Clouded in controversy still (again), forced out of the country of its origins (again) and struggling for credibility (still), the Indian Premier League kicked off loudly once more yesterday.
The marketing gurus have been selling the glamour once more. The big names – Virat Kohli, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and (ahem) Kevin Pietersen meets Preity Zinta, Shahrukh Khan and Shilpa Shetty.
Even the fact that it is once being played outside of India is being sold as a sort of example of the event’s global appeal. What tosh.
The IPL, however, remains in denial about one very crippling aspect at its core – its credibility, specifically in light of the corruption scandals it became mired in last year.
In 2013, three players were banned following charges of “spot fixing”.
Worse was to follow as the competition’s most successful side, Chennai, saw their owner enmeshed in an illegal betting scandal that has also seen Dhoni’s name crop up in court papers and most famously led to Narayanaswamy Srinivasan being asked to step down as the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s president by India’s Supreme Court.
“The show must go on” remains the mantra of the IPL’s marketing suits, though. But how can it?
For two weeks in the United Arab Emirates and then six more in India – once the elections in that country have been concluded – the IPL will be played out against this backdrop of corruption.
Ironically, matches will also be played in Sharjah, a venue the BCCI refused to allow the Indian team to play in because of its reputation as a hotbed for nefarious gambling activities.
Many in India would choose to just ignore the controversy surrounding the competition.
The sight of another four, another six and hearing Ravi Shastri scream down the mic, providing an effective carpet under which to sweep court cases, hearings or news of independent tribunals.
The IPL has lost much of the appeal it had in 2008, when Brendon McCullum’s outrageous century in Bangalore raised the curtain on what is described as cricket’s most glamorous event.
Since then, though, it’s become more famous for scandal; Cricket SA’s bonus scandal, money laundering allegations related to the 2009 event held that will still be tested in an Indian court, dodgy dealings in setting up franchises (anyone remember the Kochi Tuskers Kerala?) and of course last year’s fixing drama, that must still run its course.
So will you be tuning in this year?
Is Pietersen a compelling enough story-line to distract from the corruption story-line? - The Star