IPL Looming over India’s International Cricket?

No doubt, we cannot question the fundamental rights of people, particularly the ebullient young generation, of loving short and sweet but highly entertaining cricket games like movies. Add to it the digital revolution taking place all over the world as well as in India, even penetrating the rural areas thanks to the initiatives of the government. Now everyone, young or older, wants to enjoy whatever they love on their mobiles or tabs or laptops from wherever they happen to be. For what do you think the streaming platforms are becoming so popular? The digital experience is always unique, as it is very personal, independent and not location-dependent as we’ve already mentioned. In such a scenario what the Indian Premiere League (IPL) has achieved in its 3-day e-auction for TV and Digital broadcasting rights is mindboggling indeed, but not entirely unexpected. The four packages of media rights, A, B, C and D, fetched the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) a record-breaking figure of $6.2 Billion or INR 48, 390 Crore for TV rights, Digital rights and Digital rights on zonal basis across the globe for the IPL seasons during 2023-2027 with around 410 matches to be played. It means an incredible $13.4 Million cost for the broadcasters or BCCI revenue per IPL match.


These eye-popping figures are not only several times higher than all of the previous IPL media rights auctions, but these figures mean that the IPL is now only second to the US  National Football League (NFL) in terms of revenues per match. NFL is the highest revenue-grossing sports brand with around $17 Million per game, and now the IPL has become the second highest sports brand in the world, beating the MLB (Major League Baseball) and the EPL (English Premiere League) with $11 million each per game respectively.


The BCCI President Sourav Ganguly and other office-bearers, though perhaps a little apologetic as the IPL has always been called a money-spinning glamour tournament, have hailed this as the inevitable outcome of the modern age and more importantly that it’s not just for earning money, but to improve the cricket infra in the country, discovering more and more talents and also a women’s IPL tournament on the anvil from 2023 onward. Well, it’s true that such kind of money could be used very productively indeed, but the ‘commerce’ part of cricket has come into the IPL more obtusely now, and it’s already manifested the effects or it’d go on doing now like a dictator in international cricket.   


Let’s just take a look at the T20I Series between India and South Africa going on at the moment which is supposed to an official ICC bilateral series, more important in view of the upcoming ICC CricketT20 World Cup later this year. Quite a few of the South African stalwarts have gained immensely from the IPL-2022 and have put in their efforts in the bilateral series, winning the first two matches hands down. Not to take away the due credit we have to look at the Team India: it’s not even a second-string national team with a stand-in on a stand-in skipper and most of the other players being rookies, giving the team an IPL franchise appearance rather than that of a national team; with most of the Indian stalwarts who’ve also gained a lot from the same tournament are either being rested or injured. With the commerce-crazy Indian cricket the difference between ‘rested’ and ‘injured’ is always highly deceptive.


Now, the BCCI is set to increase the total matches to be played in an IPL season gradually over the next five years, 10 franchises being there, you know. Therefore, one season could take around two and half months instead of two at present, and combining this with the ‘must-rest’ star cricketers all international cricket matches are going to feature only IPL rookies and winning an international series thus could be reduced to a secondary consideration. With the richest cricket Board of the world getting richer still the BCCI can easily convince the ICC to include the IPL in their annual official cricket calendar.  Coming back to the current series, even by IPL standards Hardik Pandya should’ve been appointed the stand-in captain as he was spectacular in the IPL-2022, becoming a captain for the first time and leading a newbie franchise to a huge title win. But Rishabh Pant is the crux of that inevitable ‘commerce’ and he cannot be ignored at any cost in any format of the game.


However, the justification for a second or third string team against South Africa is of ‘resting’ the key players for the leftover test match against England in Edgbaston, staring 1st July 2022. And of course, Pandya is appointed to lead India against Ireland for T20I games. In the third match played on 14th June the Indian bowlers somehow overhauled themselves to the required line and length to beat South Africa by 48 runs to keep India alive in the 5-match series, with South Africa leading 2-1 and the next match to be played tomorrow.


Well, I’m only expressing a fear that international cricket for India could just become formal experimental exercises and the great brand of the IPL is set to be looming over everything there’s to be concerned about international cricket. I was amazed to read a news report somewhere that in the India-SA series India is actually not looking to win it, but only trying to test its bench strength in terms of, surely, the IPL rookies. We’d seen many times earlier how this kind of endless ‘experiments’ spelled India’s doom in ICC tournaments. Therefore, IPL would indeed find more and more talented players making many of them richer too; but it’s doubtful if it’s going to make the glorious game of cricket richer in terms of not money, but in terms of glory and pride.


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