Gone are the days when cricketers had to sweat it out in the domestic season for years and years with an uncertainty of making it to the top eleven. Now, a few good matches in the lucrative Indian Premier League can take them through. Rahul Sharma was an unknown name till IPL 3, but it was his accuracy and consistency with the bowl in the fourth edition, that got the attention of MS Dhoni and BCCI. In spite of being talented, consistent and possessing every skill and technique to complete at the top level, it would not have been possible for the young lad to don the Indian colours so early in his career without IPL 4.
Players like Subramanium Badrinath would curse their fortunes for being born in the 80s. He is a prolific run scorer in domestic cricket but the 31-year-old has represented India in just 3 ODIs and 2 Test Matches. Had the IPL been launched some ten years ago, players like him would have played many more matches for the national team.
Even the likes Ravi
ndra Jadeja, Vinay Kumar and R Ashwin all made an immediate impact playing IPL that landed them a spot in the national team via the cash rich tourney. Thus, the IPL is taken as an opportunity by the fringe players who dream of making it to the highest level. Another point for which the lucrative league deserves some credit is that it brings back players known for their past rivalries to come together and play as a unit (Harbhajan-Symonds), forgetting the past, in the spirit of the game.
But as the franchise owners brainwash their minds with continuous cash flow, the players tend to ignore several other aspects of the game which not only tarnish their image, but also jeopardize their health for the future run. With their bank accounts inflated with enormous cash, even the youngsters do not hesitate in abusing the veterans of the game every now and then. Even though they think that their slangs go unnoticed in front of the berserk crowd, hardly do they notice the amount of respect they lose with such steps.
Why would Indian players prefer playing in the domestic matches when a few good games can earn them a direct ticket for Team India? For example, Ravindra Jadeja will hardly bother about his contributions to the national team as long as he keeps getting lucrative contracts in IPL. The focus of getting a ticket for the playing eleven will no more be limited to domestic cricket. The players will tend to focus on performing well in IPL, than coming out with all guns blazing in the domestic season. They will play as the business tycoons would want them to, hampering their body for a longer run.
The league will also affect the longer format which still remains to be the most challenging format of the game, as said by several legendary cricketers. With so much of masala being provided in just 4 hours, Test matches will hardly pull any crowd. Moreover, performance of the team in Test matches will be affected. India’s successive defeats in 8 Test Matches on foreign soil are also a matter of concern. Many have blamed the IPL behind their humiliating failure.
Another important issue of concern is that the lucrative short versions of the game, like the IPL are in a way prompting players to skip their national commitments. Chris Gayle is the perfect example of the debate. Since IPL 4, he has been at loggerheads with the West Indies Cricket Board and has portrayed a larger than life image. He has been appearing in all the T20 tournaments and playing for his country has become secondary for the explosive left-handed opener. The reason being simple that the amount of money he earns in one season of IPL is even more that what he would get by playing for his national side in several seasons. Many such players are feared to change their attitude towards the game in the future.
The data shows IPL 4 saw the least viewership as compared to all other three seasons. This year, 55 days of IPL will see 9 teams playing 72 matches at 12 venues. The number of matches might be 20 short of the games played last year, but only time will tell if the league will continue to survive or the fans have the final say in separating entertainment from cricket.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)