Why IPL keeps failing people (Just like Why nations fail?)

It is amazing how IPL bandwagon keeps rolling despite new crisis every year. IPL itself leads to many interesting economic lessons (like auctions, game theory, portfolio management etc. I have written few pieces on both – previous crisis in IPL and applying economic lessons to IPL (and vice-versa).

However time has come now to set things really right. The recent spot fixing crisis is just a microcosm of things happening in IPL. Overall, it once again shows the importance of getting the institutional framework right. Without proper institutional checks and balances, IPL is likely to continue to disappoint people.

Drawing from the book Why nations fail, one can ask why does IPL remain in crisis/controversy? The reason in both cases is same – politics..

Come to think of it. Politics has ruined most sports in India with the huge interference. However, cricket continues to thrive despite equal (perhaps more) political interference. Why should this be? The reason is political system allows cricket to flourish (in terms of money) and dont care much about other sports.

Most say cricket’s love affair with Indian fan started when India won the World Cup in 1983 followed by Champions Trophy in 1985. This laid the foundation for things to come. Indians which did not have any major sport to follow post hockey’s decline took to cricket in a frenzy. This was quickly followed by hosting world cup in India in 1987 (followed by Nehru Cup) and Indian fan was completely taken in. Then came Tendulkar and rest as they say is history.  There were some serious concerns in match fixing in 1999 or so but Indian fan never really deserted Cricket. The 2000s was a golden era as Indian team became a much better competitor abroad with some away series wins as well.

All this while the political class has been amazed and thankful to Indian fan. Cricket has become a way for political class to show both their power and influence. Most cricket associations in India are headed by politicos with most of them never having picked a bat or a ball in their lives. BCCI too is headed by politicians. I keep wondering that when the government tries to control all it can, it has left BCCI to be run as a private association? Indian cricket system is an interesting jigsaw puzzle with cricket associations at State level and a private cricket body at national level. Experts have pointed that Indian cricket team does not really represent India technically but BCCI!!

All this shows in IPL too and at a much bigger scale. Experts have raised many a questions over ownership structure of various teams, contracts between players and teams, fixing of matches etc etc. But nothing much happens. 

The reason is simple. When the money is so good, why spoil the party?

The recent spot fixing crisis shows how deep the chain is with many  parties and agents involved in betting and fixing matches. Stakes are so high. One would think we would have some laws after the 2000 crisis but there is hardly anything till date. All we get are empty statements on what they plan to do.

Why can’t we run India’s cricket in a professional manner? Why do people who have never played cricket continue to run the show?

The answer as WNF says is – It is all about politics stupid. The politicians continue to treat cricket as a cash cow and institutions around cricket are just extractive in nature. The whole idea is to make as much money as possible via rent-seeking and corruptible ways.

A bigger surprise is Indian fans continued following of cricket. The fans have crowded the stadiums like never before despite recent spot fixing crisis. This makes the system even more complacent and people say look nothing is wrong as demand for cricket remains as strong as ever. The real changes will only begin when people take things in hands and start demanding overhaul of the way cricket is run in this country. Barring a few players whom revolt once a while against the system, there is not much hue and cry from the Indian fan.

In a way, it is much like the extractive regimes which continued as long as people tolerated the systems. The change only came when people said enough is enough and challenged the system. There are very few instances when political class has changed things for the better without people demanding it.

But then Indian fan represents much of the Indian middle class which is amazingly tolerable. The state continues to fail and deliver on most basic human facilities, but the middle class continues to tolerate and move on…

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