The Indian Premier League began in the year 2008 with a bang. Players from almost every team across the globe participated in it. The league even paved way for a number of budding cricketers from every nook and corner of India. Players' auction became the buzzword in Indian cricket. Slowly the league grew and gained popularity among the locals and NRIs alike. The IPL, along with money, bought stardom and Bollywood with it. Shah Rukh Khan bought the Kolkata franchise and so did business tycoons like Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya. Players of the same team battling against each other and scenes like Ricky Ponting celebrating a wicket with Ishant Sharma grabbed eyeballs.
From cheerleaders to actors performing, the organisers, chiefly the former IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi, left no stone unturned to make the event a full entertainment package. The initial three seasons were the talk of the town. The glitzy show struck people like a bug, but IPL 4, which followed a week after India's World Cup win and was stuffed in an already cramped calendar, took a severe hit. And that was the point from where the IPL started losing its sheen somewhat.
The league's TRP ratings started dipping in the fourth season and were mere 3.9 per cent for the opening week. The story hasn't changed this season, which comes at the back of India's disastrous tours of England and Australia. And when tired players and tired Indian minds sought some rest, IPL came calling.
What has killed the interest even more this season is the indifferent performance of top teams like the defending champions Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore. That has hurt fans' loyalty, which in any case is nothing as compared to the English Premier League (EPL) football, a structure that IPL is based on. Couple that with a tournament duration of almost two months, the sustainability factor for the league becomes even weaker.
Resultantly, gone are the days when producers held the release of their movies until the IPL was over. That's no longer the case now, and the fans are happy to give the long drawn out tournament a miss for their favourite movie stars.
The news that the league's title sponsors DLF are not expected to renew their five-year deal, which ends this season, is sure to give the BCCI an added headache. That decision, according to reports, is largely based on the drop in IPL's television ratings and could make the battle of survival for the cash-rich event even tougher.
Honestly speaking, IPL is not bad for Indian and world cricket. But there is a serious need to fine-tune its duration, which at present is too long for fans' comfort. And while it's quite apparent that franchisee money rules the roost, some consideration towards giving rest to the tired players and spectators will do no harm to the league's evolution in the years to come.