The second edition of the IPL will now be played at South Africa.
And as always in India, I feel the Indian public have been robbed. The success of the first edition of the IPL was mainly due to the people — the crowds that filled the stadia — that made the event. Almost every match had full crowds and they loved it. Towards the end of the tournament, even staunch cricket non-believers wanted to go and “soak in the atmosphere of the IPL”.
And now, instead of Delhi, the people of Durban will wonder what the fuss is all about. Instead of Jaipur, people at Johannesburg will wonder why their hotels are suddenly booked out with able-bodied men in lycra! Instead of Calcutta, the people of Cape Town will wonder what’s going on in their somewhat empty cricket stadium.
Yes. The IPL will be played in South Africa. It will be shortened by one week and will start on 18 April instead of 10 April. Shane Warne gets his wish for a shortened IPL. It may also be played in front of somewhat empty stands — I somehow can’t see too many South Africans rolling up to see Asnodkar, Jadeja and Manpreet Gony! But don’t worry, millions of people in India will be glued to their TV sets!
I will say it again, the people of India have been robbed… again… as we often are!
In saying that, I think this was the right decision in the end.
But I am not having an each-way bet! I’ll come to the main thrust of my article later.
The tournament had to be played — these were contractual obligations that the BCCI has with franchise owners as well as to TV rights owners. These contracts with key stakeholders cannot ever be compromised. The show must go on. These key stakeholders invested in the IPL in the hope of making returns on their investment. Especially in these tough economic times, to cancel the second edition of the IPL would be a calamitous economic folly inflicted on franchise owners and TV rights owners. As investors, franchise owners have a right to ensuring that they get their returns as promised in their contracts with the BCCI. Ditto the TV rights owners who coughed up huge sums of money to buy the rights. Try getting these investors to tell their banks that they would be defaulting on their repayments for a year because all the country’s security folk were required to guard a few politicians!
Moreover, the knock on effect on BCCI’s Champions League — which was already cancelled once due to 26/11 — would have been a needless double whammy.
So the IPL just had to go on. The show must go on. After all, England came back to play Test matches in India just weeks after 26/11!
The second edition of the IPL could not be postponed either. Given an incredibly packed international cricket calendar, this was not just the best period for the IPL; it was the only period for the IPL.
This was the scenario that was presented to the Indian Government. The Government (Babu-dom) sat on its haunches as much of (what I call) “Old India” does. Babu-dom vacillated and ummed and awed and passed papers — in triplicate, no doubt, with appropriate challans marked by about 20 different people for about 30 different layers of Babu-dom to scrutinise and release ummms and awes. Meanwhile “Young India” decided to march on and take the baby along with the bath water to another country.
Fair enough. The world waits for no one. And no one ought to be held to ransom.
A week ago, given the stand-off between the BCCI and the Government, it seemed highly unlikely that the second edition of the IPL would take off at all. Given that dreadful scenario, for the tournament to now go ahead in South Africa is a terrific achievement for “New India”, while “Old India” sits on its fingers growing nothing more than ring marks on its backside.
Now I realise in saying all of this that there were unavoidable circumstances at play here. There is a general election on. But surely, if a general election takes away the entire police force and security agencies of a country, then, you need to question its claim to host any major event!
While it is not a question of “national pride” being at stake, I am convinced that questions must be asked of the security machinery in the country if the entire security apparatus is needed for running an election process.
In saying this, I am in no way suggesting that cricket is bigger than democracy or security or due political governance. Not at all. So habitual flame throwers and angered souls need to read this disclaimer prior to picking up their keyboard!
National elections must take precedence over a cricket tournament. One is an absolute necessity and the fundamental tenet of a vibrant democracy; certainly one that cannot and must not be compromised. The other is a mildly dispensable past time.
Further, “national pride” would take a far greater beating in the face of a security breach — like the one we witnessed on 26/11 or in Pakistan recently — than it would by the tournament being conducted in South Africa.
However, the question must be asked. Why do we need a mammoth police force (the largest in the world by some margin) and the army and an elite company of NSG commandos protecting a bunch of politicians?
If we cannot answer this or answer this with a “we are like this only”, then we do also need to simultaneously question whether India is ready for “major events”.