Like routine sets in, the debate and discussion encircling the IPL has become almost an invariant exercise. 5 seasons since its advent the critics don’t believe the IPL has or can do any good for Indian cricket, leave alone world cricket, cynics highlight all the off-field controversies associated with the event to drive home the point that the IPL is not cricket but merely entertainment and you have others who are either fans or admirers of the IPL, who don’t budge to the above views! Where have the discussions on the relevance of IPL to T20 cricket or of IPL stints as a stage to perform big taken all of us? The fact of the matter remains that neither the organizers nor anybody else is sure what purpose does the IPL serve. The ‘anybody’ referred to is indicative and is meant to bracket the section of people who don’t quite associate with the IPL.
There is stark similarity to the way the BCCI operates and the ICC is operating on the issue of IPL (undoubtedly a fall-out of Mr Pawar chairing the sports body), keeping mum and taking stance as per public perception. It appears neither the BCCI nor the ICC is pretty sure of what stance to adopt on the IPL issue. With huge amount of money involved in the league and hordes of celebrity stars associated with it, it won’t take too long for the IPL to go beyond control and emerge as the big monster in world cricket, as feared by many. If the administrators believe that the IPL is here to stay or that the IPL shouldn’t be cricket’s future, they should do something about either choice as early as possible.
The other side of the debate is the impact on the quality and popularity of other formats. You don’t need a marketing expert to tell you which format of the game sells the most. Cricket South Africa (CSA) scrapped the annual Boxing Day test to accommodate a T20 game. T20 cricket is the selling product at the moment, but you cannot allow your greed to exceed a certain limit.
Test cricket and to some extent domestic cricket is struggling with a similar problem - lack of seamless interest and hollow following. The ICC finds itself diplomatically correct by tinkering ODI rules (more often than they should), but doesn’t wish to touch test cricket in anticipation of some retaliation. This fear has discouraged any thought for a change. Today when test cricket’s following is dwindling down and possible retirements of a few legends in the next couple of years, the ICC has nothing to show for in its attempts to preserve test cricket. We have had many experts suggesting many ways to do that but the administrators have adopted a position of non-action until it gets to a point of compulsive action.
How many venues have free passes for students? How many test matches aren’t hosted having a weekend in between? How many test matches are drawn for bad weather? How many test match centers offer attractive family prospects? These questions have been enquired time & again, but without answers or action. By postponing the Test Championship & deferring day-night test matches, test cricket is speedily losing interest. Those who banish the argument of IPL or T20 cricket affecting test cricket should realize that test cricket like any other sport will have a set of people who will support and follow it, but for any sport to sustain it has to generate and grow fans.
ODI cricket has struggled to sustain popularity and T20 cricket hasn’t had any impact on the fortunes of ODI cricket. IPL or T20 cricket may or may not have affected the way ODI & test cricket is played, but that should be secondary as it appears that the IPL & T20 cricket is here to stay; the priority should be to focus what is not going right rather than manufacturing reasons for the problem. It is time to stop all the ‘elaborate’ chatter and execution of some actions to aid the preservation of cricket’s premier form. Next time the technical committees of individual boards meet or the cricket committee of the ICC meets the agenda should begin from the survival and sprucing up of test match cricket! The technical committee of the BCCI is set to meet on the 12th, a lot will be expected from the Ganguly-led panel. The decisions taken should be indicator on whether the BCCI is truly concerned with the state of domestic cricket.