This month, the new Indian Premier League franchises to replace the suspended Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals will be decided, with nine cities shortlisted by the BCCI.
Chennai and Rajasthan were banned for two years after a probe into illegal betting and match fixing. They join the Deccan Chargers and the Pune Warriors on the IPL scrapheap – albeit temporarily.
It’s another chapter of the IPL soap opera, known for its controversy and corruption as much as sparking the Twenty20 revolution.
When the IPL started in 2008, Twenty20 cricket was slowly growing. The first Twenty20 international – between New Zealand and Australia in 2005 – had a festive atmosphere, with the Black Caps in beige and Glenn McGrath jokingly recreating the underarm delivery.
The IPL transformed Twenty20 into a serious format. Originally designed to compete with the rebel Indian Cricket League, big money was thrown around, with the franchise auction reaping US$723.59 million.
Shane Warne led the Royals to the first IPL title over Chennai. Over three millions fans attended the 59 matches. Played from April to June 2008, the tournament attracted current Test stars from India, Australia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies.
Who could blame the players for wanting to be involved in this exciting new competition? MS Dohni earned $1.5 million at the players auction and the cheapest player – Sri Lanka’s Chamara Silva – netted $100,000. Not bad for three months work. It created a new style of cricketer: the freelance Twenty20 player, competing in the various global tournaments.
Australia (Big Bash League), Bangladesh (Bangladesh Premier League), England (NatWest t20 Blast), Ireland (Inter-Provincial Trophy), Nepal (Nepal Premier League), Netherlands/Scotland (North Sea Pro Series), New Zealand (HRV Cup), Pakistan (Faysal Bank T20 Cup), South Africa (Ram Slam T20 Challenge), Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka Premier League), West Indies (Caribbean Premier League) and Zimbabwe (Stanbic Bank 20 Series) currently have Twenty20 tournaments, with Kenya (2008, 2011-13), Canada (2008, 2012-13), USA (2011, 2014) and Afghanistan (2013-14) previously involved.
The IPL’s goodwill wouldn’t last though.
After the 2010 tournament finished, IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi was suspended by the BCCI on 22 charges and was banned for life in 2013.
The 2011 IPL was expanded to 10 teams: Pune Warriors India and the Kochi Tuskers Kerala joined the original eight franchises, with Chennai beating RCB in the final, defending their 2010 title. The Tuskers won six games (finishing eighth overall) before being dropped for financial issues.
The 2012 season saw five cricketers banned due to spot fixing. Deccan’s TP Sudhindra (life ban), Kings XI’s Shalabh Srivastava (five years) and Amit Yadav (one year), Pune’s Mohnish Mishra (one year) and the uncontracted Abhinav Bali (one year), were all caught by a sting operation run by India TV. Some of the players also received “black money” from the franchises’ owners.
More controversy came in 2013, with Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan arrested for spot-fixing. The drama was exacerbated when Vindu Dara Singh and Gurunath Meiyappan were arrested for having links to bookies.
Despite the match fixing dramas, the IPL continues to attract elite cricketers. In this year’s tournament, David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad), AB De Villiers and Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore) were among the top five run scorers, while Mitchell Starc (RCB) took 20 wickets. Warner and Starc were joined by Steve Smith, Shane Watson, James Faulkner (Rajasthan), George Bailey, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson (Kings XI Punjab), Aaron Finch (Mumbai), Moises Henriques (Sunrisers), Sean Abbott (RCB) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (Delhi Daredevils).
The IPL’s ability to still attract elite cricketers after all the controversy shows that it can survive the Chennai and Rajasthan expulsions.