IT CAME AS no great surprise that the BCCI and Shashank Manohar went ahead with the recommendations of the Lodha Committee report which called for the suspension of the two Indian Premier League franchises, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. They could not have done anything else, given the focus on their actions regarding these teams.
While the BCCI has been battling multiple issues on corruption in the IPL and have not been able to make any headway in cleaning up their image, the arrival of Manohar with the halo of uprightness was definitely going to be the aura around which the world's largest cricket body would hide. Hence to have expected any other decision would have been wishful thinking. In fact, everyone would have clapped from the sidelines if the teams had been terminated, and there would have been no quetions asked or eyebrows raised, except from the franchise owners, who will anyways knock at the judicial doors. One can check with Sahara Warriors and Kochi Tuskers.
To be fair, terminating the whole franchise which has built a business and fan base for the past eight years would not have been the ideal solution. It wouldn't have been right to resort to this drastic step and punish the franchises for the misdeeds of a few. However, the flip side of the coin is that misdemeanours such as spot-fixing and betting by owners cannot be brushed aside. No person, team or player is above the law and game, and the message had to go out loud and clear. If the BCCI had taken any other decision, they would have been back to where they started, defending the murky IPL and its cosy-club owners.
Suspending both teams will definitely not go down well with loyal, die-hard fans and supporters who will now have to wait for two years to see them play. But it is at least better than termination, which would never have brought their favourite teams back into the tournament. The fans shouldn't be robbed of watching their teams compete in the IPL, even if it is after two years. Both CSK and RR have a decent fan base which will remain loyal to them, though they won't be playing for the next two years.
Two years is a considerably good time frame for the team owners to repair their tarnished images and in turn help rebuild the image of the IPL. It is likely that the two franchises might appeal against the decision. While it would be the logical business thing to do in order to show that they are on the right, they have lost the perception battle with all stakeholders. In fact, if the courts reinstate them, the blot on the two teams and IPL will only spread wider and become unmanageable.
Everyone who bought a team knew what they were getting into when they were dealing with the BCCI, whose history of managing the game is no secret. It might seem unfair now, but the term 'collateral damage' is not new to anyone doing business with politicians.
These two years will also give BCCI a chance to regain the faith of cricket fans, and ensure that such corrupt and illegal practices are dealt with in a fair, unbiased manner, though the IPL is a closed-door affair with eight owners. Sport gets ugly when the organisers, owners, and players play for that extra buck on the side. It is ultimately the fans who suffer, because they're the ones paying to keep the whole jamboree alive.
It may just be in the best interest of everyone involved with the IPL, if CSK and RR get rid of all the filth, visible and perceived, and come out clean for a new beginning. If that happens and both teams are re-inducted after two years, the cash-rich league will only get bigger and better, making it a 10-team tourney, which only means more entertainment.
While the induction of two new teams as a short-term solution is driven by broadcaster and sponsor commitments, the BCCI could do well to ensure that these two years are spent wisely to not just arrive at proper guidelines for all stakeholders, but pratical solutions to implement them too so that the league becomes stronger.
It is unfortunate that the BCCI has to restart all again in the 11th year, but the IPL has been given a second chance to establish itself as one of the biggest sporting leagues in the world and BCCI shouldn't miss this opportunity again. The fans are there for the taking, and are not asking for much -- just give them a clean game.
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