The Supreme Court appointed Lodha committee has pronounced its verdict on the IPL betting scandal.
Two teams, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Rajasthan Royals (RR), have been suspended for two years.
Their principals, Raj Kundra and Gurunath Meiyappan, have been handed out life-time bans from any cricketing activity.
Where does this leave the IPL, specifically IPL 9?
There exist three options that the BCCI can exercise:
1> Restrict the competition to six teams and re-negotiate contracts that expect eight teams to take part with their supporting sponsors. The reduced revenue to the BCCI should act as a punitive spur to promote transparency, integrity and probity in the running of the league. Given the current format, the number of matches would be reduced to 34. A simple tweaking of the rules and each team can play the other three times instead of two. This would increase the number of games to 49. Though substantially less than 60, this would ensure a much shorter, tighter IPL. The third game can be played at neutral venues, specifically at Chennai and Jaipur. After all, why should local cricket fans suffer for their franchises’ moral rectitude?
2> Retain the suspended teams and either have the owners unload the franchises or have the BCCI take over the reins for the suspension period. Valuations have plummeted and the said franchises can be had at bargain prices by interested parties. The latter entails a conflict of interest but does the BCCI care? It never did when it had N Srinivasan at the helm.
3> The final solution would be to hold fresh auctions for one or two franchises. This depends. Can Kochi Tuskers and the BCCI arriving at an understanding about the Kerala team’s return to the IPL fold? The players of suspended teams would be made available to these ‘fresh‘ franchises. CSK and RR can return after serving out their sentence. The BCCI would then have 10 IPL ‘subsidiaries‘ as originally envisioned. The format can be jiggled once more to include two groups of five teams each, ensuring a total of 44 games in all.
These are, of course, the options available to the IPL governing committee.
What is the best course of action?
The Indian cricket fan is disillusioned with the way the IPL is now governed. Yes, its glitz and glamour and viewer-friendly format, sound and color have attracted fresh eyeballs to the game.
But is this truly a professionally run league?
Options 2 and 3 seem like ‘business-as-usual‘. “Yes, the Supreme Court has rapped us—the BCCI—yes, we are the cynosure of attention of the sporting world who are aghast that a league considered the forerunner of the mushrooming T20 leagues across the world with a model that was copied and followed is brought to its knees by corruption charges once more.”
The above options, while not benefiting the BCCI to the extent it envisioned when it conceptualized the league, especially with depressed valuations, will seem to discerning fans that the administrative body does not really foresee the reforms needed to overhaul the existing system.
Yes, it takes sponsors, advertisers and televising partners’ interests into account but does it really serve the public, the people who support the game through thick and thin? What happens when this very demographic turns against their beloved cricketers?
Leagues for other sports such as kabaddi, soccer, hockey and tennis are vying for viewer attention. Can the BCCI afford to turn a blind eye to fans’ sentiments?
In my opinion, the best course of action is to play six teams. Let CSK and RR players sit out. The BCCI should force the owners to compensate them and pay out their dues for the rest of their contracts. The message is clear: “Keep your eyes and ears open for any hanky-panky in the league and inform the concerned authorities as soon as possible. Else you too (players) may have to bear the consequences.”
It also sends out a strong signal to the owners that the BCCI will not bail them out in any way either by playing caretaker or allowing them to dispose off their non-performing assets so easily. The BCCI is just one player—albeit the most important one—in this morass. The franchises owe their supporters accountability, transparency and honesty as well.
The IPL may well be a better and bigger place to work, play and be in after all the dust has settled. For now, the legal scrapping continues.