ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Cricket in the Fast Lane

Politics of Speed

In the shift from test matches to one-day and then to Twenty20 formats there has been a profound reworking of the internal biology of cricket. The speeding up has become contingent on redesigning cricket into a "platform" which is now animated by combining hitherto unrelated elements such as businesses, advertising, technology, and even Bollywood.

I would like to thank Rohan D’Souza, Madhav Govind and Benjamin Zachariah for all their encouragement and support. I would also like to thank Dipankar Gupta for his very useful comments. The argument was rehearsed on several occasions at the Centre for Studies in Science Policy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

That the Indian Premier League (IPL) is about cricket cannot be disputed. But to say that it is a cricket tournament before anything else might be seen as embroidering the facts. From its very inception, the IPL was put together as an entertainment package, and within a few years it has also come to be seen as fertile ground for scams ­involving match-fixing, money laundering and corruption in general. Some ­loyalists maintain that such “evils” are extraneous to cricket, and it is possible to cleanse the sport of such influences. But the disturbing regularity with which such scandals emerge appears to suggest that the problem may be something ­other than merely cosmetic. Is it just the IPL that is the cause of such ­instabilities or is there something fundamental that has changed within cricket that makes it susceptible to such ende­mic disruption?

Recently, a television sting operation implicated five cricketers of the IPL in a spot-fixing scandal during the 2011 season. In a slightly older, albeit much-talked about controversy, Lalit Modi – the architect of cricket’s most lucrative money-spinner – was removed from his post for having secret stakes in more than one franchise. Outside the Indian league, two international cricketers were convicted in a spot-fixing case in England, and there have also been reports of the semi-final match between India and Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup being fixed. The magazine Sports Illustrated India reported that allegedly four Pakistani players had been paid to under­perform in the crucial game (Pandit 2011). It is clear that sport is not the only thing that is at stake in a cricket match. With betting, match-fixing, corruption, and politics becoming the new normal, it begs the question of whether what ­appears to be cricket may be a whole ­other phenomenon.

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