18 April 2024 last updated at 15:13 GMT
LKM Blogs
IPL needs to demonstrate sensitivity and solidarity
Lalit K Modi

Like any patriotic Indian, I am as pained as anyone else looking at the current scenario prevailing in the country surrounding the dreaded Covid19 pandemic.

My heart goes out to families who have lost their loved ones and friends in this second wave, which has hit the country like a tornado. There is nothing really to cheer the country up in these dire times as lots of precious lives are lost to this dreaded virus.

In this context, the IPL is taking place in a supposedly secure bio-bubble that keeps the stakeholders safe and sound. In my view, the IPL must go on, as there is no other way around it.

The false equivalence that critics seem to draw each time IPL comes around for every issue that engulfs the country is simply not done. IPL seems to be everyone's favourite punching bag annually.

IPL is no longer about the stars slogging it out on the field. It is now an industry, an ecosystem that spans various sectors, including hospitality, cricketers, physios, trainers, masseurs, logistic staff, event managers, travel and tourism, groundsmen and many many more. Some domestic cricketers make their significant earning through the IPL in these six-eight weeks, which takes care of almost that entire year's earnings for them.

The livelihood of many people is attached to this league; let us not snatch that way.

But I agree that it is time for us to show that cricket cares, IPL cares, and BCCI care. When history is written of this particular phase, it will be documented that India's cricketers and the ecosystem were mute spectators when a pandemic ravaged the land of Buddha and Gandhi.

These great men showed us that we need not live in fear but in eternal hope and faith. In the spirit of backing every Indian life, we need to show solidarity with the rest of the country.

Hence the current BCCI /IPL set-up needs to move fast at a break-neck speed to get a few things off the ground immediately. Remember 2009? When IPL could not be staged in India, we moved it to South Africa in just two days. That is when I got the moniker of being a man of action. The longer you take, the more difficult it gets for things to move forward.

We could have easily pointed fingers and spoken about what forced our hand in 2009, but really there is no point in blaming anyone. Just like there is no way we need to be shaming anyone. Instead, as a country, we need to wait for this dreaded phase to end. 

Ideally, this edition of the IPL should have been staged in Mumbai, which has three stadiums in Wankhede, Brabourne and DY Patil. Then there is also the Pune stadium which is quite close.  That would have ensured no air travel, minimum movement of personnel and significantly fewer resources being utilised.

But Mumbai was being ravaged by the second wave, and hence a plan was made to play it six centers. This plan of having two centers staging simultaneously was perfect, but I still feel the number of venues should have been limited to just four.

What is hurting the Indian cricket set-up is the image that has been wrongly cultivated that they don't care! The bells and whistles around the games, the loud music, the fan corner, or whatever it is that plays on the sidelines. All that makes it sound as if the cricket ecosystem is tone-deaf.

This is where I think the BCCI should step forward and show it cares.

The BCCI should pledge to give 10% at least of its IPL earnings over the last two years for covid victims and rehabilitation of the families who have lost their breadwinners. It is the fans who have made the game of cricket so big in India. This is the time to react and give back to the nation. The IPL sponsorships from 2020 and 2021 alone are close to 1100 crores --- 10% of that is 110 crores. Imagine the difference that money can make for the rehabilitation and treatment of patients.

I have already seen a few cricketers step forward and donate their earnings to helping with oxygen supply to the needy. But more of the lot must voluntarily step forward.

Cricketers are the sweethearts of this nation, along with the Bollywood actors. And it is time for them to give out the right message to uplift or, if not uplift, at least come or put a shoulder around the wounds of those affected by the virus.  They can even do this by way of showing solidarity. They can express concern; money isn't everything. Even a kind word can heal a broken heart in these times.

Messaging from cricketers about the need to be precise and clear:

·       Wear Masks

·       Washing hands

·       Maintaining social distancing

In fact, I would ask captains to walk out to toss with their masks on because it will send out a message to billions to idolize them in everyday life.  Instead of one of the sponsor logos, I would get players to wear badges on jerseys requesting people to get vaccinated. It will get more people to get the vaccination and clear all myths and false propaganda against it. 

I would also immediately get rid of all the bells and whistles surrounding the game because it is simply insensitive to have that in these challenging times. In fact, before every match, the players should observe a minute's silence because that is the best way to pay homage to the departed souls.

The IPL is all about indulgence at times. Therefore, it is a bit jarring to see money being distributed at post-match ceremonies with various sponsors splurging money on multiple performances. I would immediately stop that display of extravagance because, at these times, when the people are struggling to make ends meet, this is simply avoidable. Just have the captains interviewed and get it done with.

Now matches are being staged in Delhi, which simply shouldn't have been allowed. When a city is gasping for breath and bodies are lying in a queue to be cremated. It simply does not behove us to celebrate cricket in these times. I would have moved the games out of Delhi and taken them to cities with negligible covid cases. I am pretty confident that IPL continues to have Plan A, B, C and even D. That certainly was my template and I am sure that it is still being followed. So this could quickly have been done.

Remember hosting a game results in police, government agencies, ambulances, etc., also being pressed into service. When the country struggles to keep pace with the demands of the public at large, the IPL needs to be sensitive about how they marry the two.  

The NBA's shortened 2020 season in the Orlando "bubble" showed that businesses with strict testing and safety protocols can operate in the pandemic.

I don't wish to make public what I am myself doing about it.  Joy, as they say, is doing good on the sly. I will leave it at that.


Follow my thoughts on IPL 2021 through my Twitter account @lalitkmodi

ICC lacks strong leadership in current times: ex-CEO Lorgat
The former ICC boss said barring Khawaja's peace slogans on shoes showed ICC lacked consistency in applying its rules
Waugh warns cricket boards for ignoring Test cricket
Australia Great Warns ICC, BCCI Over 'Irrelevant Legacy'