Indian Premier League: Cricket's Frazzled Face?
By Dr. Nauman Niaz
A huge market-place and a sequence of unprecedented successes have helped the BCCI to control the environment around itself, including the behavior of other cricket bodies. BCCI has often used power, perceiving as legitimate by the social structure. Indian cricket's power-abuse, manipulation and their transcendence to a different status in cricket's frazzled world cannot be seen as evil or unjust, but the methods with which they have tried to ascend to a different rank isn't really accepted as endemic to game's sociality.
BCCI has been at their smartest best, virtually prying and making the International Cricket Conference (ICC) their captive. They really didn't use coercion but tried influencing almost everything, ICC's decision-making and others. BCCI must remember it is different of being worthy of success, it is still different to have it and it is different to show deserving it. In case if they endeavor retaining it, they must learn to create balance. The sociological analysis of BCCI's recent advances in world cricket's top-tier management concerns itself with discovering and describing the relative strengths: equal or unequal, stable or subject to periodic change.
The BCCI ostensibly but intelligently seemingly influenced several crucial ICC decisions including the one to take Pakistan's share of World Cup 2011's 14 matches. It was a classic example of agenda-setting, informal influences, measure extent of informal influence, inducement, persuasion, authority, coercion and direct force. PCB has been naïve, and still submitting to their naivety as they fail to understand BCCI's shapes preferences via values, norms, ideologies and all social interaction involving power because ideas operate behind all language and action. Not obviously measurable we must infer the existence of ideas or values that ground all social and political activity. These have become routine and we do not consciously think of them and still we believe BCCI's ideologies inform policy making without being explicit (neo-liberalism).
BCCI must try understanding that the glitz they have created through a money-spinning Indian Premier League suggests that the more power one has, the less one takes on the perspective of others, implying that the powerful have less empathy. India's cricket team didn't really stir even part of England with their sequence of failures in the World T20 Cup despite having a collection of high-quality and equally expert cricketers; presumably a story of power-sharing and unacceptability from within.
BCCI-self-obsessed and overtly ambitious has tried commercializing cricket, to the max, slapping horrendously high price tags on crickets and making them coloured clothed money-hungry commercial commodities selling their talent, also forfeiting their professional mindsets. Other countries including England and Australia, even South Africa should realize that the BCCI hasn't done any service to cricket rather it would isolate them, collecting their top cricketers at one place, in one space, creating another apartheid. Question here isn't about Indian Premier League's long lasting but immensely damaging impact on world cricket, BCCI being controlled by politicians and businessmen wouldn't be able to propel India's team to any standing. They have acted with impunity, rewarding themselves as they wished and try concentrating power at any cost.
India's cricket governance is treading in a space inoculated and blinded with intoxication of power and they aren't really bothered to answer couple of questions. Besides number crunching and money-spinning they need to attempt an objective analysis of the Indian Premier League as it exists at the end of its second summer, and to put it into a practical context. Why did the IPL suddenly arrive to challenge the authority of traditional cricket? What is happening to the game as a result of its introduction? What do the players think of it, what motivates them to join, and will they renew their contracts after the initial three-year period has elapsed with T20 format becoming overtly saturated? These are question that need to be examined.
IPL's Chairman who is also BCCI's vice President Lalit Modi, in a pretentious analysis of his soul, the impact of this gentleman's personality on the whole affair tends to obscure the real issues. Large but unimpressive though this impact has been, and still is, on world cricket, it must be seen that he is acting, more as a catalyst in the reaction, than as an initiator. We must admit that the IPL is not a result but a cause of cricket's constitutional mess.
The future organization of world cricket does involve many uncertainties, especially in Pakistan due to the geo-strategic and militancy and also primarily because the country itself is going through turbulent times. BCCI, though indirectly involved did try isolating Pakistan made the situation terse. I believe that cricket wouldn't emerge infinitely healthier in the next few years, as a result of the shake-up that has taken place. One of important cogs in subcontinent's wheel, Pakistan is isolated and despite their T20 World Championship victory they do not seem rattling the other full members of the ICC, not really convincing them to resurrect touring the country. Security concerns and acts of terrorism, and one particular episode involving Sri Lanka in March 2008 has left the fulcrum out of space. Whatever the negotiated settlement, the entrenched elite of the ICC, BCCI and incapacity of the PCB top-tier who have been running the game with absolute power, so unimaginatively for so long, would not be removed. The lessons are not being learnt though more dynamic administration is required.
It is regrettable that BCCI were given the work-space by the ICC, ECB etcetera. Despite Mumbai being held hostage by a handful of terrorists and almost 200 people dead England returned to complete the series. As the second season of the IPL coincided with multi-phase 2009 Indian General Elections, the Indian Central Government refused to provide the Indian Paramilitary Forces to provide security, saying the forces would be stretched too thinly if they were to safeguard both the IPL and the elections. As a result, the BCCI decided to host the second season of the league outside India. All 50 matches took place in South Africa. Ironically, South Africa were also scheduled to have elections during the IPL, however, the South African government provided adequate security for both the South African General Elections and of the IPL. Was it about the paramilitary forces or contemplation of other threats?
It is regrettable that such a revolution has been necessary, but this has been largely the fault of the reactionaries, some of whom would sacrifice the game itself rather than cede any vestige of the dictatorial power that they appear to have abused for so long. This myopia has resulted in attitudes based on doubtful principles. I can see no means whereby control over the game, nationally or internationally could pass into the hands of BCCI or the IPL or indeed any other private promoter. This terrible outcome, which the cricket establishment so often holds up as a premonition of ultimate disaster, is indirectly a possibility, though not really realistic. IPL or the BCCI shouldn't have the grandiosity to govern international cricket, and they shouldn't see themselves in the role of world cricket controller. It may well want the responsibility. IPL isn't really an important or a vital dimension in cricket's development.
Writer is Member of the Royal College of Physicians (UK) and Official Historian of Pakistan Cricket.