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Despite controversies, Indian Premier League still a top draw

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has ruled cricket’s box office ever since its launch and despite the controversies, fans’ interest has shown no signs of flagging.

cricket Updated: Mar 30, 2018 08:57 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times
Indian Premier League,IPL,BCCI
Aware that careers are launched and fortunes made in the Indian Premier League (IPL), players are at the top of their game to perform and handle ‘contract pressure’, the stress of justifying big salaries.(AFP )

Ranji, Duleep, Vijay Hazare, Mushtaq Ali, Deodhar -- domestic tournaments named after big daddies of Indian cricket – are over. So is Irani Cup, which honours the memory of a distinguished BCCI president .

Now, six months from October when it started, India’s domestic cricket season is reaching its climax. Coming soon at stadiums close to you, and on channels at the fingertips of your remote, is Indian cricket’s all-time super hit offering, Indian Premier League. To draw a filmi analogy, IPL is Baahubali and Dangal combined.

When first released 10 years ago, it conquered cricket’s box office, and continues to generate amazing numbers –media rights every year upwards of Rs 3500 crore, title sponsorship at Rs 400 crore. IPL, across eight teams, spends almost Rs 800 crore on players and support staff. These figures put in shade ‘chhota’ IPLs popping up in different countries. Ben Stokes’s salary with Rajasthan Royals is more than the cost of a team in Big Bash.

No quid pro quo

Interestingly, despite its global significance, IPL is a domestic BCCI tournament, though with a neat twist. Foreign players (also coaches/support staff) are welcome, and are given handsome salaries. Foreign cricket boards too are handsomely compensated – they receive 20% of the contracted value of players from their country.

This arrangement works like magic. India follows a one-sided policy to reject every request for allowing its players to participate in overseas leagues, but no country dare insist on reciprocity. The message is clear – it does not pay to mess with India.

In IPL, the business end of India’s domestic season, commerce and colour take over cricket. White ball replaces red, playing whites are discarded for technicolor clothing. Cricket’s currency switches from runs to rupees.

Aware that careers are launched and fortunes made in IPL, players are at the top of their game to perform and handle ‘contract pressure’, the stress of justifying big salaries. For this, remaining injury free is a challenge, but somehow everyone reports fit; nobody wants rest and workload (14 matches in 5 weeks) is a non-issue!

Frenzied build-up

With just over a week to go, IPL promotion is hitting top gear with ‘best versus best’ and ‘sher versus sher’ contests. Teams are practising, coaching staff are at work justifying their existence and the marketing boys are slaving to close sponsorship deals.

Players are attending strategy sessions, and sitting through boring power-point presentations and getting to know their new mates in the dressing room. Dressed in flashy team jerseys, they appear at sponsor events to recite rehearsed (and fake) lines about how excited they are about their franchise and IPL.

But fans look forward to IPL with genuine excitement. Despite controversies and scandals, IPL remains a top draw where tickets sell, stadiums are packed and TV viewership keeps growing. IPL has had a big auction, teams wear a new look and the new broadcast deal ensures profits for everyone.

This happy situation is proof that India’s domestic IPL rules the world of T20 leagues!

(Amrit Mathur is a senior cricket writer and has been involved with IPL in official capacity)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by author in this article are personal.

First Published: Mar 30, 2018 08:48 IST