Sunil Gavaskar, the Board of Control for Cricket in India's interim-president (Indian Premier League affairs), feels venues like Dubai and Sharjah, once considered dubious due to their proximity to bookies, have 'cleaned' their image after the successful completion of the first leg of the IPL 2014. The tournament started in United Arab Emirates on April 16 and matches were played in three venues, including Abu Dhabi till April 30.
Speaking to reporters in Mumbai, Gavaskar felt the match-fixing episode of 2000 was a thing of the past and indicated venues like Sharjah were clean. Sharjah was blacklisted by India as a cricket venue and it was after 14 years that top Indian cricketers returned to the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, thanks to the IPL.
"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," said Gavaskar.
Gavaskar, the former Indian Test captain, who was appointed an interim BCCI chief after Board president N. Srinivasan was suspended by the Supreme Court in the wake of the IPL match-fixing and betting scandal, felt if corruption was an issue, "then matches should also not be played in India". Several IPL matches last season are alleged to have been spot-fixed. Former Test pacer Sreesanth has already been banned by the BCCI.
IPL in UAE was a great success, claims BCCI. The Board came out with staggering figures that suggests that IPL is still the most-followed tournament in India. IPL COO Sundar Raman said: "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," informed Sundar Raman.