Such is the dominion of the Indian Premier League over world cricket that it will become whatever it wants to become. It is the master of its own fate.
So the league’s administrators, just days before this year’s IPL auction—an auction in which the league appeared to be growing up and getting serious—continued to deal with scandal with no solemnity. It's most concerning, though, not at all surprising.
This time around, it was the turn of former IPL commissioner Rajeev Shukla to channel his inner Orwell as he failed to even acknowledge to Outlook's Suresh Menon the serious concerns raised by the much-awaited report into corruption in the IPL. He instead focused on the fact that he was glad the auction had not been postponed.
Admittedly, the issue of corruption in the IPL is somewhat of a red herring. For it can safely be said, thanks largely to the brilliant simplicity of it as a product that it experiences relative popularity impunity from scandal and crisis. Corruption can hit, and the people will still come. This is the tragedy and romance of fandom.
But crucial to this situation is the function of the IPL in Indian society. Right now, its function, or reason for existence, as a night of family fun amalgamating cricket and Bollywood, diminishes the correlation between propriety and viewing figures.
For many people there is a feeling that as long as the IPL remains nothing more than a glitzy two-month festival of cricket and Bollywood, then it can—to an extent—get away with wrongdoing and misconduct. Indeed, last year’s final was still a sell-out despite it occurring at the zenith of the scandalous furore of spot-fixing and corruption.
If you knew the sport you loved was corrupt, would you...
However, to make the assumption that the IPL will always exist in its current guise would be ill-advised.
Evolution, growth and progression are only natural. Time will look favourably on the Twenty20 format. Domestic leagues appear to be the future of the sport. The image of the IPL as a gimmick is receding and will only continue to do so. As cricket becomes more serious, the significance of the IPL’s integrity and probity will too.
Right now, the IPL's relationship with its fans and advertisers is too young for corruption to significantly derail its progress as a brand and a product. The worry here is that the BCCI, similarly attuned to that situation but clouded by short-termism, will ignore the potential damage that a corruption or fixing scandal could do to a league that in 20 years time could be seen as the pinnacle of world cricket.
The sooner the BCCI and the IPL sets its house in order, the better. The longer they leave it, the worse the repercussions will be.
UPDATE: "it can—to an extent—get away with wrongdoing and misconduct" - indeed, extent being the crucial word here. On Friday, February 21st, India Today reported that phone conversations between Gurunath Meiyappan and Vindoo Dara Singh "indicate that almost half of the matches of the last edition of the cash-rich Indian Premier League were fixed." Half the matches would be a crisis of staggering and momentous proportions. Talk of CSK scoring 140 being matched by them scoring 141 is perhaps even more concerning. To predict a team total so accurately suggests that a number of CSK players could be involved.