Exploring the legality of IPL matches – Is it a duck or a golden goose?

Does the IPL stand for “Indian Planning League”?

Fun fact about the Ambanis – they are so rich there is a modern Hindu prayer which talks about them. That is absolutely amazing, whichever way you look at it. It says something about ‘Ambani Sowbhagya’ (translation: Ambani Fortune) being the representation of the goddess Lakshmi’s generosity.

The Ambanis also happen to own Mumbai Indians, one of the biggest and most successful teams in the IPL. Non-MI fans will smile and tell you that the IPL is basically a battle for second place since MI hog the trophy anyway. As you laugh with them and jokingly suggest if goddess Lakshmi really prefers them, most of these people lose their smiles.

Unless you support them, hating the overbearing favourites comes as second nature to most. Lewis Hamilton, the New York Yankees, Barcelona/Real Madrid, LeBron James, Novak Djokovic, the list goes on. These are individuals and teams who have the biggest fanbases, but also an equally huge share of detractors. It’s the same story with the Mumbai Indians (seriously, what is that name? Are they suggesting the rest of the outfits aren’t Indian?)

But, IPL seems to be a little different. The whispers are there every season that the biggest cricket league in the world is actually a fixed cash-grab tournament, mostly favouring MI and its richer-than-every-other-owner masters.

There have been other winners of course, but these instances are dismissed by cynics as the Ambanis being charitable and/or genius string-pullers.

Dhoni being called run out when his bat was clearly over the line in the 2019 final was the last straw for many.

So, it begs the question – is the myth of the IPL being fixed just a salty rumour spread by rival fans? Or, is there actually a shade of truth to the allegations?

There have been far too many unbelievable incidents in the IPL for the average cricket fan to dismiss. Case in point – the much talked-about ‘odd glitch’.

MI won the IPL in 2013, and then embarked on an alternate year win streak, winning in 2015, 2017 and 2019. More interesting is the fact that two of the finals they won (2017 and 2019) were one-ball victories. In cricket, one-ball victories are as rare as hen’s teeth. Yet, they happened twice in two years, with the same team prevailing on both occasions.

Too many coincidences

There is more to this déjà vu headache.

On April 22, 2018, Chennai Super Kings faced Sunrisers Hyderabad, while Rajasthan Royals faced Mumbai Indians. CSK held their nerves and won by four runs, with Ambati Rayudu, a former MI player, being declared man of the match. RR, on the other hand, defeated MI by three wickets, with the latter’s captain Rohit Sharma going for a duck off the very first ball.

Fast forward to May 13, 2018, and the reverse fixtures were taking place. CSK defeated SRH again, with Rayudu once again claiming the MOTM award. Meanwhile, RR defeated MI yet again. And as you may have guessed, Rohit went out for a duck again.

The same matches, the same results, the same MOTM and the same player failing. A case of Edge of Tomorrow syndrome, or was the whole thing part of an elaborate script?

Your writer swears this isn’t an attack on Mumbai Indians, yet this has to be brought to your attention, because this was the Men in Blue themselves messing up.

As recently as last season, MI played Delhi Capitals during the first COVID-infected season. Quite bizarrely, the official MI Twitter page sent out a now-deleted tweet which read, “Pattinson is sharing the new ball with Boult! DC – 163/5 (19.5)”

This sounds like a normal score update. Yet, the strange thing is the MI admin tweeted this only a few minutes into the match, way before the last over had even been bowled.

Suspicions arose even more when DC finished its innings one run and a wicket short of the ‘prediction’, at 162/4. Twitterati was quick to call MI out for the tweet and for promptly taking it down, but they did not address it. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to raise your eyebrow at such a close guess of the score right at the start of the innings.

Unnecessary drama

Many matches in IPL history have gone down to the wire, and a good chunk of those have been the aforementioned one-run victories. In fact, a whopping 10% of IPL 2019 matches were one-run victories, including the final. The chances of that happening are too slim, however you try to defend it.

A significant percentage of IPL matches are also dragged until the final over, even from massive winning positions. Convenient enough to air every single scheduled advertisement and generate more money.

The IPL is the most lucrative tournament in the world, and players get paid more in a season than they are playing an entire year of cricket. It wouldn’t hurt to prolong every match under the guise of entertainment while generating millions every minute.

None of these incidents have been investigated, but there was the case of CSK and RR being handed bans for two seasons on the charges of spot fixing. While this action was hailed by cricket fans, this also shows that unfair means have been practiced in the IPL.

Who knows how many such incidents have gone unnoticed? It only serves to further raise the credibility of the narrative that the IPL is rigged.

But conversely, there is also the stark possibility that the stars align themselves for the IPL, and the allegations of the tournament being fixed are just silly qualms. After all, cricket is a gentleman’s game, and surely the players know that? Surely all of them wouldn’t stand for a scandal if that’s what the IPL is, and that too every season.

Plenty of moments to savour

For example, Chris Lynn’s jaw-dropping catch for Kolkata Knight Riders to ensure their epic victory against Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2014 was a moment to savour. You could positively say that if the effort had gone bad, Lynn would have been staring at serious injury.

The same thing with Mayank Agarwal, who took a gravity-defying boundary-line catch to deny MI a guaranteed six last season. Surely such incidents transcend the whole “IPL is fixed” narrative. Why would anyone risk career-threatening injury and denying runs for the opposition if it’s fixed?

Ultimately, the theory of the IPL being rigged is up for debate. There have been too many glitches in the matrix to suggest greater powers are at play, yet you could also argue the other side of the coin.

Either way, one thing is for certain – we get scintillating cricket when the IPL, fixed or not, comes knocking. At least in that regard, goddess Lakshmi rewards all of us equally.

Read more: Has the time finally come for Dhoni to play a more auxiliary role for CSK?

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