It was just 10 years ago that cricket was rocked by the game's biggest-ever match-fixing scandal. That too had its centre of gravity in Indian cities, and involved Indian bookies and Indian businessmen. But along comes a new hyper-commercialised version of the game. It has scandal-waiting-to-happen written all over it and the media say “wow! This looks great,” promptly going into the “willing suspension of disbelief” mode. This venture had the right names, high glamour and, above all, big advertising and corporate power. There were obvious conflicts of interest (apart from what it did to cricket, the game) from day one. Here was Big Business in open embrace with its political patrons. There were also those who did not give the public office they held a fraction of the time or importance they gave to the BCCI-IPL. But few serious questions came up in the media.
To the extent that cricket is the only sport that Indians seem to enjoy, the demand for it far exceeds supply.
The convenience that TV offers, of being able to watch it in the comfort of your home, has enlarged the supply-demand gap disproportionately because even those who would not otherwise watch cricket watch it now.
Add to this the fact that the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) has the monopoly over cricket, and the perils of short supply become very evident. The flies begin to gather.
Top it all off with the terrifying amount of money floating about in the world looking for sure-fire investments, and what you get is an IPL-like phenomenon, namely, super-normal profits caused by a huge demand-supply gap and a monopoly.
Indeed, the IPL is different from other controlled businesses — like mining, for example — only in that it is entertaining and therefore more visible. But it has its share of sleaze balls in the same proportion as Defence deals, road-building contracts, mining and so on. They also get attracted to what in economics are called ‘supernormal profits'.