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High-priced IPL needs a rescue package

india Updated: Feb 23, 2009 00:21 IST

The wheel that spun the T20 revolution has developed a few snags and, despite denials from those who keep its axle greased, the road ahead appears riddled with bumps and potholes.

The first bad news came from the melting markets. Then Allen Stanford, the man who enticed England into a world of billion-dollar dreams, turned out to be an alleged swindler, leaving world cricket’s original powerhouse embarrassed to its bones.

In India, Lalit Modi, who changed the face of the sport and helped launch a thousand brands, is battling with allegations of corruption and a threat to his own empire in Rajasthan. His baby, the IPL, may still be in sound health, but those who want to dress it up in gold and emeralds find their pockets getting pinched and money becoming scarce.

The first major scare to viewers at home has come from a medium whose live images, beamed across to

adoring fans, fatten the golden goose. Sony’s CEO has gone, no one knows for sure why, but speculation is rife that in an atmosphere of the melting money pot, the first to abandon the ship are those who stand to lose the most.

The IPL czar Modi, who protects his product and its sponsors like a mother shielding her children from the envious eyes of the world, is bravado personified and is promising a better and grander event this year. But the franchises are not too sure of that.

They lost a substantial sum of money last year and are now bracing to lose more this year. In the absence of any hope of recovering even a fraction of the losses, belts are being tightened even if it hurts the stomach.

There are apprehensions that if the Sony imbroglio is not resolved amicably, it could even “ambush” the IPL, which may still not be a viable product on the whole. It’s a super-hit but has priced itself beyond the reach of most, especially when the economy is showing no signs of recovery.

As one of the CEOs of a franchise put it: “The IPL needs to scale down its ambitions as it cannot afford to get crushed under the weight of its own unbridled greed.”

The greed here is that of the Board, which by now must have realised that an auction is a gamble where money is thrown in the hope that the returns will be manifold, much more than the investment made. What is generally forgotten is that in a gambling game the only person who is guaranteed profits is the owner of the

casino. The BCCI has to be more pragmatic and realise that if it is the only one making money, the game will be over faster than expected.

I’m not sure whether the franchises have raised their voices or not, but if ever a bailout was needed, it is here; otherwise the product itself could get harmed irrevocably.