The slog overs are still on, but the final scorecard could tell on the future prestige and legitimacy of one of the biggest sporting events to come out of India, the prized IPL brand. And beyond that, the very architecture of cricket commerce is at stake—and it involves the biggest stakeholder in world cricket today, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), specifically, its business ethics. The flashpoint is by now well-known: the unavailability of Pune IPL’s star player Yuvraj Singh, who is undergoing treatment for cancer in the US, for this year’s tournament. Sahara, owners of Pune Warriors, requested for a replacement, but were turned down by the IPL. An angry Subroto Roy, the industrialist-owner of the Pune team, snapped Sahara’s 11-year-old sponsorship of the Indian team and also pulled out of the Pune franchise, saying the IPL didn’t provide “equality” and a “level playing field”. BCCI bosses have gone into a huddle with Roy to renegotiate the deal, but Roy has some justification in taking the morally injured tone: he accuses the BCCI of denying to his team concessions freely made to others. And that’s only part of the story.
Sahara spent $370 million (Rs 1,700 crore) to buy the Pune franchise; it spends Rs 3.4 crore for every Test, one-day or T20 match played by India. It says Pune and the other small teams in IPL—Jaipur, Mohali, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata—are routinely meted out step-motherly treatment while the big boys (Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai) call the shots and tweak rules to suit their needs. In principle, all IPL teams are equal. But the smaller teams say the real rules are quite simple—it will bend before power and crawl before absolute power.