Chennai, May 30: After a gruelling seven weeks and 74 matches, the Indian Premier League finally came to an end amid the usual glitter and glamour but left unanswered questions in its wake.
The sight of N. Srinivasan, owner of the Chennai Super Kings franchise, handing out the winners' medals to his own players again raised issues of transparency in a tournament dogged with allegations of financial malpractice.
Srinivasan is a powerful figure in Indian cricket as secretary and president-elect of the Board of Control for cricket in India (BCCI) and president of the Tamil Nadu state cricket association. His own side were crowned as IPL champions for the second time in a row late on Saturday, a result which was widely predicted given their dominance of home conditions and favourability of the wicket.
There have been grumblings for months over Srinivasan's multiple roles and a possible conflict of interest after he was spotted sitting at the BCCI table during the IPL player auction earlier this year.
"Srinivasan was in the group that set the norms for the auction, decided which player would go in which category, and when each name would come up for auction," wrote cricket author Vedam Jaishankar in the Daily News and Analysis newspaper on Sunday.
The BCCI has been keen to promote a better image of the money-spinning IPL after throwing out Lalit Modi, the league's founder, last September over graft accusations.
The BCCI has registered a criminal case against Modi for the misappropriation of 4.68 billion rupees ($106 million) and he also faces a government probe for financial irregularities. Modi, whose brash style personified the IPL, left India last year — and has consistently denied all the charges against him.
He now lives in self-imposed exile in London, surrounded by bodyguards, as he claims his life is in danger from Mumbai-based gangsters linked to illegal gambling. "Good to see finally a packed stadium," Modi said on his Twitter page during the game, in an apparent dig at the organisers' struggle with falling ticket sales.
In a further attempt to tackle transparency issues, the BCCI also tried to expel two sides — Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals — from the 2011 IPL over allegations of breaking shareholding and ownership rules. But the sides remained in the league after challenging the move in the courts.
The IPL revolutionised cricket when it burst onto the scene in 2008 with international stars, rapid-fire Twenty20 action and Bollywood glamour tapping into India's immense appetite for the sport.
But some observers say interest may already have peaked with reports of falling television ratings as well as some empty stands. "The fourth edition of the IPL has been beyond the pale," cricket writer Peter Roebuck said in a column for The Hindu on Sunday.
"Sooner or later slapstick loses its appeal. Like rugby sevens and speed chess, it does not really matter, even in the sporting sense. It is an entertainment not an examination." Other experts also complain that the tournament is failing to unearth new domestic talent.
"While it is argued that the IPL has given Indian first classcricketers a new life, it has also made money come easy to most of them," said Boria Majumdar, a cricket historian and writer. "In terms of its ability to throw up good Indian talent, IPL season four has a negative record, a legacy it will do well to change in season five."AFP