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The flipside of great pay & little play

Steve Waugh raised a pertinent point when he said he was always afraid when too many things happened too quickly in the game, reports Varun Gupta.

cricket Updated: May 09, 2008 01:19 IST
Varun Gupta

It was chaos outside Bangalore's most famous haunt, the gigantic, glowering, implacable bouncers involved in a stand-off with about 30 tiddly teens desperate to gain entry inside the upscale restrobar.

It was also well past 11:30pm when the muscular familiar looking figure of a U-19 player, styled, gelled hair intact, emerged from a sedan. Pin-drop silence ensued. The bouncers, breathing fire till then, promptly opened the gates, obsequious grins replacing trademark scowls. Inside, the teenager was approached for a photograph or an autograph before being whisked away to another high-end party at a five-star hotel.

In this starry-eyed country, it is normal to see an international player being accorded royal treatment. But in this case, the youngster was neither a senior India international nor a proven domestic player. But then, just after the colts’ success, he was thrust into this so-called revolution called the Indian Premier League: a whirlwind that is threatening to rip apart the fabric and traditions of the game and providing easy riches to colts that many think only thoroughbreds deserve.

Steve Waugh raised a pertinent point when he said he was always afraid when too many things happened too quickly in the game. And in the IPL, things are happening fast.

Money, fame, unremitting attention, hobnobbing with celebrities, rubbing shoulders with proven international stars, pictures not only on the sports pages but also on Page 3; Diwali has surely come early for India’s youngsters who, if not for Lalit Modi’s brainchild, would have been spending their off-season in relative obscurity.

A Delhi youngster struts a little more, the chest-hugging designer tee straining as much with new-found confidence as any workouts. “What more can I ask for? I am playing with the world’s best cricketers, earning money I never thought I could make unless I played international cricket!”

Then take what this player, model looks and all, says: “A month or two ago, I was playing the Deodhar Trophy where no one knew me. Today, everyone wants to have a photograph with me. My financial insecurities have vanished, and if I play this for at least another three-four years, I am done,” he said.

The IPL has helped eradicate the age-old bane of Indian domestic cricketers — the lack of money. But what happens to the motivation if players get everything they aspire to even before playing international cricket?

It is said that first-class cricket is a breeding ground for Test cricketers and go through the mandatory rigours and labour. But what becomes of the long-ignored Ranji Trophy? “I think if the IPL becomes economically viable for the franchisees, then possibiy that it will kill domestic and eventually Test cricket,” Mukul Kesavan, senior writer and historian, told HT.

Kiran More agreed. “Yes, of course, players could get carried away. I have nothing against the IPL...it’s a wonderful platform for young players but why doesn’t the BCCI manage to get a fraction of the megabucks for domestic cricket which is the breeding ground for future India players.” Another cricketer said: “No one watches Ranji. Everyone is lapping up the IPL. If I can play for another three years, I think financially, I can endure not playing for India. Already I am famous."

Indeed a revolution!