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Sunday, February 24, 2008 

Cricket. I don’t like it…….I love it!

With this tag line started a new revolution in the world of cricket. The first real overhauling cricket has had in the times that I have been watching the game. In England in 2002, the cricket board came up with the idea of starting a 20 over tournament with fancy backgrounds, innovative rules and of course eye catching cricket. A nation that had manifested a cult called cricket was feeling the lack of interest the people were showing to their national game and the administrators threw caution to wind and out came a product called Twenty20.

Perhaps after thorough market research and statistical analysis, the designers and experts realised that cricket was dragging for too long to keep the crowd engaged. To add to that the purists of the game were becoming far and few and the new generation wanted quickfire fun. T20 was the perfect amalgamation of cricketing brilliance, business opportunity and crowd entertainment. The tournament involved most of the county teams who played 3.5 hour games, sometimes three matches in one day. The viewers were most happy to watch it as a movie with action all through the length of the game. The interest was revived somewhat and the way cricketers approached their game became more proactive and flamboyant.

Meanwhile, a little south east of England, a country which was doing massive business through the game already was setting itself up to see a major rebellion. That the BCCI has been opaque and unaccountable in its functioning is written in LKG books these days. It was therefore not a surprise that ZEE television came up with its own idea of setting up a league, the ICL, with the same format, to draw in crowds. Apart from its promise of providing justice for all its pros, it promised great fun and action packed cricket. To add to this they thought of bringing in international stars, however, largely retired cricketers or ones who never made it to the top or didn’t think they ever could.

But how could BCCI sit on it haunches and let someone else make money. So out came the IPL, promising many more stars of the game ensuring great VC interest and absolutely astronomical salaries for cricketers involved. Within no time the event was materialised, the idea for which was apparently put forward 2 years ago. The BCCI with its monetary power was able to collect some of the biggest current names in the game and the inauguration of the event crystallized with the recent players’ auction. Huge salaries running into crores have been put into contracts for Indian and overseas players in a promise to provide excellent viewership on cricket grounds across India. There has been considerable disappointment and criticism of the franchise owners for throwing in so much money to a sport which already enjoys a billion dollar revenue. Some even went on and said that this money could have been used to support poor people and the education of rural India. However, I think this talk is plain rubbish. A very communist approach in an otherwise capitalist economy. Not to mention that the money pooled in will draw even more money which most of the franchise owners such as Reliance and India Cements will put in their CSR activities anyhow, which people tend to forget. Plus cricketers will make some money which is not bad at all. It’s like entering a booming domain where salaries are sky high. Nobody questions I-Banks for giving huge salaries to its employees, where run of the mill IITians and IIMians draw so much money with so little knowledge.

I have no doubt in my mind that the IPL will outdo the rebel league. But what next? The idea of T20 precipitated as a natural course of development of the game. The sports governing body realized that they need to fill in more excitement in the game to sustain it. Things took their natural course and slowly even the purists accepted the format as a form of the game. Then the setting up of the ICL was also a natural course. However this time not for the development of cricket per say, but to destroy the anarchy of the BCCI which was increasingly becoming indifferent to cricket and engrossed with making money for a few individuals. The ICL was part of an opportunity to make more money and perhaps establish a new order in Indian cricket.

The establishment of IPL though was for all the wrong reasons. It was not a fall out of positive vision or the process of development. It was only to curb the rebel league from finding a footing in India and hampering the monetary benefits reaped by the BCCI. This is what is its strongest point to stay at the top. They already have money and they will run ICL out of business. But once that job is done the BCCI on its part will have no mission to continue with the IPL, the objective will have been completed and BCCI will go back to its money minting best. There is also major doubt on how people will come to appreciate matches between Banglore and Mumbai and Kolkata, when there are already very few who go to the stadiums to watch Ranji matches. Possibly the television coverage will provide eye balls to the event, but even that will not sustain if passion and competitiveness does not exist between teams. For how long can people come to watch Symonds vs. Bhajji. The best part though is that cricketers will benefit on the short term. Which means that the ICL (not IPL) will have achieved at least one of its goals. So while the senior management in ZEE television may be sacked around, people like Kapil Dev and Sandip Patil will feel pleased.

The worst part is that, like every other business if employees start changing jobs for competitive salaries a time might come when cricketers may start skipping international matches for such tournaments and the game will be deprived of any passion. The road ahead for cricket is anyways narrowing down. Professionalism does mean better quality of cricket but it also means that the game can be thrown out due to business failure. Slowly and steadily the game will meet the same fate as that of hockey.

Finally, I feel very pleased to know that Ishant Sharma, all of 19, will earn 3.8 crores in 3 years, something that I will definitely earn in this life. I am sure even my parents must be starting to think, ki yaar isse acha to isse cricketer hi bana dete, IIT me ghanta bhej diya, ….and I think that will be the biggest positive coming out of this entire episode.

ya life is unfair...
Ishant gets it
I-Bankers get it
Even IITians get it (some)
but I dont :(

hmmmm i still remember that day...

no new post..long time?

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