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IPL 2021: Stakes higher than ever

This Indian Premier League (IPL) is different. Thestakes arehigher than ever. From Indian cricket’s standpoint, a successfulorganisation ofthe tournament is more importantthan whowinsthetitle.

It is a testoftheBoardofControlfor Cricket in India’s(BCCI) ability toenforcediscipline,thekey tothetournament’s success in theCovid-19 times. It is also a test case tosee ifIndia can betrustedwiththesafeconductofthe T20 WorldCup in October-November.

Ifthe IPL is staged safely and successfully in the next seven weeks, it will go a long way in convincing the International Cricket Council(ICC) andother cricket boards about India’s ability to host big events during the pandemic.

One of the ways the BCCI can doso isby vaccinating every stakeholder involved,withdue permission from the Government of India. We have seen India’s Olympic athletes getting vaccinated andthe murmurs of cricketers and commentators wanting to get vaccinated are growing louder.

It will dot wothings. First, itwill act as a huge confidence boost for people across the country. Ifthe players can get vaccinated, socan fansofthe sport allover India. Second, itwillbe a strong retort againstthe anti-vaxxer lobby continually spreading misinformation on vaccineefficacy. For the record, Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) has already vaccinated all itsstaff aheadof theIPLcaravan moving totheCapital attheendofthe month.

MORE TALENT

Indian cricket is at an all-time high and one ofthe reasons for its recent success is the IPL. The tournament hasthrown up bundlesoftalent ready to take on the world. Thangarasu Natarajan, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur and Suryakumar Yadav are examples ofIPL’s success storieswho are now partoftheIndian team expected to mount a title challenge attheT20 WorldCup.

Oneofthethings IPL2021 isexpected to do is showcase many more talented youngsterswhowillthen start toknockon thedoors ofthe national team. Has Covid-19 impactedIndian cricket’s talent chain or is it virus proof? We will know over the next two months.

REASON TO STAY HOME

Thesituation in India isfar from normal and the country is craving for positivity and optimism. We desperately wantto perceive numbers differently — not cases and recoveries anddeaths. Rather, runs andwickets and run rates andovers left. The IPL brings a semblance of normalcy to people’s lives. Now,there is a reason tospendevenings athome, insteadof venturing out and putting life at risk.

‘BIGGER PICTURE’

The IPL is also needed for people like us — men and women who are part ofthe sports economy. Without the IPL,the Indian sports economy is certain to contract further. To illustrate the point better, in preCovid times, every newspaper had multiple pages dedicated to sports, there were regular shows on television andthedigital realm wasfullof sports stories. Since the start ofthe pandemic many newspapershad all but done away with the sports section. While some kept it going,the space allocatedto sport wasdrastically reduced. It was only natural because therewas nosport. As a result, an entire industry was in peril.

To see sports return to the stadiums and arenas, even without fans, was a massive relief. That’s where the IPL assumes centre-stage. The IPL was not only about Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni.

“The IPL is also about the bigger picture. The broadcaster, media, groundsmen, technical staff and everyone associated with it who drawtheir sustenancefrom it,” former India captain Sunil Gavaskar said. That’s why the IPL is needed.

The staging of the tournament means sports in India continues to be relevant.

BRAND IPL

The IPL, as a product, is recession proof. Even in theCovid-19 times,the BCCI managed to generate sponsorship worth over Rs 400 crores last year. Companiesknow it is thesafest investment option and are comfortable paying top dollars to associate withthetournament.

In the IPL,there is no fear thatthe Indian team mightlose and bow out ofthe tournament. Here,India wins every day. And that’s what makes the brand what it is. Indians love to consume spectacle andthe IPL,over the years,hasemerged as India’sbiggest sporting spectacle appealing to the Indian consumption pattern in a manner fewthingshaveever done.

TheIPL is a pan-Indian festival and a collectivecoming together ofIndian people at home and in the diaspora rarely seen in today’s age andcontext. Can the tournament continue to achieve all of this in the midst of a secondCovid-19 wave? Sufficetosay the stakes are higher than ever in theIPL2021.

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