India’s hard-core cricket fans are surely furious, as security shortcomings forced the Indian Premier League (IPL) to relocate itself to South Africa this year. While a frustration for many, IPL move signals a new kind of business model: increasingly denationalized cricket in a globalized world.
There was a time when Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev were the nation’s proud sons, and stacking up against Pakistan or England was almost a war of proxy.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
But with IPL, Mahendra Kumar Dhoni of the Chennai Super Kings has no more Indian super-fans than Kevin Pietersen of the Bangalore Royal Challengers. While the teams’ namesakes are Indian cities, their players are from all corners of the globe.
In its inaugural year, IPL challenged one assumption about cricket: whether sub-national loyalties—to Indian cities’ new cricket franchises —were as passionate as loyalties to national-level cricket. Indeed, IPL proved successful.
But this year IPL is testing new terrain—if Indian cricket can be post-national. Now, IPL will physically take place in another country. Indian stadium-goers will be upset, and advertisers won’t shell out money for local advertisements. But most IPL fans watch the events on television anyway, where most advertising revenue was generated. For the majority of fans, it frankly doesn’t matter where the games are played.
IPL in South Africa indicates a paradigm shift for a particular business model: Seemingly local-oriented companies are increasingly decontextualized on the international stage.
Look no further than European football leagues. The Chelsea Football Club, one of the pre-eminent world football franchises, is owned by a Russian oil tycoon—despite being a star team in the English Premier League. And Chelsea’s roster looks like a United Nations subcommittee with players from Serbia, Portugal and Nigeria among more than a dozen other countries.
With the move to South Africa, IPL has followed European football in denationalizing itself. And, perhaps like the World Cup, IPL players will return to their home countries for explicitly international competitions.
IPL’s move to South Africa—despite the agony it may cause some Indian cricket fanatics—signals the beginnings of a new, increasingly denational, sports model.
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