Modi’s Downfall and the Bitter Side of the IPL Honey Pot
Former Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi was expelled from the BCCI yesterday; following the Supreme Courts decision to allow a special general meeting.
It is far from a surprising outcome, and represents a tremendous fall from grace for the man who helped turn the IPL in to arguably crickets biggest competition.
Modi’s story is one which not only shows the tremendous riches the IPL has come to offer, but also the dirty side of the tournament and the sport.
Once described by Ravi Shastri as a cricketing “Moses”, Modi helped propel the IPL in to a multi billion pound competition, attracting interest from players and fans from around the world.
Cricketers who might otherwise have had what could be described as ‘average’ domestic careers in their home country became millionaires. A decent showing in competitions such as The Big Bash could transform a players earning power almost instantly; while big name stars stood to earn even more, even in the twilight of their careers.
Sponsorship and TV deals were worth $2billion even in the leagues infancy, as teams play in packed stadiums with a ‘razzmatazz’ rarely seen in the sport.
Whilst Modi’s drive and entrepreneurial skills helped the IPL hit these dizzy heights (and maintain them in many ways), his less desirable qualities made him many enemies and the lengthy leash the BCCI had once afforded him was ultimately used to hang him this week; dismissing him under the pretence that “Mr. Lalit Modi is guilty of committing acts of serious misconduct and indiscipline”.
Some of the darker aspects of the IPL probably won’t shock those with even a minor knowledge of the tournament, or even sport in general. With such large sums of money at stake, ‘questionable’ actions and suspicion seemed to be at every turn. Franchises appearing to go to ‘preferred partners’ of Modi or the BCCI (i.e. friends of Modi or the BCCI…), the relocation of the 2009 IPL to South Africa, rule changes which seemed to come about with alarming frequency and even some shady tactics to ensure certain players were signed by certain teams (see Andrew Flintoff to Chennai for a notable example).
Aside from the internal issues the IPL has brought to Indian cricket, the league has also helped popularise Twenty 20 cricket around the world – which is its own double edged sword as national boards and domestic clubs battle to retain their players in the face of increasingly lucrative deals in not only the IPL but also other T20 competitions that seek to match the formula.
Nottinghamshire’s Alex Hales, one of the top ranked 20 over batsmen in the world, would be a hot commodity in the IPL likely to go for thousands or perhaps millions at auction. Would/could Notts stand in the way of a young man making a significant amount of money in what is a finite career? Do they want to stand in Hales way?
Whilst losing Hales in May/June is far from ideal given that it is smack bang in the middle of the English domestic season, he’s hardly lit up the Championship for Notts this season and thus a few weeks of not paying Hales whilst he earns his crust in the IPL might actually be an attractive option…
Hales is just one example of a player, and a county, that has a potentially tricky situation to manage. Other teams and other players will undoubtedly have to make a similar decisions for as long as these large sums of money are being splashed around. Would Somerset want to release Jos Buttler? Would the ECB and Surrey be happy for Kevin Pietersen to play in the IPL again?
One suspects some kind of agreement would be made with a player like Pietersen in the name of ‘the greater good’; because you only need look to the West Indies to see the problems that can come about when the lure of Twenty20 takes priority.
The West Indies has produced a number of top 20 over performers, led by Chris Gayle, but the men from the Caribbean are a shadow of their former dominant selves on the international stage when you move in to longer formats of the game.
And there in lies the other issue – as T20 cricket grows, and spends greater and greater sums on players with increasingly questionable talents, what is the long term impact?
For all its money, the IPL is still a domestic tournament of, sometimes, questionable quality. Whilst the stars like Dhoni, Gayle and Steyn oft shine some of their team mates can leave a lot to be desired. A criticism you could levy at any domestic competition of a similar ilk. But when that becomes a bigger draw than Test cricket, which should be the games pinnacle, it worries me.
A player like Glenn Maxwell could retire a very wealthy man without playing more than a handful of Tests for Australia. And something about that sits very uneasily with me.