IPL and the Commodification of Sport

The Indian Premier League represents the pinnacle of commercialism and commodification of sport. Honestly, no other stunt has been so exclusively focused on making money. I’m not against making money, but I am against destroying the tradition upon the sport is built and in the process destroying the sport itself, to make money.

The BCCI, the richest sports body in the world, suddenly announces that it’s going to start a Twenty20 league and forms eight teams(franchises) out of thin air, to be auctioned away to celebrities. Then comes the auction of the players, as if they were comodities to be traded. It beats me how anyone can have any attachment or loyalty to any of these franchises. Well, they may bear the name of your city, or be owned by your favourite film star!

They say it is inspired by the highly successful commercial model of the English Premier League, but the English football league became commodified only in the last 15-20 years and actually people there are now starting to realize and retaliate against its harmful effects like the alienation of fans from the game.

For me what made English football marketable in the first place, was that English football and English football clubs had a magnificent history and tradition of over a century. Besides, England can boast of the biggest and broadest football pyramid, with around 7500 clubs plying their trade. It is that strong base and history which the game has, that gives the Premier League a foundation to be attractive.

Does IPL and its franchises have anything remotely similar to offer? Obviously not. In fact, Twenty20 itself is a new form of cricket. I don’t even like to call it cricket. I know most of the people would say that Twenty20 is exciting and you don’t have to waste five days watching it.

But in my opinion, Cricket is a subtle sport involving some highly specialized and subtle skills, which can never be universally enjoyed, or match the heart stopping drama of football. Well, Twenty20 is aimed at producing drama so that cricket can be made marketable, but in doing so it kills the subtle beauty of cricket- the joy of watching an outswinger miss the edge, off spinners that drift away and then spin into the batsman, majestic cover drives, packed slip cordons…

I’ve been accused of being a purist, but I’m a cricket fan, and slogging away for 20 overs and edging the ball where slips should have been just doesn’t make cricket. If you are a cricket fan as well, I would request you to not watch the IPL.

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