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By Gulu Ezekiel
The Indian Premier League has become the latest chest-thumping vehicle for Indian Netizens both at home and abroad. Any non-Indian critic of the annual jamboree now into its third year is immediately dubbed a racist. Any Indian critic is dubbed a traitor. Jingoism has found a new vehicle in India and the rest of the cricket world is told to dance to its tune or take a hike.
How a domestic cricket league with a smattering of international players came to this pass is entirely due to the massive PR machine cranked out by Lalit Kumar Modi and his merry band of Bollywood stars, fat-cat businessmen, ex-players and journalists, all with a vested financial interest in singing from the same hymn sheet.
The clamour for the International Cricket Council to create a ‘window’ free of international cricket for the six weeks of the IPL in summer and the two weeks of the Champions League in winter is growing ever louder. But assuming the ICC succumbs to such pressure and gives Modi what he wants, will he settle for that?
The man who snatched the idea for the Twenty-20 franchise league format from the now-defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL)—crushed by the all-powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India—is a businessman with a massive ego, ferocious appetite for power and contempt for nation v. nation cricket which he thinly veils in cleverly released statements.
Make no mistake—Modi and the IPL’s ultimate target is not six or eight weeks in the calendar. The worldwide deals struck by the Rajasthan Royals are just the first step. World cricket domination is in Modi’s sights and it is the Indian cricket public who will decide whether he gets what he desires or has his ambitious plans thwarted.
But there are bumps on the superhighway and the biggest was revealed in Mumbai where the auction for two new franchises for IPL IV collapsed on Modi like a warm soufflé.
Modi’s enormous appetite created indigestion for the big bosses of the BCCI who are the IPL’s parent body. Bidders stayed away, put off by the ridiculous terms and conditions set by Modi.
The Ravindra Jadeja scandal also proves that the players are helpless--albeit richly paid--pawns. The real power vests with the Commissioner and the franchise owners. For the owners, these players, many of them national icons, are the ultimate status symbols Flaunted much like the latest Gucci handbag or Manolo Blahnik shoes; they have been turned into trophy players for the owners.
While 60 matches are being played this year, next year the number jumps to 94 with two new franchises. Will the Indian cricket-mad public continue to lap up this TV reality show or will they too suffer from indigestion?
For senior cricketers the IPL is like a gilt-edged Voluntary Retirement Scheme. Why spend the year traveling the cricket world to play for your country when you can take home 10 times the money playing hit-and-giggle cricket for a few weeks?
For the new generation, the temptations are irresistible. Why slog and sweat it out for the handful of places in the national or even state side when you can make a tidy packet bowling four overs or batting for a few more? The route to riches has never been easier.
Given these choices, one can hardly blame the cricketers. It is the authorities who have created this money-fuelled monster that has upturned a value system going back over a century in a matter of three years.
So what if the IPL is creating a generation of half-baked cricketers who fail at the international cricket? If Modi has his way, such cricket will anyway be defunct.
South Africa in 2008 was just the first step. Canada and the United States beckon. In five years time will international cricket be replaced by IPL-backed franchises traveling round the world with Modi the ringmaster cracking the whip? The toothless ICC can only watch helplessly as it is increasingly rendered irrelevant.
It is the Indian fan alone who will ultimately decide world cricket’s fate. Hang on for the ride.
--This article was originally published on butjazz.com