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After the hype, time for a reality check

india Updated: Jul 20, 2008 02:24 IST

Even in this season of Test cricket, the T20 bug refuses to leave us. The BCCI, in an extraordinary diktat, has told its players that they cannot play for any English county which has an ICL player in it.

Though an official said this was not an “order” but “advice”, given the draconian nature of our board does anyone believe that a player will have the courage to go against his master’s wishes?

Anil Kumble told the media in Sri Lanka that he, and most of his players, consider Test cricket to be the ultimate and even went to the extent of saying that the IPL’s resounding success had a lot to do with the frenzy generated by the media. Will those who now swear by the IPL, and don’t care if any other format of the game survives, agree?

Back home, our “best-loved commentators” and voices who are on the payrolls of either the IPL or the franchises, are not stopping in praising this revolution and the economic benefits it has provided, and will provide, players in the future. They’re giving us sermons on the wonder that is T20 and it would appear that anyone who does not agree with them would be told to shut up.

Almost every country wants a league of its own, be it England or even Pakistan. England is embracing this form of cricket with as much vigour as India. If they, too, get wealthy sponsors and franchises, we can see more money and ego clashes taking place.

There is a multi-billionaire called Allen Stanford in the field and we’re wondering why he isn’t joining hands with the ICL so that the money pot in world cricket gets shaken up a bit more.

But is there enough space for different countries having their own leagues, like in football? The pool of international players in cricket is very limited and it won’t be humanly possible for the Dhonis of this world to be playing for two to three teams at the same time.

So the good news for the players is that their bidding powers could increase manifold and when the richer get richer, we’re told, it has a trickle-down effect and even the poor benefit, like they did in IPL.

Strangely enough, the IPL may have been great for the players, the board, the media and the public, but it was not a success for the franchises. Post-IPL, I have hardly seen any report in the media trying to evaluate the financial details of the event, though when the tournament was on we were being told that money was pouring in for everyone associated with it.

If you talk to the franchises or their representatives, you will be told that, on an average, each team lost around Rs 20-30 crores. What is interesting is that before the tournament began it was believed that it would take around three years to break even.

Despite the “resounding” success in the first year itself, the money returns were low. Now the estimates have been revised and it is being felt that it will take around five years to break even.

If one goes by a media report in a leading English paper, the TRP rating of the final was 7.7 and of the semi-finals between 4 and 5. This was a rating that even the Asia Cup, which followed the IPL, achieved despite the media and public fatigue!

Just to remind the readers that the recent India-Australia Test series had a TRP rating of more than 8 and a high-profile one-day match often gets a rating of more than 9.

Kumble may not have been far off the mark when he said the IPL was helped a great deal by the media frenzy and he has sought the same kind of support for the Test series in Lanka. That support he and his team will get, but the cricket will have to be of high quality and the contest close. Not like the England-South Africa Test at Lord’s that would have put even a mad, passionate lover of the game to sleep.