The Biggest Threat to IPL is IPL Itself

The 2019 IPL has already hit major roadblocks that threaten to derail it, months before the start of the 12th season

4 min read
MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings returned to the IPL last season and won the league. However, the 2019 edition has already hit major roadblocks, months before the start of the season. 

With the clock ticking and time running out, IPL 2019 faces plenty of challenges already. However, nobody seems to have clarity about which way it is headed, and certainly no answers are available as yet.

Because of elections – likely during IPL time – there is talk about the next edition of IPL being moved overseas, as has happened earlier, hosted by either Dubai or South Africa.

While the IPL battles on several fronts, here is a list of the prominent challenges it is up against.

IPL, a Threat to Itself

Eleven seasons, multiple champions, participation from every big cricket-playing nation, and the Indian Premier League has managed to shape itself into the world’s biggest domestic T20 cricket commodity.

IPL is now a monster in world cricket, threatened as much by itself as external forces.

Over the last decade, the league has grown into an eight-team event with matches being played in the home-away format – that’s 64 games across 8 weeks of action that include not just cricket but crazy travel schedules, sponsor commitments and media sessions. All this needs careful planning and execution with almost no room for error, with teams at times playing two matches in three days.

No room for error because there is big money at stake. Each franchise directly puts in more than Rs 150 crore for owning and operating a team – numbers that one can't sneer at. Add to this, the massive investment of the broadcaster, the rights owners, sponsors and all others who are part of the ecosystem and even the smallest of slips can snowball into the biggest disasters.

A direction this current season, under Rajeev Shukla, will want to steer clear of.

Date Issues: ICC World Cup and General Elections

The one big problem that the IPL is facing this time round is that the dates are boxed in and the tournament can't get rolling before mid-March because of various international team commitments and can’t spill onto June because the ICC World Cup in England starts on 30 May, and teams demand rest before the big-ticket event.

The other major uncertainty for the league are the 2019 election dates which nobody has a clue about. If this big political hungama happens during March-May, the IPL(a 64 game tournament) has a serious matter to deal with.

In this scenario, with security resources deployed for elections, IPL must be on hold or shift locations.

Venue Issue: Move Overseas?

Instead of putting the league on hold, an option – and a last resort– would be to move the IPL overseas. This, however, would make all parties involved take a big hit because hosting the IPL overseas does not make business sense for franchises, their brands, fans, sponsors and broadcasters. Playing abroad is a big cost and low returns proposition which excites nobody.

By shifting the venue, cricket is possible but business goals go for a toss.

Even if the IPL bosses decide to move the league, there is the important issue of ‘where’ that needs to be addressed.

UAE/Dubai could be possible venues but their stadiums are cricket saturated with the Asia Cup, Pakistan tests, the Afghan league, the T10 tournament, the UAE league and also PSL played on the pitches just this year. It will be difficult to load the IPL into all this clutter.

South Africa in another destination but this will be big on costs and too far which means the time zone will not be the best for the broadcaster who has staked a fortune based on television viewership in India.

Split IPL: Partly in India, Partly Abroad?

Another option for the organisers is to host part of the tournament in India and the other half abroad. However, that is not an attractive answer because of logistics and operations complications. Also, there is the matter of momentum. A marathon runner won't pause five minutes in the middle of his 42 km run. Likewise, it is not easy for IPL to retain interest if forced to take a technical/operations break midway during the league.

Players Speaking Out on Workload

Indian captain Virat Kohli wants his fast bowlers to rest, skip the IPL and remain fresh for the World Cup.

This does not work for team owners who decided their squads and strategies around key bowlers. Pulling them out from the entire season, when no able replacements are available, is a body blow franchises can't take.

A counter argument is: why just rest fast bowlers, why not bench top batsmen too?

Let them also rest for the two months so as to ensure they are ready, free from injury and fatigue, spared the grind of 14 matches in 50 days!

Noise From Foreign Cricket Boards

The 2019 IPL final is scheduled for 19 May. But with the ICC World Cup starting on 30 May, foreign boards want their players back early to practise and prepare.

Australia and England have imposed date cut-offs which eat into IPL time because of which teams will need to find replacements going into the business end of the league.

Note: The IPL has a sweet deal arrangement with foreign boards to ensure player availability. Under a standard arrangement, 20 percent of the player’s fee is given to the country ‘releasing’ its player.

BCCI Governance Vacuum

The timing of this ‘big IPL challenge’ could not have come at a worse time because of the BCCI's own ongoing problems.

A strong BCCI would have found a way to navigate through the crisis but currently it is a body without 'control', struggling with Supreme Court orders, an internal investigation into its CEO, making arrangements for the Indian team and also for player's wives on foreign trips.

Given this turmoil, it is understandable that the IPL recedes into the background. More so when BCCI committees and the IPL Governing Council are dysfunctional.

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