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Brace for a war plus the shooting

The IPL has become a monster which, if it does not sink under the weight of its own bloated ambitions, will gobble up cricket the way we have known it to exist, writes Pradeep Magazine.

india Updated: Mar 26, 2010 23:33 IST
Pradeep Magazine

The delirious cheerleaders are still counting the staggering amount that was pledged to buy the two new IPL teams. Not even the most inveterate supporter and beneficiary of this new form of entertainment had imagined that there were people around in whose evaluation the IPL has the potential to turn into a money-spinning wheel, the likes of which the world has never witnessed before.

Even the existing franchisees, who have suffered losses in the first two editions of the tournament and are hoping to at least break even this year if not make “marginal” profits, are taken aback by this audacious gamble played at last week’s auctioning.

Going by the existing revenue streams, a conservative estimate puts the annual losses that the two new entrants will have to bear for at least the next seven years, at around Rs 100 crore. “If we, who have bought the team for a pittance in comparison to the amount now bid, are barely making any profit, it is very difficult to visualise how these two new bidders won’t lose between Rs 100 to 150 crore each year,” say a few of the insiders.

But my concern here is not to see this issue in black and white terms and get into the business of profit and losses. If there are moneybags willing to take risks to promote their brands, why lose sleep over it.

If the sport is going to benefit in the end, we would rather have more such “visionaries” getting into the business of sport. The question to be raised and debated by everyone concerned with the health of the game should be that is the game taking a direction which could lead towards self-destruction?

With so much money at stake, be it of the franchises or the television channels, isn’t the immediate future going to see a more vicious battle being fought between the IPL promoters and those who support Test cricket? Given that a year has only 365 days to squeeze in three formats, one does not need to be a soothsayer to predict that the demands for spreading “IPL” across the globe will now become more and more strident.

A month and a half is too short a time for the investors to recover their money and since the salary cap for the players has now been substantially increased, there will be many more big names willing to sacrifice their careers for this form of the game.

Not only will the war between the IPL and the ICC sharpen, it could even reach a stage where the cricketing world will stand divided. With billions at stake now, providing a small window to the tournament is a minor issue and is not going to satisfy the greed of those who want to spread its tentacles far and wide.

The war against Kerry Packer was won by the traditionalists as the entire cricketing establishment felt threatened and closed ranks.

Today, the most powerful cricketing entity, the Indian Board, has sold out its stakes to the corporate world and nothing symbolises this more than the fact that its secretary also owns an IPL team and a host of influential and powerful commentators are on the payrolls of the League.

The IPL has become a monster which, if it does not sink under the weight of its own bloated ambitions, will gobble up cricket the way we have known it to exist.