The Indian Premier League, popularly known as the IPL, has become one of the important tournaments in cricket world. The best players from all over the world take part in the event every year. But this time, in the 2021 edition, Hyderabad fans may be in for a disappointment. As of now, Hyderabad’s chances of hosting any of the matches look bleak. The fans are keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that the situation will take a turn for the better.
First of all fans were disappointed that there was not a single player from Hyderabad in the Sunrisers team. That issue caused a furore. After the departure of the upcoming star Mohammed Siraj earlier, the Sunrisers team has not found a player to replace him from this region. Now if Hyderabad is not allowed to host any IPL match, it will be a double whammy for the cricket lovers of Hyderabad. It will be like adding insult to injury as the saying goes.
Meanwhile, the state government has stepped in with Mr. K T. Rama Rao, working President of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) having recently tweeted in favour of Hyderabad’s ability to play host to the IPL matches. He has issued an open appeal to the BCCI and to the IPL governing body officials to include Hyderabad as one of the host cities.
To back up his appeal he has mentioned that the state’s COVID management methods have proved effective as is reflected in the low number of cases when compared to some other cities. He assured the organisers of full support from the Government.
Will the BCCI and the IPL governing council pay heed to the plea of the Telangana leader? The organisers need have no fear where the COVID threat is concerned. Hyderabad is capable of handling the danger of COVID and the local bodies will take all possible precautions and preventive measures.
Mr. Rao is a man in a powerful position and if he has assured the support and cooperation of the state government, then surely many of the hurdles can and will be removed. The BCCI should seriously consider the appeal made by the working President of the TRS before making a final decision on Hyderabad’s ability to be the IPL host.
However, there is one more angle to the issue. The other factor that has gone against Hyderabad is the widespread allegations of mismanagement in the state cricket body. Over the last few years there have been allegations of corruption and bribery in selection of teams and infighting within the association’s groups. Players and their parents have expressed frustration and unhappiness at the way the game is being managed in Hyderabad.
These allegations are of a serious nature and need to be dealt with urgently and firmly. The HCA has to clean up its act and adopt a transparent system of functioning so as to restore the confidence and morale of the players who strive for excellence with hope in their hearts.
However, as far as the hosting of the IPL is concerned, these aspects of the HCA’s malfunctioning should not have a significant bearing on the issue. Because the local body only plays the role of a facilitator. It is powerless to make any decisions or appointments in the conduct of the IPL tournament.
Meanwhile, young cricket fans of Hyderabad and Secunderabad are stuck in limbo. They are hoping that there will be a change in their fortunes at the last moment and the authorities in power will see Hyderabad in a favourable light. And thereby allow the city to host matches. As everyone knows, watching the contests on television at home is one thing and watching them live at the ground is quite another.
This year due to COVID restrictions perhaps a limited number of fans could be allowed to watch. There is talk that Maharashtra may not allow any spectators inside the ground. This would be disappointing. At least some spectators, perhaps half of the full capacity, could be allowed inside with maintenance of adequate social distancing norms.
When the fans are at the ground, they feel that they are part of the proceedings. It is their cheering that encourages the bowlers and batsmen to do their best. The fans like to show support by wearing the team’s jersey, waving the team’s flags and they also have the added thrill and expectation that for a second or two, the camera may be turned on them and they will be seen on the television screens across the country.
The question that arises is: In what way is Hyderabad behind or inferior to the cities that have been selected in the short list. The selected cities include Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Delhi. But in the past, Hyderabad has hosted IPL matches very successfully and can do it again this year too if given the chance. That is the general feeling among fans, players and officials of the twin cities.
And if Hyderabad does not play host to the Sunrises who will? If another city is chosen, will the local fans there have as much passion and loyalty for the Hyderabad team as the Hyderabad fans? That seems highly unlikely. So Hyderabad’s cricket fans will no doubt continue to hope till the last moment that their city will be included as a venue.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.