Has the Indian Premier League Lost Its Mojo?

The Indian Premier League is completing a decade this year and we couldn’t help but wonder if the world’s biggest T20 league has begun to lose its zing. Don’t get us wrong; Commercially, the tournament is still one big success with various global companies fighting for it’s digital broadcasting rights. But is it still as big a draw for the fans… and the players?

With the tournament less than a week away, some of the biggest international names, including Ravichandran Ashwin, KL Rahul and Mitchell Marsh have pulled out, while Indian captain Virat Kohli is deemed a doubtful starter.

Here’s taking a look at if the Indian T20 league has started to lose it’s grip on the ‘premier’ in its branding:

Top Choice No More

In a major blow to the tournament, some of the biggest Indian names including Ravichandran Ashwin and KL Rahul have pulled out of the upcoming season of the IPL, while Virat Kohli has been deemed a doubtful starter for his team.

Expected to be one of the big attractions in this edition of the IPL, Kevin Pietersen on 3 February announced that he would not be making the trip to the subcontinent this summer, and that was just the beginning. Subsequently, Australia’s Mitchell Marsh and Mitchell Starc, South Africa’s JP Duminy were all ruled out.

Among the regulars in T20 leagues around the world, the cricketers’ decision to skip the IPL says a thing or two about it’s diminishing lure.

Also Read: Kevin Pietersen Pulls Out of 2017 IPL Auction

Besides, players in the recent past have also been choosing their national team over the IPL. The English Cricket Board has anyway continued to discourage its players from giving up county cricket to play IPL – even cutting the percentage of salaries for each day spent in India. Going back a little, English cricketer Eoin Morgan chose to withdraw from the IPL auction in 2014 in a bid to win a place in the English Test team. In the same edition, Australian wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin too dropped out citing family reasons.

The Aussies though have even received a warning from their former contemporary to avoid the league, keeping injuries and the Champions League in mind. Michael Clarke has spoken out strongly against the players using their rationed 6 weeks off given by Cricket Australia to play the league.

There’s positives, the cash that comes with that. But there’s negatives, the fatigue and lack of rest. You’ve got to sum up what’s best for you. Michael Clarke

Declining Viewership

Headlines have been taken from FirstPost, Times of India, Cricket Country, DNA and Cric Tracker.

Another big indicator of the decline in popularity of the Indian Premier League is the steep fall in the sale of match tickets in 2016. Early on in the tournament last year, it was reported that the sale of tickets ranging from Rs 2,500 to Rs 5,000 were relatively less than the previous years and the once-full stadiums were hardly ever sold out. Even the television ratings for the first week of the league had plummeted, recording the second worst start to any of the editions, reported The Times of India .

Some stated the then recently concluded ICC T20 World Cup as the reason for the fall in viewership. But even the 2011 edition had started just after the World Cup and still witnessed massive viewership.

Controversies

The IPL has always been the bedrock of a number of controversies, including the sacking of its founder Lalit Modi, the on-field shenanigans and of course Shah Rukh Khan’s Wankhede episode. However, two specific incidents seemed to have really blemished its reputation, and hit the fans’ interest in the game.

In 2013, Rajasthan Royals players S Sreesath, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan were banned from cricket for life by the BCCI for being involved in spot-fixing. Subsequently, the Supreme Court-appointed RM Lodha committee suspended Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for a period of two years after their team owners were found guilty of violating the anti-corruption code, and indulging in betting.

After political intervention and a furore by citizens, 13 games were rescheduled out of Maharashtra in 2016 due to the drought issues in the state, once again shifting focus from the game itself.

Also Read: Actor, Politician, Cricketer(?): An Update on Sreesanth’s Life

Divided Loyalties

The two banned teams, RR and CSK, were both tournament favourites. While Super Kings had won the IPL twice with then Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni leading them, Royals had won the inaugural edition with some big international players.

The two teams had a huge fan base that would surely have been divided on who to support post their suspension, thus impacting the tournament. In a poll run by Sports Cafe, 68% of people cited the absence of the two franchises as the reason for the low turnout and fall in TV ratings of the 2016 IPL, thus re-affirming the point.

Will all this have an effect on the league this season round? Will a thrilling season at home and the Champions Trophy in close sight make the fans indifferent towards league cricket?

Or will the Indian Premier League pull off yet another surprise?

We’ll know when Season 10 starts 5 April!

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