Dubai: A few days back, I came across a study by a corporate finance firm that in case of the Indian Premier League (IPL) being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic this year, it’s brand value is expected to fall by around 10-15%. In more tangible terms, it would be anywhere between $ 700 million and $ 1000 million - said the agency - which had valued the league at a staggering $6.8 billion last year.
There had been some serious number-crunching from other quarters as to how much the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), Star Sports or the players stand to lose if this cash-rich league - which had certainly changed the landscape of cricket over the last decade - fail to take place at least in some shape or form. All these, with due apologies to all the IPL junkies around the world (I myself being one), makes me wonder: do we really have to be that desperate to have the season this year?
Yes, the Indian cricket board manadrins admit off the record that it would put them in a bit of spot as the league had been their biggest moneyspinner for the last decade - while they also have to cough up a huge compensation to one of the defunct franchises in the league who had moved court against illegal termination of their franchise contract. Ever since the BCCI had postponed the IPL till April 15 (the day after the India-wide lockdown ends), there has been no improvement in the situation on the ground as the country has seen an exponential growth in the number of COVID-19 cases from virtually single digits in early May to creeping up past the 4000-mark now.
There is no guarantee that the dreaded graph of coronavirus cases will not show a spike like some of the worst-affected countries and even if it does not, will the country be really in a mood for the IPL now? From the way Lalit Modi & co had devised the template of this cash-rich league, it had always succeeded in creating an atmosphere of joie de vivre at the venues with the DJs, cheerleaders or the so-called Fan Parks in cities which don’t get to host any of the matches - ingredients which are impossible to replicate if matches are played behind closed doors or with no foreign stars.n
During it’s 12-year plus long journey, the IPL has weathered many a storm like strong charges of corruption, farmers’ protests over drought as well as logistical issues when the event had to be taken out of the country due to Parliamentary elections. Nothing, however, came anywhere close to the current crisis - which has seen all the marquee sporting events of the world in the first half of the year being called off or postponed.
If the Summer Olympics, Euro 2020, Wimbledon (not to speak of the routine Tour events), golf majors and of course - international cricket can be postponed - then IPL also needs to take a long, hard look at itself rather than swallowing the bitter pill at the end. A number of the top cricketers (Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina) have also gone on record that the priority is now to save lives - and cricket can come later.
It’s not an easy decision for the BCCI, and we can only wait and watch!