By Dhananjay Devasper
“There’s no publicity like bad publicity”.
While on-field interest levels in the fifth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) have taken a beating, off-field incidents involving the central figures of the world’s premier T20 league have opened a Pandora’s box and ensured that the championship stays in primetime news – even if for all the wrong reasons. Everyone seems to be getting into the action now - owners, Bollywood stars, cricket officials, the Sports Minister and even women’s rights groups. Cricket has firmly taken a backseat for now.
It all started with the videotape, when a set of domestic players were caught on camera for spot- fixing. It caused extreme reactions from sports fans, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Sports Minister as well. Swift suspensions were handed out. But the spot-fixing news was just the tip of the iceberg. The IPL has earned notoriety for corrupting cricket – humungous money, late night etc. Now we hear allegations of franchises paying their players in “black”.
The next dent to the IPL image came via an audio tape. An agitated Shahrukh Khan, owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders, got into an abusive and ugly public altercation with the security guards and the MCA officials at the Wankhede Stadium. The MCA was quick to hand a life ban, then backtracked and reduced it to five years. Confusion prevailed during the entire set of events and an audio file was “leaked” onto the internet. Expletives were hurled around and explanations offered later. The matter has still not died down, with the media playing it up, thanks to the celebrity wattage this juicy story brings with it.
Sex and lies then surfaced to add spice to cause further damage. Australian Luke Pomersbach was accused of molesting a US woman and beating up her fiancé. To add to the confusion, the owner of the Royal Challengers, Sidhartha Mallya, decided to add fuel to the fire, questioning the character of the lady in question on Twitter. Women’s rights organisations were quick to cash in on the opportunity. While Pomersbach got bail, Mallya got served a legal notice.
As if all this was not enough, Wayne Parnell and Rahul Sharma were arrested at a rave party, where – allegedly - heady cocktails and drugs were being served. While details are sketchy at this point in time, there is no doubt that all these set of events have severely tarnished the already scarred image of the IPL. For a tournament that witnessed some nail-biting finishes throughout the league stage and some swashbuckling batting by the likes of Chris Gayle, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, it just seems that IPL 5 might just be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
There is that ‘small matter’ of Chennai having qualified for the play-offs, which puts them in line for a hat-trick of titles. It’s time for the controversies to go away and the finals stretch to thrill and enthrall us.
(Dhananjay Devasper is an "IT guy" by profession and a sports fanatic at heart. He has an unbridled passion for sports and Indian achievements in sport. Extremely opinionated, he attempts offering perspectives around sports which are simple to understand and easy to relate with)