It was a first for almost everyone who was a part of it, and at the end of it all, almost everybody involved came out smiling.
The Indian Premier League Player Auction gathered a lot of interest and curiosity among everyone present at the Cricket Centre on Wednesday, both for its novel concept and the big names that were involved.
But if the reactions of the franchisee owners were an indication, the BCCI seem to have a winner on their hands. All bigwigs like Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Vijay Mallya, Shahrukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Ness Wadia, were all smiles as they left the auction.
The IPL has often been seen as a money-minting channel, but the high-profile owners made it clear that there was much more to it than just the big bucks involved. It was, in the words of Shahrukh Khan, ‘the beginning of an attempt to spark a sports culture in India’.
“I keep reading at times that this is a money-making preposition, which hopefully it will be,” Khan, who owns the Kolkata team, told a packed media conference after the end of the auction.
“But the purpose is not just that. All of the franchisees will extend their support to a lot of other sports and make sure sports becomes a viable profession to youngsters in India.”
Mallya, who owns the Bangalore team, added that the demand for Indian players in the IPL would be a ‘huge boost’ for domestic cricket.
“We bought six foreigners and we intend to play 10 Indians (during the tournament),” Mallya said. “IPL is the best thing to have happened to Indian cricket. Domestic cricket will get a huge boost due to the IPL. It will provide a great opportunity to youngsters to hone their skills.”
Shahrukh added that he intended to start with cricket and spread the concept to other sports.
“I think every sport is important,” he said. “The culture of sport has to be brought into this country as a profession. Let's start with cricket and spread the culture as a team.”
Ness Wadia, who co-owns the Mohali team along with actor Preity Zinta and two others, said that the IPL would change the face of Indian domestic cricket. “Sports has never been promoted in this country,” Wadia said. “From here on, there is a way up. The Duleep and Ranji Trophy need to be improved and I think that will happen with this. It would give me great satisfaction if Indians actually have a team as good as Australia and South Africa.”
Grand opening in Bangalore
Meanwhile, IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi said that Bangalore would host a “grand opening ceremony” in Bangalore ahead of the tournament opener on April 18.
“All the teams will assemble over there,” Modi said. “The BCCI president Sharad Pawar has sent out invitations to all the other Boards and the ICC officials and we hope to have most of them attending the ceremony.”