In its 15 years of existence, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has established itself as one of cricket’s most popular and lucrative tournaments. However, it has also been marred by a number of major controversies over the years. Let’s look at some of the biggest scandals that have plagued the IPL.
In the inaugural season of IPL in 2008, an ugly confrontation took place between Delhi Daredevils player Harbhajan Singh and Mumbai Indians player Sreesanth. After Mumbai beat Delhi, Harbhajan slapped Sreesanth hard across the face while exchanging heated words.
This shocking incident was caught on TV cameras and highlighted the intense rivalries brewing in IPL’s competitive environment. The BCCI handed Harbhajan a multimatch ban and fined him for his reprehensible conduct. This set an important precedent that physical violence would not be tolerated in IPL.
Lalit Modi Sacked for Corruption
Lalit Modi served as the founding chairman and commissioner of IPL from 2008-2010 and is credited for the tournament’s wild success. However, in 2010, he was unceremoniously sacked from his post over allegations of corruption, rigging auction bids and money laundering.
Though Modi denied the accusations, the damage was already done. He soon found himself embroiled in investigations by Indian authorities for financial irregularities during his IPL tenure. The scandal tainted IPL’s reputation in its formative years.
The Slapgate and Modi controversies highlighted how IPL’s big money incentives and power struggles created an environment ripe for misconduct. However, worse was yet to come.
Spot-Fixing Scandal of 2013
In 2013, a massive spot-fixing scandal rocked the cricketing world after Delhi police charged several Rajasthan Royals players with illegally manipulating match conditions for financial gain.
RR players Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila were arrested on charges of spot-fixing certain overs during IPL 6 matches in exchange for payment from bookies. Eleven bookies were also arrested in connection with the scandal.
The revelations of rampant spot-fixing in IPL tarnished the league’s credibility. It also led to the Lodha Committee reforms which impacted IPL governance. Though rare today, spot-fixing remains a threat due to the vast illegal betting industry surrounding IPL matches.
CSK and RR Suspensions
On 14 July 2015, the Supreme Court appointed Lodha Committee suspended two IPL giants – Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals – from playing for two years over their officials’ involvement in betting activities.
Senior CSK official Gurunath Meiyappan, who is also the son-in-law of then BCCI president N. Srinivasan, was found guilty of illegal betting on IPL matches. The verdict stated that Meiyappan qualified as team ‘official’ though CSK asserted he was merely a cricket enthusiast.
Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra was also found to have placed numerous bets on IPL matches in violation of the code of conduct. The team ownerships were suspended despite asserting no direct involvement in betting.
Kochi Tuskers Controversy
In 2011, Kochi Tuskers Kerala, one of the newer IPL franchises, found itself terminated over issues with its ownership structure. The BCCI controversially expelled the team citing breach of terms regarding who could own the franchise.
Co-owner Rendezvous Sports World failed to produce sufficient evidence of their ability to pay the full franchise fees. However, many speculated the real reason was a fallout between Rendezvous and BCCI bigwigs.
The sudden mid-season termination left Tuskers players and staff high and dry. It drew criticism about the BCCI’s arbitrary use of power against IPL franchise owners.
Conflict of Interest Issues
Conflict of interest has emerged as a recurrent issue dogging key officials associated with IPL. N Srinivasan was forced to resign as BCCI President and relinquish CSK ownership after his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was implicated in betting investigations.
In 2019, the ethics officer ruled BCCI president Ganguly and secretary Jay Shah could not hold positions in state associations as it posed a conflict of interest. Commentator Sunil Gavaskar’s player management firm also landed him in a conflict bind.
Breaches by team owners, coaches and commentators signaled an endemic conflict of interest problem hurting IPL’s integrity. Demands grew for tougher scrutiny on officials occupying dual roles.
A League Mired in Controversy
While the quality of cricket on offer in IPL continues to soar with each passing season, recurring scandals have dented the league’s overall reputation. From match-fixing menaces and ownership issues to conflicts of interest, challenges old and new confront IPL stakeholders.
However, the league has shown remarkable resilience in bouncing back every time it is plagued by controversy. Tighter monitoring, ethical oversight and greater transparency have strengthened IPL’s governance over the years. As more reforms take shape, the hope is that IPL can gradually win back public trust and establish itself as a clean and credible sporting event.
The key lesson is that no sporting league, however financially lucrative, can allow itself to beacompletely profit-driven pursuit bereft of morals. As the global face of the cricketing world, IPL must lead by example when it comes to integrity and fair play. IPL may never be controversy-free, but future scandals can surely be mitigated by upholding ethics above everything else.