Saturday, June 27, 2015

Lalit Modi is to be scorned at because IPL is to be scorned at

Those who hate the arrogance of Lalit Modi feel compelled to admit that he made the Indian Premier League a mega-event, that he is the man with the flair and panache for doing the big bang thing. When Lalit Modi took up the challenge of conducting the second edition of the IPL in South Africa because the dates clashed with the Lok Sabha elections that year and the home ministry said it could not provide the security, he boasted about it and everyone else accepted his boast without a murmur.

The only way to take a proper measure of Modi is to shatter the myth of the IPL, the cricket circus which is supposed to be cash cow of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). You cannot praise the IPL as some sort of a trophy, concede grudgingly that Modi is the architect, and half-heartedly rile against his financial wrongdoing.

In the last 10 days, the media are not raging about the huckster Modi but about the dealings of BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje with him. The burden of the media song is that it was wrong of Swaraj and Raje to have hobnobbed with a man like Modi because he is alleged to have played hookie with the funds he has managed to raise through the IPL extravaganza.None of the star investigators in the media are pausing to revisit Modi's IPL sins. What seems to be of greater interest to the media is to nail Swaraj and Raje.

But the media case against Modi will remain weak as long as Modi's buccaneering ways are not exposed. This would require the media and other ostensible whistle-blowers to look a little more seriously into the IPL matters than they have done so far. This would mean looking at the underbelly of the commercial marvel that IPL is made out to be.

Cricket writers are unlikely to look at the financial aspect of the game because it is either too vulgar or too complicated compared to the glorious art of the game. Political reporters will not take interest in the matter because they prefer the higher sport of power than the mere play of bat and ball. The business reporters think it is infra-dig to look at the petty financial transactions of the game. The sociologists and anthropologists of sport are on the hunt for some interesting theory that is subtler than the “political-economy” – a phrase I borrow from a former colleague of mine who positioned herself at the pink end of the Marxist spectrum – of sport and entertainment.

If IPL's dirty details are not brought to light, it will be difficult to pin down Modi and it will be rather difficult to explain the moral hullabaloo being created around Swaraj and Raje having social and personal contacts with him.

IPL was supposed to be like the English Premier League (EPL) and many of its variants in Europe like the Bundesliga in Germany. But England, Germany and other European countries had their football clubs. So, Modi thought he would create the teams and acquire the players through the auction mode for each of the teams. Creating teams was an unnatural mode, and acquiring players through auction was immoral. But the cricket commentators in the country did not want to utter a word about it.

They were looking at cricket in the manner of evolutionary biologists. They argued even as Modi was structuring the dna of the IPL that cricket has to evolve from the regular three-day, five-day and 50-over affair into a contemporary game. The T20 world championship that India had won under M.S.Dhoni's maiden captaincy in South Africa after its ignominious exit from the World Cup under Rahul Dravid in the Caribbean seemed to have worked as a trigger to the commercial imagination of the BCCI. There was also the fact that Indian Cricket League (ICL) was taking shape, and the BCCI did not want to lose its monopolistic hold over the game. As a matter of fact, players who had wanted to be associated with the ICL were to be disqualified by the BCCI. Neither Modi nor BCCI were original in conjuring up league cricket. What they did was to use their financial and monopolistic clout over the game to create the IPL.

It was understandable that the cricket writers did not want to be seen being on the wrong side of the BCCI at that time.

The commercial model adopted for the IPL was never a clear one. It is true that IPL had to be cricket as such but it also had to be entertaining and glamorous. It was a toxic cocktail of money and glamour. It would have been difficult to keep the betting gang out of it.

The man who created the repulsive IPL brew was Lalit Modi.

He is not a businessman who played the game of commercial cricket on a level playing field. He did not depend on norms and ethics of the game and he had no transparent financial model for it. The IPL was really the private league run by the BCCI. There was no competitive ranking like it was in the case of Test and One-Day cricket as monitored by the International Cricket Council (ICC). IPL was a law unto itself. The man who presided over this organised wilderness in its first two years was Lalit Modi.

If cricket is to redeem itself, then IPL has to be consigned to the trash bin. The ICC is the only body that can do it. The BCCI, which is the big bully in the ICC, should not be allowed to prostitute cricket in the name of evolution.


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