The season of IPL is back. Weeks of nail-biting anticipation has finally come to an end. For two days, the teams were engaged in heated auctioning. Players went under the hammer. Squadrons changed, some players left their teams, others took up new jerseys. And just like every year, some players remained unwanted for this 11th Season. Teams broke banks to get hold of players, going up to the extent of 12.5 crores INR ( Rajasthan Royals for Ben Stokes). On the other hand, some of the legendary players lost their old value.
While the auctions were going on, I was wondering about how far cricket as a sport in India has come. Introduced during the British era to be played only by the aristocrats, the game became a symbol of status. Playing it gave a sense of pride to the Indian masses. Soon a cricket team for India, consisting of Indians and not Britons, came up. And the sport started running in the blood of all Indians.
It is a sport which unites all, irrespective of caste, class, gender or religion. The stadium would be filled with people who might not know each other, and may never see each other again after they leave. But the anticipation of wickets, the excitement of fours and sixes, the joy of victory for the nation– this is the magic of the bond which forms silently but its noise can be heard by all. Players are worshipped across the country. Their efforts are the reason for our pride and joy.
When did money enter the sport? It won’t be wrong if we say that money was always a hidden catalyst in the game. There have been instances of rigging, bribes, and betting, although only among the masses. But in my opinion, the Indian Premier League drove money into the sport. Yes, players were paid before too. But it was for their efforts. What we see in the auctions, it seems like the players have become materialistic commodities. Money has become the parameter to judge the value of players. As expected, many have criticised IPL auctions as “undignified and cruel” and “humiliating” to players.
Yes, no doubt it is bringing players from different countries together and breaking barriers. But is it right to use money as the driving force of this good cause? Cricket has come down to the level where the deeper your pockets are, the better the chances you have of winning. You have money, you buy the “best” players and voila! You won the series.
IPL has created a very attractive career option for the players. It’s where the big bucks flow in. The moral of many players is bound to get corrupted. Again, when players keep on hopping from one team to another every year, it becomes difficult for them to build a stable rapport with their fellow teammates. Who knows, the next year they might be playing as opponents. The team cohesiveness dwindles and players start playing only for themselves and not for the team.
Rahul Dravid, in his speech in Sir Donald Bradman’s Oration, called cricket in India as a “buzzing, humming, living entity going through a remarkable time, like no other in our cricketing history.” IPL should be considered as a sign of progress of the sport. Yes, it has its share of loopholes. But that’s what the masses are for, to bring out the loopholes into focus. We can and we must stop cricket from becoming a commercial item.