ESPN - Star correspondent, Shashank Kishore writes about discord over player and team loyalty, dipping TRPs, scheduling and player mismanagement are few of many issues plaguing the glitzy league.
Five editions into the Indian Premier League and suddenly what was once termed 'Hot property' has suddenly been viewed as a diminishing brand. The reasons for the sudden decline may be a plenty, and most franchisees have done little to take it to the next step.
The very concept of having an 'Icon player' when the league was first conceptualized in 2008 was to ensure the fan base is not diluted. No one could have imagined Kolkata Knight Riders without Sourav Ganguly or Royal Challengers Bangalore without Rahul Dravid.
Three years hence, and the dynamics have shifted into a different zone. From what was initially touted be fan driven, the concept shifted to 'franchisee driven'. The move has perhaps created a bit of discord amongst fans when comes towards loyalty of teams and fanaticism for certain players.
Today when you see fans in Kolkata rooting for Sourav Ganguly, it hardly comes as a surprise. They may still want Kolkata Knight Riders to do well, but nothing can dilute player fanaticism. When the news of Eden Gardens being a sell-out on May 5 for the encounter between PWI and KKR, to see the son of the soil play against their own city, it was obviously going to generate massive interest.
TRPs, which have been down due to various factors like scheduling that has seen double headers on a Tuesday, while only a lone match on a Saturday, could suddenly skyrocket amidst news of gloom and doom for the advertisers. If such is the impact one man from a city of diehard fans can have, wouldn't it have made sense for the IPL management to continue with the 'Icon player' concept?
When Delhi boast of their riches like Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma and Rajat Bhatia or Mumbai having Ajit Agarkar, Ajinkya Rahane and Iqbal Abdullah playing for other franchisees, it is obviously bound to dilute loyalties.
The constant chopping and changing of rules at the helm haven't helped too. Post Lalit Modi's ouster in 2010, rules were bent and turned as per convenience, with only Indian 'capped' players being allowed to take part in the auction, while it wasn't the same for 'uncapped' foreigners. So much for it being the Indian Premier League!
Take the example of Dan Christian, a South Australian who was yet to represent Australia, placed at a base price of 50,000 USD, to go for an astronomical 900,000 USD (18 times his base price!), while Manish Pandey, who was the first Indian to score an IPL century had a signing limit of Rs 30 lakh, having played a maximum played one Ranji season for Karnataka.
To take the argument forward, Saurabh Tiwary, who till then had represented India in 3 ODIs went for an astronomical 1.6 million USD, while Cheteshwar Pujara, who had no limited over appearances and merely 4 Tests, going for 600,000 USD. It wasn't as if the duo had a tremendous start to their careers.
With the concept of having four U-22 players in a side being done away with, teams have resorted to measures which sees young hopefuls being left out of the squads and not allowed to travel with teams due to cost cutting.
Mumbai Indians are yet to feature Dhawal Kulkarni, a promising pace bowler who has been a regular at the India A level, while Kolkata Knight Riders haven't managed to utilize the expertise of Wasim Akram in shaping Jaydev Unadkat, who was considered worthy enough of an India Test cap on a green tinge in South Africa, only to go wicket less. These are just a couple of examples which throw light on how player mismanagement is a serious issue to be addressed by both the governing council and the franchisees.
The issue with Pakistan players is another question which hasn't yielded any clarity. The question of security hasn't even cropped up when you have Pakistan officials in Asad Rauf and Aleem Dar umpiring in matches, Ramiz Raja commentating or former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood playing for KXIP and one of the legends and former skipper Wasim Akram being a bowling coach of one of the franchisees. So the disparity when it comes to the players is very surprising!
For the IPL to regain its value as a brand that it was first touted to be, these issues would have to be tackled head on. For that to happen there has to be a stable administrative head and not a change at the top every year. Only time will tell if these issues will be addressed!