By T S Sudhir
Mulayam Singh Yadav whose animosity to things not Indian is well-known, made a forceful plea for not playing cricket in India in the Lok Sabha on Monday. His argument supported by the other two members of the Yadav clan, Laloo and Sharad, was that this videshi game was not needed in India as it is being encouraged at the cost of many an Indian sport. The Yadavspeak may not find ready takers in a limited overs cricket-obsessed country but the spirit of his argument cannot be ignored.
The DLF-Indian Premier League is touted as the biggest marketing extravaganza not only in world sport but even in corporate history, with honcho Lalit Modi celebrated as a marketing genius. The obscene amounts that were spent to `buy’ and `own’ city teams was touted as being symbolic of an India shining and how everyone wanted to be part of this grand sporting dream that lasted some six weeks every summer. A national obsession that has clocked the highest TRPs for the official broadcaster all these three years. And when two more teams were added to the League last month, the amounts spent made you wonder if the world ever went through something called recession or an economic slowdown.
It is surprising that the Income Tax sleuths and the Enforcement Directorate woke up only after Tharoorgate to the possibility of the Indian Premier League not being such a glittering affair after all. With accusations now being hurled around faster than Lasith Malinga yorkers, one thing is certain. IPL is not about the gentleman’s game alone. (No, I am not referring to the presence of the cheergirls. And it is not only about players’ sweat and sweat equity either !)
The CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta says players are bought in the IPL auction like vegetables. Quite true. (And `vegetables’ from Pakistan are not bought ! ). Laloo wants the sports ministry to take over IPL and nationalise the League. Sharad Yadav alleges there is betting and money laundering in the IPL. The government on the backfoot over the way its flamboyant batsman Shashi Tharoor got out, has no reason to not investigate into the source of the money invested in the IPL. It has every ethical and political reason to do so. If cricket is religion in India, it is time to clean the temple.
In the last three years, IPL has been synonymous with Lalit Modi. And the swagger with which this man from Rajasthan bowled out all hurdles in his way made him some kind of an upper-middle class hero, especially for the chattering class of men who loved their T20 brand of instant cricketainment. Modi took on the Indian government last year when he crossed swords with P Chidambaram over whether IPL Season two could be held at the same time as the general elections. Modi shifted the League to South Africa where it was a bigger success than season one.
But as he moved up, he was also rubbing many the wrong way. Whispers of nepotism and underhand deals have been doing the rounds for quite sometime now but then Modi was seen as a man whose smses and tweets opened the doors to the most powerful in the land. One example that he wouldn’t score highly on basic etiquette showed when letters written by the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh requesting the IPL3 matches be held in Hyderabad were responded to on twitter.
And then the manner in which the two IPL semi-finals were shifted from Bangalore to Mumbai, following the low-intensity bomb blast prompted the Karnataka home minister to order a probe into the possibility of the hand of the betting lobby in the shifting. “The state government did its best to convince the IPL authorities about the security arrangements but they have shifted the venue for their own reasons.”
Surely everything is not smelling of roses in the IPL.
Reports suggest the IPL governing council will be Modi-fied. Really? The BCCI would need to summon a lot of courage to not just bench, but remove from its playing XI this all-rounder whose mantra of `fear no opposition, demolish them’ is so much in keeping with the T20 form of cricket. Because Modi knows everything about the IPL. And a lot about the way the BCCI works. And it will be foolish for the parent body to now pretend they did not know a thing about what was happening in its IPL kindergarden.
IPL season 3 is on its last leg. It has generated more action off the field than on it. So far Shashi Tharoor and Modi scored the DLF maximums to outdo each other. Now that Tharoor has gone back to learning the basics of both cricket and Indian politics, Modi has to work on his running between the wicket. His rivals are targetting him and not the stumps to ensure he is retired hurt at the earliest.