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Last Updated : Aug 05, 2020 04:55 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

IPL 2020 | Why BCCI must abandon Chinese sponsorship

Popular sentiment is in favour of boycotting Chinese goods, and the government itself has banned Chinese apps and placed greater scrutiny on investments from the middle kingdom. Asking BCCI to reconsider is just a logical step since cricket is more than a game in India

The Indian Premier League (IPL) governing council’s decision to retain all its sponsors — especially its title sponsor, Chinese mobile manufacturer VIVO — for the 2020 edition of the T20 league has come as a dampener for all those who earnestly believed that #BoycottChineseProducts was more than a social media fad.

Following the June 15 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) attack on Indian soldiers killing 20 personnel, at Galwan Valley, in eastern Ladakh, bilateral ties have hit a wall. The Government of India decided to put greater scrutiny on Chinese investments in the country, and this decision aligned with the goal of an ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India).

The government banned 59 Chinese apps, followed it by banning 47 more apps, and the National Education Programme 2020 dropped Mandarin from the list of languages to be taught in schools.


Star Batsman or Tail Ender?

All this was giving the impression that India was ready to stand up to China. However, if the IPL goes ahead with a Chinese company as its sponsor, it will be cocking a snook at India’s actions till now. Suddenly, it will appear that the government is not a star batsman who’s out there at the crease, but a tail ender who just cannot face the pressure.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the de-facto organisation that ‘controls’ the 22-yard game, is a private body — and given this, one may ask: why should the BCCI’s actions reflect on the government? That’s a naive question given cricket’s popularity, the emotion with which it is followed, and its association with Indian politics: cricketers becoming politicians, politicians doubling as heads of cricket associations, the dark alleys that link cricket bodies and mainstream political parties, and, of course, cricket diplomacy.

Is It Just A Game?

For the BCCI the IPL is a golden goose, and if anyone thought that the event would be abandoned this year, think about 2009 when the BCCI took the IPL to South Africa as it clashed with the general elections in India. From a business point of view it makes perfect sense — explore new markets and expand one’s reach. The question is: Is cricket (and the IPL) purely of business interest for the BCCI? Even if the answer to that is in the affirmative, can the people of India see cricket the way the BCCI does? If only they could!

While the venue is not yet finalised, in all likelihood the sporting/entertainment extravaganza will be held in the United Arab Emirates. Reports suggest that taking the league away from India to the UAE or associating with a Chinese brand will not dent the IPL brand. Tell that to the Surat resident who threw his China-made TV from the second floor of his apartment building, in protest of PLA action at Galwan Valley. Tell that to the numerous retail stores, offices, and even factories across India that were targeted for assembling or selling Chinese products.

Close Connection

The BCCI’s decision hurts the government also because of the close association the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has with cricket. Jay Shah, the son of Home Minister Amit Shah, is the current honorary secretary of the BCCI. While both father and son are successful individuals in their own fields and their professional roles do not overlap, the decision of the son of India’s home minister, a high-ranking official in a government fighting Chinese atrocities, to approve a deal with a Chinese company might raise eyebrows.

Remember, the BJP and its ministers have been quite vociferous in their opposition to Chinese products. On June 22, G Kishan Reddy, MoS (Home) said that “There is a need to voluntarily boycott Chinese products to the extent possible. Public in the country wants that”. Another minister went to the extent of saying that India needs to boycott Chinese food! The BJP Yuva Morcha, the party’s youth wing, vandalised shops in Mumbai selling Chinese toys.

Therefore, the government must influence the board to reconsider its decision.

Match Abandoned

It can do so with ease too. So far approval has been given only by the sports ministry, and the clearance from the home ministry and ministry of external affairs is awaited. I’m sure both the North Block and South Block can come with ‘security concerns’ or other technical objections for granting clearance. This would also be a win-win for both sides: The BCCI/IPL will not be reneging on its promises made to any of its sponsors, and the government and ruling BJP can have the moral victory of continuing their stand against China and Chinese products.

However, if the IPL goes ahead as is planned, and if you get the chance to watch it on a non-Chinese TV or mobile phone, during a commercial break while a Chinese-made mobile phone is being advertised, spare a thought for the man from Surat who broke his ‘Made in China’ TV. Alas, it was much ado about nothing.

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First Published on Aug 4, 2020 01:38 pm