Lashing out at Indian Premier League for using “cricket as an instrument of business”, Sports Minister MS Gill has accused the BCCI of changing the rules of the game to allow the cash-awash Twenty20 league run a commercial venture.
Gill said the rules of cricket had been changed by the IPL, and acquiesced by the BCCI, by way of giving batsman advantage over bowlers to promote entertainment, allowing mongoose bat and shortening boundaries, all to earn profit.
“What the IPL is doing, the bowler is only the victim and the bat — now you have a mongoose bat (and) I look forward to a cobra bat. The boundaries have been shortened … the whole thing is to entertain the masses. And the bowler is just an instrument for this promotion. IPL is fundamentally business…” Gill said in TV show.
“Its focus is earning money. Now two new teams have been bought and one of the gentlemen who has bought … said look this is business, we bought it for business and our job is to earn from it. Cricket is an instrument of business,” he added.
The minister dared to touch upon the controversial issue of some IPL stakeholders holding powerful posts in the BCCI and said those involved in the Twenty20 league should not be part of the Board to avoid conflict of interest.
“… those who control the game, that is BCCI, they have a direct interest as owners of teams, as people who have a direct benefit from it and this is something very dangerous. What I have noticed, and I am sure everybody else has, (that) major office bearers are on both sides,” Gill said.
“Those who are to make rules for everyone, for all aspects of the game and keeping in view the interest of the game and the country and the long term, have to be totally apart from being involved in IPL in any way,” he said.
“Obviously I think so,” he added when asked whether there was any conflict of interest with BCCI members on both sides of the Board and IPL.
Gill said the IPL was not only detrimental to the health of other longer formats of the game but it has also damaged the sportsmanship of the cricketers and their urge to play for the country.
“… the five-day Test is under challenge and you see nobody turns up for it, crowds have already been moved away. Even the 50-over is reduced to T20 and I sometimes say jokingly that we’ll go to T5 and then T1 and then half an over,” he said.
“Even the seasons have been changed. Now this (IPL) has to be accommodated. And today I find that they are concerned will India in the Twenty20 World Cup have any role? People will not be that keen to play for the national team, as they will be for a commercial team. Certainly, Test cricket and India’s position in it will be affected,” Gill said.
“Sportsmanship in what way I can’t say but the fact of the matter is the attitude, the mental attitude of the players is obviously modified by the requirements and by the enticements of the game,” he said.
Gill felt that the huge sums of money cricket attracts and its skewed coverage in the media has retarded the development of other sports.
“… There is something happening which is adverse to the rest of them (other sports). Most of newspapers or even the television channels, they give three pages of the newspaper or most of the time to cricket, cricket, cricket. Hockey mein do anything, football mein do anything … they don’t get a word. And whether you have a World Cup going on here of hockey or anything (there’s no coverage),” he said.
The sad part, he said, was that cricketers got favourable treatment from even the committee which decides on Arjuna Awards by disregarding his nomination of Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Sushil Kumar while awarding three cricketers the honour.
“I am not happy at that (Sushil not getting Arjuna Award)… we recommended him. We have also a so-called technical expertise to make that judgement. But I am sorry though I have represented but the committees that select in the other ministry they take names direct and we are not even consulted or our view taken, which, I think, is wrong. They must take our view. They can’t reject our view,” he said.
Gill was also not happy with state governments jostling to announce financial rewards to cricketers and not to other sportspersons.
“I do feel sad about this and I do expect public authorities, elected authorities in states or anywhere, to be more responsive to a fair treatment of Indian sportsmen and Indian people,” he said when reminded about indifferent treatment by Karnataka government on world billiard and snooker champion Pankaj Advani.
The minister said given the huge amount of money the BCCI has got it should contribute to the development of other sports in a big way.
“I don’t know if there should be a requirement (to set aside a fixed percentage of its funds to assist other sports). You are asking for a Government regulation that’s something I wouldn’t off-hand say. They are giving us some money but not of a large amount considering what they have and what they could give. I would like them to contribute much more,” Gill said.
“I would also like Indian business … to show greater charity … they could all take up one game each. For them to say I will spend 20 crores a year and 10 crores is no big deal. I am making a request (here) and like it or not they are going to do it. They’ve got lots of surpluses and I don’t want to name anyone. Why don’t they now loosen their purse and take Indian sport up because they also need to build their image by us winning gold medals,” he added.
Gill was against reduction or exemption of entertainment tax for IPL and said state governments should not succumb to the pressure.
He said rather the Twenty20 league should pay the government money for using the police and other security apparatus.
“I am very clear on that. This is a poor country. There is a huge deficit in the budget even this year … when business is earning it in the shape of these teams and whatever the structure, I think the legitimate tax should be taken and should be used for the country maybe even for sports, other sports.
“We had a group of ministers messting two days ago for the Commonwealth Games and naturally these kind of discussions (about entertainment tax) came up and the group was all for what I am saying.
“They should pay the police. I know the British system and you know it that even if there is a personal security problem, they charge you if you want a special constable. Now this is all of the police in 30 cities for two months and they are going to keep on making it longer and longer and (the police) is involved only in the stadium. The city is unguarded or less guarded. I think they should pay for it, so that the police can manage,” he said.
Gill was also not happy that Pakistani players were not bought by any IPL franchise during the IPL auction in January.
“It is unfortunate that it happened. And I like to see all players who can play playing. But what are the reasons I really don’t know.”