3 Days Before IPL, HC Wants Maharashtra ‘Cricket Dry’
Court suggests shifting tournament matches out of state, criticises ‘criminal wastage’ of water for cricket matches
Ravi Teja Sharma, Gaurav Lagathe & Maulik Vyas
New Delhi | Mumbai: Just three days before the first match of the ninth edition of Indian Premier League kicks off in Mumbai, the Bombay High Court has suggested that the drought-hit state of Maharashtra go ‘cricket dry’. The court came down heavily on the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the cricket associations of Maharashtra and Mumbai on Wednesday over the use of water for cricket grounds during IPL games at a time the state is reeling under severe shortage of water. “Only if water supply to BCCI is cut will you understand,” it observed.
The inaugural game of IPL-9 will be played on April 9 at the Wankhede Stadium between Mumbai Indians and first-timers Rising Pune Supergiants, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Maharashtra would be playing host to 20 out of the 60 IPL matches — eight in Mumbai, nine in Pune and three in Nagpur. The court has suggested shifting all these games out of the state. “How can you (cricket associations and BCCI) waste water like this? People are more important or your IPL matches? How can you be so careless? Who wastes water like this? This is criminal wastage,” a division bench hea- ded by Justices VM Kanade and MS Karnik said while hearing a public interest litigation filed by Loksatta Movement, a non-governmental organisation.
The court also asked the state government to spell out on Thursday the measures it is planning to tackle water shortage, adding that ultimately it is the government’s responsibility to curb water wastage.
In its arguments, the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) said the water it uses is not potable. According to the PIL, each ground requires 60-70 lakh litres of water and that Maharashtra, currently facing 10-53% water cuts in many areas, can’t afford such ‘wastage’.
Legal experts said the issue doesn’t fall under the court’s purview as it is more a policy matter
IPL Chairman Rajiv Shukla had said on Tuesday that no matches will be shifted out of Maharashtra. “If the water needed to irrigate two-three grounds were to solve the problem of Maharashtra’s farmers, that would be another thing. I don’t think this would serve any purpose. Sport is a different thing, it needs little water. Farmers need huge amount of water,” he said.
While the court will hear the matter on Thursday, legal experts said the issue doesn’t fall under the court’s purview as it is more a policy matter. “This is a matter of state policy rather than a matter of law. The court may make certain observations in the public interest but it is for the state government to take the final call while balancing various interests and priorities,” said lawyer Nandan Kamath, who runs a boutique sports and intellectual property law practice in Bengaluru.
If the matches were to be shifted out of Maharashtra, it will mean a substantial monetary loss to the Mumbai and Pune teams, especially in terms of ticketing revenue. Some other teams in the league, too, will have to rejig their schedules. “Some sponsors have tied up with us because we are playing in Pune and they have a big market in the city and Maharashtra in general,” Raghu Iyer, chief executive officer of Rising Pune Supergiants, told ET. He also pointed out that if the Pune team moves to another city for its games, it will lose home support. The stadium in Pune has 35,000 seats with corporate boxes. The team is currently setting up more hospitality seats to shore up revenues.
“If the teams are moved to new home grounds, they will also get very little time to adjust to the new pitches there,” said Basabdatta Chowdhury, chief operating officer of media agency Starcom MediaVest. “Ticketing revenues will also be impacted and it will be a logistical nightmare for the teams, especially because there is so little time left,” she said.
The Mumbai team is likely to lose big on ticketing revenues as it has the largest number of corporate boxes among all IPL stadiums. According to media sources, the team earns around .₹ 2 crore per match from ticket sales.
If the matches were to be shifted out of Maharashtra, it will mean a substantial monetary loss to the Mumbai and Pune teams
IN DEEP WATER: Experts say it is for the state to take final call on matches while balancing interests & priorities