IPL – Has the bubble burst?

Vineet Sharma

Now that the Indian Premier League is in its fourth year of existence, it would be safe to say that the domestic money mayhem ridden tourney has not engulfed the world of cricket as we knew it. Thankfully, to say the least. The recently concluded World Cup gave the fans a real treat in terms of cricketing action and as a result, the current IPL has failed to garner the same eye balls as it did in the previous years.

There is a flurry of adrenaline pumping, special effects laden and emotional dialogue filled advertisements promoting the league that was once pitted to be the BIG THING in world sports as many proclaimed that it would easily overshadow the American Super Bowl, the English Premier League or the Spanish Soccer League. Sadly, it is more pomp and less action if the real statistics are to be seen.

IPL sans Lalit Modi is on a downfall, even with him, it might not have sustained the magical growth it registered in its nascent stages. The domestic T20 league’s value has dropped by a USD 460 million in the current edition, standing at USD 3.67 billion. The figures are down from USD 4.13 billion a year ago from it’s pegging at USD 2 billion in 2009.

It is safe to say now that the concept of inter-city rivalry has not picked up like the administrators expected it to be on the lines of the EPL, where a Manchester United Vs Manchester City often evokes a riot like scenario in town. IPL does not even have the fanatical worldwide following like the football leagues the world over, a prime reason for it being the fact that cricket is hardly followed around the globe with the same fervour as other mass sports.

Corruption is the key word in the psyche of India and one can’t expect honeymoon returns from the sport that has been infested with grave charges over the past year with its most recognisable face (aka Lalit Modi) living incommunicado and away from Indian shores after his disgraceful exit from being at the helm of things. Reports of money laundering and legal bungling have not done any good to the league and with the X-factor of the event gone, the TRPs have dropped considerably.

Add to it the deadly mixture of mediocre cricket and half hearted efforts from cricketers whose coffers have been filled to the brim by their franchises. Let’s face it, it’s no fun watching Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty cheering for their teams in a near hysterical fashion every time a boundary is hit or a wicket taken. It has become boring now, just like any Bollywood blockbuster after a few times it has been seen.

The results are to be seen by all, a Kolkata Knight Riders match at Eden Gardens with near empty stands have forced the organisers to lower the rate of the tickets drastically (a stark contrast from the World Cup, where people were splurging thousands and lakhs for even the most ordinary tickets).

The feeling is the same in Delhi and Punjab, where local pub owners have admitted to a steep fall in viewers from last year’s IPL season. No one wants to spend their hard earned money on the T20 atom bombs anymore, even with reduced prices. Even the cinema halls have gone ahead with screening movies instead of matches this time around, recognising the public sentiment correctly.

With the Delhi and Punjab teams faring pathetically in the initial encounters, one can come across various forums on public networking sites urging fans to stay away from the stadium till the time they are given better team compositions to cheer for next year.

The new teams Pune Warriors and Kochi Tuskers too have failed to take their regions by storm and merchandise is being sold at a discount even when the season has not fully kicked off!

One fundamental thing that needs to be understood about the Indian psyche is that all pop-stop fads are fuelled to their zenith by the masses (we have over a billion to help register record numbers), and subsequently, they all fade away as quickly. If the league is to sustain itself for over a decade, a solid framework needs to be in place that not just aims at mindless money minting, because such an approach stagnates the market, eventually leading to its termination.

Have variety, fun, frolic and all things glitzy, but it must be remembered that these things alone will not sustain a ‘sports venture’ if the ‘sport’ itself is not a class apart. Good cricket will help you, not expensive advertisements and no-show cricketers.

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