April 25, 2010

On reflection

I'm all for professional cricketers getting big money for their skills, like NBA/MLB/NFL/AFL/EPL/tennis/etc players get big money. (Though I do wish other sports played in India were able to attract similar bounty). I'm all for free enterprise and business acumen. I'm all for pointing out the hypocrisies of politicians across the spectrum, and I'm definitely, no definitely, all for cheerleaders.

I mention all that because Amulya Ganguli -- whose writing I've found thought-provoking for years -- mentions it all in his recent article about the ongoing IPL drama. (It's now appeared in plenty of places, including in the Economic Times, where for some odd reason it is not attributed).

There's plenty I agree with in that essay. And yet something about it leaves me troubled. I think it is this: the pronouncement that the IPL "reflects young, emerging India".

Now no doubt "young, emerging India" enjoys the frenetic entertainment the IPL offers. Also the free enterprise and so forth that's in that first paragraph above.

But on the evidence of the last several front-page days, the IPL also offers kickbacks, opacity, overweening arrogance, politicking, murky financing and plenty more. All of which is why the Economic Times itself, just a few days ago, referred to the IPL as a "slippery world of cricket politics", an "unholy mix of cricket, money and corruption".

Do these phrases reflect "young, emerging India"? Do the youth of this country really want themselves characterized like this? And if so, should we all wonder just what kind of India is actually "emerging"?

The irony is that Ganguli himself refers to all this: he writes of the IPL's "fall from grace", the "scam-tainted atmosphere enveloping IPL" and about "bringing greater transparency" to it. He demands, and rightly: "clean up IPL".

But does this "scam-tainted atmosphere enveloping IPL" also reflect "young, emerging India"? Should we ask whether it is possible at all to disassociate the glamour, the entertainment, the big money, from the "scam-tainted atmosphere"?

Ganguli ends by saying, again rightly, that "nationalising" the IPL, as some politicians have demanded, "will be disastrous". But what does he suggest instead? "There is no alternative, therefore, for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), whose brainchild the IPL is, to take matters into its own hands."

Yes, the BCCI. The body that's not exactly covered itself with glory in its years of administering cricket in this country. The body whose brainchild grew fat on that excellent free enterprise strategy: "ban" the competition.

Is that a reflection of our youth too?

I have no idea what should be done with the IPL (I'm not sure I care, either). But would you ask Al Capone to clean up his Chicago mafia?


Postscript: Immediately after posting this, I opened my copy of today's DNA to find that Amulya Ganguli's article appears on page 5.

Four pages later in the same paper is a full page feature titled "Wanted: a Board of Control to Control the BCCI". It refers to the attempts of a lawyer called Rahul Mehra to bring accountability to the BCCI. It speaks of the "rotten core of the BCCI ... how skullduggery and political intrigue are par for the course". And Mehra suggests that "reforms won't come from within the BCCI; the government has to step in to clean up the act."

Take a look.


Aditya said...

years ago, the BCCI had gone on record saying that the "India" team that plays cricket is actually the BCCI team and did not represent India, the country (one link here. It was and then and this is now, the government has always given the BCCI a loose leash. While it remains an argument whether cricket would have prospered if it were under the Ministry of Sports, I feel it is BCCI's moment of truth -- a certain retrospection is required if BCCI considers itself the authority it claims to be, on Cricket.

Jai_c said...


1. Prem Panicker has a lot of coverage on this issue for anybody interested.

2. Dilip, or any others,

Is it true that IPL is being subsidized heavily by the Govt (P Sainath, how to feed our billionaires).

I had hoped that they would be paying higher than normal charges for say power- perfectly reasonable considering the amounts being thrown around. If they're getting discounts instead, running night matches between these private clubs on our dime is inexcusable.


Anonymous said...

Good point Jai, I am totally aghast at how they are consuming so much power for night matches!
Grr, we will be the ones contending with load shedding in summer