IPL back on track: A good signal

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The dates have been earmarked and venues identified, the Centre’s approval appears a mere formality. The 13th edition of Indian Premier League will be held, belatedly, from September 19 to November 10 at three venues – Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah — in the United Arab Emirates. The 53-day event will witness the gathering of 192 international and domestic cricketers, a sizable number of support staff at each franchise, scores of people working with the broadcasters, match officials, commentators, team owners and security personnel, among others. It will be a huge challenge to ensure the safety of every individual while the Covid-19 pandemic rages, the relatively lower caseload in the UAE notwithstanding. Understandably, the wisdom behind holding sporting events in these times has been questioned, with the debate assuming a morality vs money-making exercise hue, especially with the added controversy this year over continuing to accept sponsorship of Chinese companies. Unquestionably, the money involved is huge, but whether it is correct to look at the tournament only through the prism of financial gain is debatable. These are depressing times for people across the globe. Any positive distraction from the steady stream of distressing developments is welcome. Sport is one of the most effective means of putting the smiles back on people’s faces. Of course, that feel-good can’t come at the expense of safety. Several rules for players and officials mirror those in force in the football leagues across Europe, and in other sports such as basketball and Formula One that have restarted after the hiatus forced by the pandemic. According to an SOP prepared by one team, the players have been told to avoid using “handshakes, high-fives, tackling, sparring etc” as part of the training routine.

But, as European football leagues with a larger pool of teams and participants have shown, bio-safety bubbles can function effectively if everyone inside them acts responsibly. It’s impossible to ignore financial considerations while talking about IPL. The Board of Control for Cricket in India stands to miss out on Rs 5,000 crore of income from the non-conduct of a single edition, which will have a domino effect on the entire cricketing landscape in the country. The revenue generated from the previous 12 seasons of IPL has helped BCCI ramp up cricket infrastructure even in remote parts of the country, and helped it enhance the financial status of domestic players, even retired cricketers. The 2018-19 domestic season alone saw as many as 2,024 matches involving 37 teams amounting to 3,444 match days, almost double the preceding season.

Nearly 6,500 players across age-groups were able to showcase their skills, largely because the BCCI was able to facilitate their progress. Throw in match officials, scorers, infrastructure upkeep and ground staff that maintain facilities and keep them match-ready, and the magnitude of the BCCI’s task, both financially and logistically, becomes all too evident. The revenue generated from the IPL tournament is primarily responsible for the healthy state of the sport in the country.

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