The collapse of the Indian Premier League (IPL) pack of cards is identical to the unravelling of the Satyam fraud in 2009, from a media perspective. Namely, no media organisation—newspaper, magazine, TV station or internet website—saw it before it happened.
Or wanted to see it coming.
The player auctions, the franchise bids, the television rights, the glitz, the glamour, the sleaze were all unquestioningly swallowed and spewed out with nary an eyebrow raised.
Just three weeks ago, India Today magazine was putting the the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi—now accused of conflict of interest, nepotism, shady deals, corruption, sex, drugs, betting, match-fixing, and worse—on the cover, with a couple of cheer girls.
Till a week ago, The Times of India was happily having it both ways.
So, did nobody see it coming? At least one hand has gone up. Former Outlook magazine* journalists T.R. Vivek and Alam Srinivas co-authored a book on the IPL’s marriage of cricket and commerce last year.
In an interview with rediff.com‘s Krishnakumar Padmanabhan, Vivek says the red flags were visible from the very beginning.
Q: As an observer of the IPL from the early days, did you see any early warning signs? If so, what were they?
A: The very fact that cricket was being taken ‘private’ in one stroke was a red flag for me. It was quite similar to the East European countries embracing unfettered free market economics straight from the lap of Communism without any necessary groundwork for the transition. I was in a minority when I first raised questions about promoter motives, and antecedents.
What do a Mukesh Ambani or a Vijay Mallya know about the game to become cricket entrepreneurs? Are they here because it is their passion, or is it because owning a sports property was cool, and it propelled their social status higher than the already rarified echelons?
The franchise auction process left a lot of questions unanswered.
Another red flag for me was whether the Board of Control for Cricket in India had the management bandwidth, execution capabilities to embark on a novel idea such as this.
* Disclosures apply
Read the full interview: ‘Modi tinkered with the rules all the time’
Also read: How come no one spotted the Satyam fraud?