thrilled that this time Mumbai has been replaced by Bangalore (the only reason being presence of Chris Gayle at his prime time of his life). Now upto the 2 teams to present us a good Final.