Don’t Wash Out the Game

How the BCCI re­sponds to re­lo­cat­ing IPL matches will de­ter­mine its fu­ture

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas - Bo­ria Ma­jum­dar More com­ments on eco­nomictimes.com

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!

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