Don’t Wash Out the Game
How the BCCI responds to relocating IPL matches will determine its future
Will moving out 13 Indian Premier League (IPL) games out of Maharashtra solve the state’s acute water crisis? No. Can the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) be blamed for the farmers’ plight in Maharashtra? No. Yet, it’s deemed ethical to move the IPL games out of the state.
This is tokenism, a symbolic show than anything else. But given the sensitivity of the issue, it is a step that the Bombay High Court could hardly have avoided. Even if Latur benefits for an hour -- as some estimates want us to believe – taking the games out of Maharashtra is acceptable. Even a minute’s relief or one life bettered is a start. While a long-term solution to the water crisis is a crying need for which the state will have to take onus, the IPL will indeed need to do its bit for a larger societal cause.
There is little doubt that relocating the IPL will be a logistical nightmare for the BCCI and its stakeholders. Also, at a certain level, this is unfair on the franchises, who have absolutely no role in the crisis but will have to suffer serious economic losses. Yet, there is very little one can do given the acuteness of the situation.
But why is the IPL always singled out as the root of all evil? Why does India’s only global sports brand get castigated for no fault of its own?
It is only fair that the court allowed the first match of IPL 2016 to go on as scheduled in Mumbai. It has now given every IPL stakeholder two weeks to plan the relocation. Time is of essence, and this allows them to salvage the tournament, if nothing else.
Where the BCCI has not done right in dealing with the crisis is in saying that the water used during the IPL will hardly make a difference to the bigger picture of drought in Maharashtra. It is not about making a huge difference or transforming the situation. Rather, it is about showing sensitivity and standing up for a cause.
Nailing the Board
Had the BCCI suggested shifting a few games out of the state, or that it would spend a significant sum in water harvesting in the future, it would have showcased the BCCI as a sensitive national entity conscious of its social responsibilities. At a time when the Supreme Court is constantly rapping the BCCI for being irresponsible and shying away from disbursing public functions, this could have been the opportunity for the board to improve its battered image. The IPL, too, could have benefitted from this gesture.
So what can the BCCI do from here on? Will the symbolic relocation of the IPL now make us oblivious to the larger humanitarian crisis staring at us? Will a section of the media, baying for the IPL’s blood, continue to espouse the cause of the far- Maharashtra. But no politician has the spine to ask them to shift.
Adeshwar Raja mer or will they move on to another sensationalist story?
A black and white answer is impossible. While there is little doubt that everyone concerned should be trying to do one’s bit to make life better in drought-hit Maharashtra, it is also fair to suggest that it is wrong to single out the IPL, the commercial success of which is regularly used to vilify the league.
Make a Stand
The larger lesson in this crisis is that the BCCI needs to make itself more self-sufficient. Had it been in a position to not ask for water from outside, very little could be said by its detractors. By leaving itself open to criticism, the BCCI has allowed the vilification of the IPL.
While the petitioners who has approached the court to stop IPL matches in Maharashtra certainly do not have mala fide intentions, the timing of the petition does leave a lot to be desired. The drought has not happened in the last week and IPL preparations have been on for months. Tickets have been on sale for weeks now and to demand that they all be stopped at the very last minute wasn’t very realistic.
All eyes will be on the BCCI in the coming few days. They will now have to turn proactive and come up with a solution to tackle the crisis head on. The world’s most powerful board needs to protect the franchises and give comfort to the owners who have all spent huge amounts of money on the IPL.
This might involve relocating matches to venues of choice and not forcing down particular centres on the affected franchises. If done, this will do much for its image before the public and the judiciary. Failing this, however, the BCCI will once again be left to the mercy of the court. And the future of the IPL will be in balance.
Look, an IPL franchise owner is drinking water while Maharashtra goes dry!