The IPL has been a real money spinner paying lavishly to players. It has changed the look and feel of cricket bringing in film celebrities and private franchises to create a commercial success. Cheerleaders dressed in objectionable cloths dancing to the fours and sixes and several cameramen dedicated to focus on them. The phrase “gentleman’s game” seems out of context at the moment. But all said, the IPL had been successful in generating huge revenues for the BCCI which, building on its already fat reserves, has taken over the international cricket affairs. The original powerhouses of cricket – England and Australia, who had worked for more than a century to build cricket, are now at the back seat. Even though the media of these countries does not give much emphasis to the IPL, the players do. The big bucks just seem to be too much for anyone to say no. We see so many Aussies who feel they are too old for international cricket but not for the lucrative IPL and CL. We saw James Anderson and Graeme Swann go unsold even though they were interested in playing here. We see Kevin Petersen talk about the jealousy in England for the IPL and how he would love to see his fellow team-mates take part in the IPL.
We have seen great players take on early retirement only to continue in the IPL. We have seen players not interested in getting selected in the national team because they have got a more viable option in the form of IPL which not only keeps them in the media but also give them wealth. The Indian team in suffering the most with its players getting all too focused on the IPL rather than their national commitments. The question remains, is the IPL helping the game of cricket or is it eating out into the viewership of the ODIs and Tests. What betterment has the IPL brought to the game of cricket. What is the next step? bringing in cheerleaders into Test cricket? or having Shahrukh Khan or Shilpa Shetty backing Test cricket.
The way the IPL is taking on this and the direction in which its taking the game, it seems like soon the beauty of the game would be lost and all we would have is commercialization of cricket. But this commercialization of the game could be short lived and with its decline, take away a lot from the game itself. The viewership figures from the opening week seem to be showing an alarming trend. TV ratings have nose-dived for the opening games this season. Television Viewer Ratings have gone down by 18.7 percent in the first six games compared with the same period last year, says a leading television research agency of India. “I think the whole IPL business model is a bit shaky now and not as robust as it was made out to be when it first started,” Sridhar Ramanujam, of the brand consulting firm Brand Comm, told Cricinfo.
Leading sponsors are withdrawing from the tournament. At least three companies — Parle, LG Electronics and Godrej — backed out from the IPL this year. The CLT20 lost its title sponsor, AirTel, after just one year due to lack of interest among fans.
The IPL seems to be loosing the interest it once enjoyed but as long as the BCCI has the bucks to back the IPL and the CLT20, international players would continue to be lured in. The overall concept of the IPL is not bad but it needs to be regulated and standardized on the formats of the County Cricket and Sheffield Cricket. Discriminating attitudes also need to be ended to give a vibe of fair-play to all concerned. If Mumbai can get away with an extra international player or Punjab has to suffer because one of their main players, the Pakistani turned English national, Azhar Mehmood is denied a visa, people start to get this feeling that all is not fair in this tournament and they loose interest. The CLT20 is projected to be an international competition of domestic teams but not all teams of the world get a fair chance to qualify and it is upto the BCCI to bestow a team with a spot on the CLT20. All this kills the essence of a competition and fans loose interest.