Sometimes a draw is a good result. As I pack my bags for IPL-7, having enjoyed the cricket at the earlier six editions enormously, I think a draw this year may not be bad. Far too much has happened around it, it has been in the news for reasons it shouldn’t have and there is a critical national election running almost parallel. If it can stay incident free, return similar audiences and viewership I think it would have done well.
I have often said the IPL is still a child compared to the great leagues of the world it aspires to be part of. Each of those have gone through periods of uncertainty but the fact that they have been around for decades means one thing to me: through their troubles, the fans never left them. The bond between a sport and its followers is sacrosanct and the IPL needs to be very careful not to weaken that trust any more.
In all fairness you can never keep the bad eggs out. Till such time as the judicial process in India is lethargic, people will believe they can get away and that is why cricketers going to jail, even if traumatic to the fan at the time, wasn’t the worst thing to happen to cricket.
Players now know that they can be caught, their careers finished, an indelible stigma attached. It must lead to stronger systems but we must be aware that no sport, indeed nothing in life, is ever immune from cheating.
Money in sport is not a bad thing but wherever there is money, there are unsavoury people. You cannot stop playing a game because some are bad.
I had said some years ago, maybe after IPL-1, that the calibre of team owners and the dangers of fixing were the two areas that the IPL needed to be most careful about.
Going ahead, that is still true and I believe team owners have a responsibility towards the future of the IPL. I notice that the Delhi Daredevils have banned their players from accepting any gifts other than from team sponsors. It is a good sign though I can see the cynics chuckling about whether or not players will report that. But at least a line has been drawn, a rule has been announced.
I had also suggested that the strength of the IPL would lie in keeping cricket above all. Entertainment is fine, showbiz is fine, celebrities from other
walks of life are fine but the cricket can never be diluted. The Premiership is hugely successful because for all the gossip surrounding it, for all the money talk around it, it is primarily a football league. The best players want to play there, if they play good football, everything else is taken care of. The IPL must remain, above all, a cricket tournament, performances on the field must wow audiences.
From a purely cricketing point of view the IPL is actually on the right path. For all that you might read in the papers, there is hardly a cricketer in the world who doesn’t want to be part of it.
There is much debate in England, for example, on whether not being part of the IPL is pushing them back in T20 cricket and with full houses and competitive matches, players are learning how to play under pressure. And this year, having gone back to eight teams, the competition is going to be tougher and I believe that will make the IPL stronger.
Like every year I am excited about the IPL. I am concerned by what has happened around it and I think it needs to be careful not to lay itself open to further injury. If it can produce good cricket this year and find itself on the right pages of the newspapers, if it can stay away from being the headlines in the evening news, it will have done well.
A draw this year would actually be a very good result.
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