Eyebrows were raised when the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) decided to host the first leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) seventh edition in the United Arabs Emirates (UAE) which is known to be a den of bookies and match-fixers.
Interim BCCI-IPL president Sunil Gavaskar
After the ugly episode of match-fixing in 2000, the Indian board had in principle agreed to not play any matches in the UAE. However, after the successful completion of the IPL in the desert recently, the buoyed IPL members believe it will help change the perception of playing in the gulf.
"If you go to see, then matches should also not be played in India," interim BCCI-IPL president Sunil Gavaskar shot back when a scribe asked about the BCCI's decision to play in the UAE when the initial part of the tournament clashed with the general elections in India.
'Everyone's not corrupt'
"Few criminals don't blacken the whole society. Some two-three players compromised on their cricket, but that does not mean that every cricketer is corrupt. UAE made full efforts in organising the matches successfully.
They were stupendous. I hope that cricket in the UAE will be perceived differently now," Gavaskar told reporters after the IPL Governing Council meeting on Saturday.
While many would feel the general buzz about the IPL-7 might be missing, the BCCI does not think so. The first leg of the cash rich T20 tournament which recently concluded in the UAE seemed to be low on the excitement quotient in India as compared to the other editions.
However, the BCCI came out with staggering figures that suggests that the IPL is still the most-followed tournament in India. IPL COO Sundar Raman revealed: "It would not be correct to say that the buzz is missing in this IPL.
The smartphone IPL app has grown by 100 per cent and TV ratings compared to the last IPL after first 20 matches remains the same. In fact, when we had moved to South Africa (in 2009), there was a slight dip in TV viewership.
Paid tickets' revenue for the UAE leg rose by around 28 per cent (82 per cent were paid tickets in the UAE as compared to 56 per cent in South Africa).
"Our digital properties have also registered a staggering growth. The IPL on Twitter has gained over 3.60 lakh new followers. The IPL fantasy league now has over 8.5 lakh active users."
No agreement with PCB
Meanwhile, the BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel denied signing any agreement with the Pakistan Cricket Board. PCB chief Najam Sethi had said that the BCCI signed an agreement with Pakistan to play bilateral series in the new Future Tours Programme.
"There is not agreement as such, but yes we have reached an understanding to play with Pakistan," Patel said.