The cup runneth over with PLIs

The ICC World Cup has had a fortuitous outcome for Indian cricketing performance and, by association, for companies hoping to cash in on the tournament to boost festival sales. The Men in Blue draw eyeballs, and advertising rupees follow, pushing up income for the international guardians of cricket. Money-chasing cricket in India has a self-fulfilling effect on the country’s performance by taking the competitive intensity much beyond what other cricket-playing countries can provide. A lot of cricket is being played in India, and its effects are showing in team and individual performance. Take Mohammad Shami, contender for player of the tournament. This was a player who didn’t have an assured place in the Indian bowling line-up at the outset. Talk about PLIs – performance-linked incentives.

This may not be in the best interests of the international cricketing fraternity. As India mines its enormous talent pool by a concentrated reward system, its dominance may grow at the cost of flagging interest in other countries whose cricket boards are less well-endowed. Once-giant West Indies didn’t even qualify for this World Cup. Conversely, India has demonstrated its ability to dominate a sport, hockey, without an overdose of capital. Other sports in the country are paying for the enrichment of the Indian cricketing franchise. This may work for a while, but is not sustainable for other sports at home or for cricket abroad.

Yet, the extraordinary growth of India’s cricket muscle has a demonstration effect. Forty years after its first World Cup victory, India has worked itself into a central position in the game. This raises expectations of improved performance in other sports if market forces are allowed to nurture them. The value of sport lies in its diversity. India must follow other nations in raising its standards to international levels across a wider spectrum, creating more pathways for talent, such as it has done for Shami. Capitalisation is key to a virtuous cycle of performance.


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