Indian Premier League (IPL) is turning out to be Indian Problem League for Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Barring the unveiling season of 2008, there has always been some or the other issue that has constantly hurt IPL's image and with it Indian cricket. The latest to that list is Sahara Group's pullout from Pune Warriors team.
With less than two months for the start of its fifth edition in Chennai, BCCI is busy trying to talk Sahara into a compromise. This is not the only problem which has hit IPL. The banned Kochi Tuskers Kerala outfit's owners are going to court for re-installing their team.
Not only are the off field issues bothering the Indian fans but also high number of matches are resulting in waning interests.
This year's IPL will have to provide right answers to a lot of questions. The year 2012 might turn out to be a critical one for brand IPL and BCCI. If it fails to rise in popularity stakes, it might have a bleak future ahead.
Already there are signs of sponsors turning their backs towards the Twenty20 circus. For the first time in five years, we will have 76 matches from April 4 to May 27 with nine teams, one less from the previous year.
When the IPL began in Bangalore in 2008 with great fanfare, it rolled on for 59 games with eight teams. The same set of matches were in 2009 (8 teams). The second year had to be moved to South Africa after the dates clashed with general elections in the country and concerns over security of players. There too a controversy erupted when Cricket South Africa CEO Gerald Majola was accused of receiving huge IPL bonuses.
IPL 2010 will forever be remembered for Lalit Modi, the brain behind the league. With the league announcing two new teams into the family, one of Modi's tweets relating to ownership of Kochi not only landed him in trouble but also the then minister of state for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, who had to quit the ministry.
Modi, the chairman and commissioner of IPL, was sacked minutes after the 2010 final. Since then he has been involved with BCCI in legal battles and has stayed away from India.
The same year, BCCI decided to terminate Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab contracts for violating ownership rules. However, a court ruling had both teams continuing in 2011.
In 2012, Kochi controversy hit IPL. Kochi's was terminated from the league for breaching terms of agreement.
Due to lack of transparency in the BCCI, Indian cricket is never bereft of controversies. The latest jolt from Sahara Group will dent IPL's image further. The costs of running teams and buying are so high that one wonders who apart from BCCI is profitting.
There was a major drop in viewership last year but that was attributed to IPL starting just after the World Cup and dismissed as overdose of the sport. It is bound to happen.
IPL 5 might decide how the brand will progress in future. The fans might not embrace the product as they had did in 2008 when the novelty factor was associated with it. Indian team's pathetic performance in Australia will also have an impact on viewership.
If 2012 edition doesn't fill the BCCI's coffers as it did earlier, IPL might have to re-invent itself in a new avtar. And whenever India fares badly in a series, the finger is always pointed towards IPL riches ruining the players. IPL might be the root cause of the Test team reaching its lowest ebb and if this format continues to thrive then the team will struggle to find 11 good Test cricketers.
It is now time to wait and watch where IPL is headed towards.