The IPL has taken cricket to virtually every house in the world, Sachin Tendulkar
Playing IPL is like taking MBA in Cricket, AB de Villiers.
IPL is just pure, intense. You don’t need all the other stuff, Shane Warne
These are not some random thoughts by ace cricketers but clear cut explanations as to what the Indian Premier League (IPL) means to the world of cricket. And it goes without saying that the IPL happens to be one of the biggest success stories in the last two decades for India. However, the evolution of the Indian T-20 franchise since its inception in 2008 has taken the cricketing world by storm. The revenues have multiplied over the years, even during pandemic times there was no dearth of money. In fact, BCCI earned $ 533 million from the IPL in 2020 (the year Covid made its world debut), AFP quoted the BCCI treasurer as saying. Interestingly, IPL’s runaway success has also prompted some big international players like the Glazer family (Man United owner) to spend big just to acquire a franchise in the Indian T-20 extravaganza. But it is another matter that they were outsmarted by Indian players, RPSG and CVC, to increase the number of teams in the league from 8 to 10.
IPL At The Expense of International Fixtures
These are good signs for the future of the IPL, its stakeholders, and participating cricketers but what about the future of cricket in general? There is a general perception that IPL is being given utmost priority not only by Indian cricketers but also by international players. Several international cricketers are skipping their commitments to the national team for the sake of hefty IPL contracts. England Cricket Board recently warned its cricketers against sacrificing their national interests at the altar of IPL after the recent Ashes debacle. In 2018, when Virat Kohli-led India became the first Asian country to beat Australia in their own backyards in a Test Series, former Oz skipper Michael Clarke had directly blamed IPL for the home team’s loss.
“Everybody knows how powerful India are in regards to the financial part of the game, internationally or domestically with the IPL. I feel that Australian cricket, and probably every other team over a little period…. sucked up to India. They were too scared to sledge Kohli or the other Indian players because they had to play with them in April (IPL),” Clarke said during a programme on Sky Sports Radio. Interestingly enough, even Australia have a T-20 League of their own called Big Bash, but it simply cannot match the financial power of the Indian variant. As is evident from Clarke’s sarcastic remarks that there is nothing at present to match India’s domestic T-20 league, be it the canvas or finance, so cricketers across the world are willing to go to any length to grab the lucrative IPL deal.
Indian Superstars Not Setting Good Precedents
Back home ie in India, the scenario is not radically different. Top-class players like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma hardly skip IPL matches but they do not fall short of excuses to take a break from international cricket. In the latest edition of the IPL, where Virat is going through a rough patch as a batter, there are enough indications, albeit subtly, that he is seeking some time off cricket to recharge his batteries. Even the former India head coach Ravi Shastri, with whom he shares a great rapport, recently made it plain that Virat is “overcooked” and he deserves a break. However, former India opener Sunil Gavaskar was quick to warn Virat that he should “not miss any of India matches” as he can never get back to form by sitting at home. Gavaskar was bang on target because Team India need Virat to be at his best for the upcoming T-20 World Cup in Australia in September this year and missing matches, especially the international ones, would hardly be ideal preparation for the big-ticket event. Again, what needs to be observed over here is the tendency to let go of the Team India matches and not the IPL, which has become the be-all and end-all in world cricket at the moment.
As for Rohit Sharma, the new all-format captain of Team India, even though he has never missed an IPL season, the Hitman of world cricket has skipped several international games owing to injuries. For example, in 2020 when IPL was held in the UAE, Rohit had got himself injured in the middle of the tournament. However, he continued playing the IPL at the cost of aggravating the injury and then missed the entire Australian Series, barring the last two Test matches, immediately after the domestic T-20 league. This is a matter of huge concern as star players should be setting good examples for the youngsters to follow. Shockingly enough, if they start putting their own interest above the nation, then the upcoming players would only be getting the wrong message.
Balancing Act: The Need Of The Hour
IPL, no doubt, has benefitted Indian and world cricket in several ways: unearthing domestic talents, valuable interactions with renowned international cricketers, good exposure to the T-20 format etc. There are countless and priceless other benefits associated with the league. However, prioritizing IPL over international matches is not in the interest of Indian or international cricket. So, players, to begin with, should judiciously manage the workload, even if it means skipping some IPL matches or an entire season for the larger good of world cricket. Therefore, it is time top Indian, as well as foreign, cricketers delve into this aspect while planning to take some time off the game in the future.