How to keep players out of mischief?
Much has been made of the fact that the IPL is too long. There is a strong case for shortening the tournament and recent events surrounding player behaviour is food for thought.
Luke Pomersbach from the Royal Challengers Bangalore has been arrested for an alleged assault on a couple in a hotel room. There has also been a drug raid recently in which Wayne Parnell somehow got caught up. He is professing his innocence and cooperating with the police, so hopefully there won't be a problem, but these are worrying signs.
One of the problems at the IPL is player inactivity. Most franchises have nine or ten international players, but they are allowed to field only four in any game. It is inevitable that some overseas players end up warming the bench for the entire tournament. Keeping them interested and busy is a massive problem.
Practice and training is one way of doing it. However the established members of the team get preference at practice. The also-rans are relegated to practising with assistant coaches and they know deep down that they don't have a realistic chance of playing. Motivation becomes a huge issue.
Outside of the practice environment there isn't a great deal to do. The hotels in India are world class and the players live in luxury, but even the best of hotel rooms becomes a lonely and boring place to be if one is not part of the regular playing eleven. Hence it is no wonder that some players get themselves into hot water.
The local players are fine. They have friends and family to help them through the good and bad times. They are also able to do a lot more things in their own community. The problem of boredom is much greater for the overseas players. They can only go shopping so many times or perhaps play a round of golf every now and then. Trying to occupying their time constructively is a tough task.
The last thing the IPL organisers want is scandal. In addition to the two incidents mentioned above, there have also been allegations against a few players of match fixing. So the tournament management committee has had their fair share of problems to deal with over the past six weeks.
Shortening the event, however, doesn't appear to be an option. Sustaining the franchises is an expensive affair and a double round as well as the play-off phase is required to keep the process going. Television rights and advertising revenue keeps the business going and the more matches there are, the more opportunity there is to maximise the earning capacity of the different franchises.
In an ideal cricketing scenario, a one-round tournament with a slightly extended play-off phase will probably work better. This way the event could be done and dusted over a five-week period. This will improve the tolerance levels of all concerned. However the business model of the IPL doesn't cater for that. The double round is here to stay as well as the play-offs.
Hopefully the management committee will come up with a way of either limiting the number of international and local players per franchise or finding a way of keeping the players who are not involved in the main matches busy in a constructive way.
This has to happen, otherwise the potential is for many more scandals of the sort that we have witnessed this season. Cricket doesn't need any more controversy. The game has had quite enough.