Cricket legend Sir Ian Botham has used this year’s MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture to call for a scrapping of the Indian Premier League, saying the tournament was bad for the game.
England’s greatest ever all-round cricketer said the tournament was ripe for betting and consequently, match-fixing.
Botham said: “I’m worried about the IPL – in fact, I feel it shouldn’t be there at all as it is changing the priorities of world cricket. Players are slaves to it. Administrators bow to it.
“How on earth did the IPL own the best players in the world for two months a year and not pay a penny to the boards who brought these players into the game?
“I know this has been modified to a degree, but it is still an imbalance. The IPL is too powerful for the long-term good of the game.
“Corruption is enough of a problem in itself, but the IPL compounds that problem given it provides the perfect opportunity for betting and therefore fixing.”
Sir Ian also said that punishing players for corruption was not enough and called on the ICC to do more to target the big players calling the shots behind the scenes.
“We have seen a few players exposed, but does throwing the odd second XI player into jail solve it? To kill the serpent, you must cut off its head. The ICC Anti-Corruption Unit must pursue the root of the problem and if necessary expose the big names.”
Sir Ian, now one of the world’s most respected cricket commentators, also warned of the danger posed to Test cricket by excessive limited overs cricket, in particular the T20 format: his comments following a summer during which the Indian side looked distinctly jaded over the course of a 5-match Test series only to spring to life as the one-dayers got underway.
“We should beware of overkill of the T20. When it began [in county cricket], we played the tournament in a three-week burst and it worked. Since then we have played more of it, and guess what? The crowds have not got bigger.”
The Indian Premier League, first staged in 2008, has created unprecedented riches for players from around the world but has also been dogged by widespread allegations of corruption.
The current owner of the IPL’s Chennai Super Kings franchise, N Srinivasan, is also the newly-elected chairman of the International Criminal Cricket.
Prior to taking over at the helm of cricket’s governing body, Srinivasan stood down temporarily as the head of the Board of Control for Cricket in India after the country’s Supreme Court called for investigation into allegations of corruption involving the Super Kings.
In its ruling, the court said Mr Srinivasan failed to take action after allegations of corruption in the IPL were brought to his attention.
Judges said that this meant “he was aware about the allegations and did not take it seriously”.
Sir Ian is the 14th speaker to deliver the Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture.
Inaugurated in 2001, the lecture is named after the late Kent and England batsman Colin Cowdrey who became a widely-admired cricket administrator after retiring from the game.
Among those who have delivered the lecture previously are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Imran Khan, Simon Taufel and Kumar Sangakkara.