Is big money IPL ruining cricket in India and elsewhere? It is definitely killing other sports

Abhijit Sen Gupta
Abhijit Sen Gupta

The auction of IPL players seemed to generate even more interest than the tournament itself. Players raked in bagfuls of cash that would boggle the minds of those who play sports other than cricket. Ishan Kishan was bought by Mumbai Indians for Rs 15.25 crore. Deepak Chahar got Rs 14 crore. Shreyas Iyer was purchased by Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs 12.25 crore. Liam Livingstone earned 11.5 crore. Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, Shardul Thakur and Prasidh Krishna got around Rs 10 crore each.

Nowadays, if a cricket playing youngster can reach the level required for selection in any IPL team, then he will earn more than by studying medicine, engineering or MBA. Even if he has not played for India, he can still earn lakhs or even crores.

Every year the IPL seems to be getting bigger and bigger. The ostentatious display of money power, the glitz and glamour and the media overkill reach a fever pitch whenever a mega auction is held to “buy” players. On the surface, everything seems to be very rosy. Players are getting paid well, they will be motivated to play hard and thereby the standard of the game will rise.

MS Education Academy

But like everything in life, there is a plus and a minus side to the issue. The first question that arises is– Are IPL cricketers being overpaid? Will not the players focus more on the IPL rather than on their nation? There may come a time when a player will no longer take pride in donning the national cap. It will be more important for him to wear the multi-coloured jerseys of various IPL teams. The IPL has risen to the top of the nation’s cricket consciousness. It is as if cricket means IPL and IPL means money.

Moreover, if a player is going to get an income of Rs 10 crore or more, he may be willing to pay kickbacks to get selected. Already bribes are being given in some state associations to obtain a spot in the teams. Also, big money attracts big crooks. Bookies are always hovering around the fringes to rope in players for fixing matches.

Match fixing has been an issue in the IPL for many years. In May 2013, three players of Rajasthan Royals were arrested by Delhi Police on charges of spot fixing. They were S. Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila. A few days later, Gurunath Meiyappan, a top official of the Chennai Super Kings franchise and son-in-law of the then BCCI president N. Srinivasan, was arrested in Mumbai by the Crime Branch in connection with illegal betting. The wrestler-actor Dara Singh’s son Vindu was also involved.

The success of the IPL spawned similar tournaments elsewhere by people seeking to make a fast buck. The Karnataka Premier League was rocked by a corruption scandal in 2019. The arrest of Abrar Kazi and C.M. Gautam showed that despite precautions, the matches are still vulnerable to crooked dealings. Even now malpractices may be going on behind the scenes.

When approached former international football star Shabir Ali for his comments on the IPL, he revealed that during his playing days, there had been rumours about certain footballers – that they always reserved their best for their clubs. While playing for the country they took care not to exert themselves too much or get injured because that would reduce earnings from their clubs.

“Yes, such a thing can happen. But there are two sides to this story. If you play well for your club, you will be selected for your country. If you play well for your country you will earn more from your club. So there are two angles here,” he said.

Another aspect to this issue of big payments in the IPL is that other sports may be affected. If a cricketer plays in one or two seasons of the IPL, he can end up earning more than the lifetime earnings of a player of another sport. Boxers, athletes, basketballers, hockey players etc earn a pittance compared to cricketers. So, most youngsters will choose cricket over any other sport.

Former hockey star Alloysius Edwards who had represented India in the Olympic Games and World Cup, said that other games may certainly be harmed in the long run. “Parents will no longer send their children to hockey or anything else. All parents will want their children to play cricket. Even becoming a member of the support staff of an IPL team will fetch rewards. So why should anyone come to hockey?”

“When I was a player, sometimes sports goods manufacturers would give us equipment. But never any financial support. The few sponsors who did come, paid their amounts to the Indian Hockey Federation. Not to us players. After our Indian team got the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year, each player must have got about one crore. Not more than that.”

“But the Olympics happen once every four years. So hockey players must wait till the next Olympics. On the other hand the IPL is held every year. Moreover, in a fast moving game like hockey, there can be no breaks for advertisements. The structure of cricket is such that advertisements can be squeezed in between gaps. So sponsors find cricket more attractive. That is how it is,” he said.

Cricketer Ahsan Khurshid who represented the Hyderabad Under-25 side and played for Andhra Bank, lashed out at the IPL and T20 format which he said were ruining cricket. In his opinion these were like white ants eating up Indian cricket from the inside. “See what has happened to England. It was England which first began experimenting with different limited overs formats and look where they are now. The batters have awful techniques and cannot stay at the crease. That is what will happen to India too. Already we are seeing players who have atrocious technique and temperament,” he lamented.

“In the IPL, so much money is being showered on young players. Where is the sponsor’s money coming from? Nobody raises vital questions. The pride of playing in the Ranji Trophy has vanished. The aesthetics and values of cricket have disappeared. Every youngster has a smart phone and it has become easier to indulge in illegal betting. I hope the cricket board will come to its senses soon and address these important issues,” concluded Khurshid.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.

Back to top button