Page last updated at 02:59 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Back to the drawing board for IPL

By Gulu Ezekiel
Delhi, India

The decision to shift the second season of the Indian Premier League from its home base to either England or South Africa has further clipped the wings of the IPL tsar Lalit Kumar Modi, the man with aspirations to rule the cricket world.

Lalit Modi
Matches will be screened at prime time for Indian audiences, Mr Modi says

Mr Modi is credited with conceptualising cricket's first franchise-based Twenty20 club cricket tournament - though it was preceded a few months earlier by the "rebel" Indian Cricket League, launched in late 2007 by Indian media magnate Subhash Chandra Goyal.

Mr Modi is one of the senior officials of the Indian cricket board, however, it is as the IPL chairman and commissioner that he carries real clout.

The inaugural IPL season last year was a massive financial success with the eight city-based franchise teams cashing in on the enormous television audience.

Legal wrangle

However, the IPL is currently involved in a court battle with broadcaster Sony Entertainment Television India (now known as Multi Screen Media Pvt Ltd) over the telecast for the second season.

With barely three weeks to go to the start of the second season, this legal wrangle may still come as a party pooper.

The constant tinkering with dates and venues due to the tournament's clash with India's general election finally took its toll and, rather than cancel the multi-billion dollar enterprise, the decision was taken to shift it out of India.

The security scenario has come back to haunt the Indian cricket board and IPL

Though he had anticipated such problems when he announced the dates (10 April - 24 May) last month, Mr Modi was adamant they were fixed when he was first informed about the home ministry's concerns about the deployment of security forces to guard both the politicians and the cricketers.

"The dates are set in stone" is how he put it over the phone from Macau where he was holidaying when contacted by a TV news channel.

That was hardly the case, as subsequent events proved, and three times the IPL was forced to change the dates under pressure from various state governments and the home ministry.

Further pressure

Even then, security clearance was being withheld and this is when Mr Modi realised that following the attacks on Sri Lankan cricketers by Islamic militants in the Pakistani city of Lahore on 3 March there was no way he could guarantee security for his pet project.

Just 24 hours before the announcement of the shift in venue, when asked if South Africa could be an alternative host, Mr Modi had responded: "There is absolutely no truth in this."

Plans for a Twenty20 Champions League, consisting of the top two state sides from around the cricket world, were scrapped last December following the terror attacks in Mumbai last November.

Co-owner of the Bangalore Royal Challengers, Vijay Mallya, and Lalit Kumar
IPL investor Vijay Mallya (left) shared in the success of the 2008 season

Now the security scenario has come back to haunt the Indian cricket board and IPL.

There was further pressure on them because the government is gearing up to host the Commonwealth Games in Delhi next year for the first time.

This is the biggest multi-sport event to be staged in India since the 1982 Asian Games and it was felt that any untoward incident during the IPL would jeopardise the Commonwealth Games.

The entire concept of the IPL was devised round eight major cities in India and building loyalty to their franchises which it was hoped would translate into big bucks for the owners.

Unlike football, world cricket had centred around national rather than club loyalties. The IPL sought to change that equation.

But the Kolkata Knight Riders being based in Johannesburg or the Mumbai Indians staging their games in Manchester means that experiment now lies in tatters, and it is back to the drawing board for the IPL and its brains-trust.

England appear to be the frontrunner to host the tournament as Australia's current tour of South Africa runs till 17 April.

If the IPL does shift to England, it will be a notable triumph for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

Gulu Ezekiel is a freelance sports journalist and author based in Delhi.

Your comments:

I don't quite see what the disappointment is about. With the state of our transport infrastructure, I for one am happy that the mass flow of people due to an event of this size can be avoided. This will prevent the hardship caused to the many lower middle class people who depend on the same infrastructure to get on with their jobs regardless of where IPL plays.
Shahid Nabib, Bangalore, India

IPL schedule were published last year, why elections will have to be held during IPL. IPL has given India more creditability through out the world than Indian election could ever give. Take referendum in India which schedule should be changed, Cricket schedule or Election schedule? The cricket will be the over whelming winner.
Siraj Vora, London, UK

Spare a thought for all the locals at 8 Indian cities who will loose good money due to this. For at least 8 English or South African districts, their resident and small businesses this will generate welcome revenue. Please enjoy this early Christmas gift from India.
Jeet, Bangalore, India

I am a die-hard fan of IPL. I would have loved to watch the RC playing in Bangalore and be part of it. Postponing the IPL and playing still in India with available Indian and foreign players would have be best option. Election is important, I would not like people sit and watch cricket leading to situation where they do not take active part in election process of the worlds largest democracy. So election first priority and play in India next. I really do not welcome the decision to play outside India.
Vinayak, Bangalore

The decision to stag IPL matches outside India may have been painful for organizers as well as millions of fans here. But the decision is right. The security of the players & fans is paramount. I would also like to add that the security environment in India is hundred times better than that of pakistan but then why to take risk? We have elections here at the same time which would have added more pressure on the security agencies here. Good decision. I would be happy if the tournament is held in UK as it also has great fans & great people there.
Prayaag P., India

The Indian government has taken a wrong step in showing that India is not safe too, which is not true. Whether this decision has been taken to deny people from getting attracted to cricket rather than elections is a big question? The efficiency of the Indian government in providing a safe country for its citizens is doubtful now after this event…
Raj Kumar,Mumbai, India

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