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In times of economic chill, a bonfire of vanities

The IPL auction, shown live on TV to millions, would’ve made a cricket fan proud that even in the worst of times, his favourite players are being showered with money, writes Pradeep Magazine.

india Updated: Feb 08, 2009 22:24 IST

These are not normal times. No one is immune to the after-effects of the economic disaster that has struck the world like a typhoon, snatching thousands of jobs each day. But there are some honourable exceptions. The IPL auction, shown live on TV to millions, would’ve made a cricket fan proud that even in the worst of times, his favourite players are being showered with money.

The gleeful, vibrant faces of the Bollywood stars, the smug, know-it-all visages of the corporate czars, the brooding, thoughtful brows of their CEOs, and the agents of the players sitting next to them; all of this made for a riveting picture, especially when on sale were cricketers whose price-tags stretched into millions of dollars.

Even BCCI secretary N Srinivasan was one of the buyers at the auction, while the face of “New India”, the ubiquitous Lalit Modi, would beam with pride each time the hammer would go down and the master of ceremonies would announce “sold”. The IPL must feel blessed to have a man of steel like Modi at the helm in these times when corporate giants are counting their money but at the same time, are willing to spend on brand Twenty20. Despite being virtually on the run, mired in slew of serious allegations of corruption and highhandedness in his home state of Rajasthan, Modi is still Mr. Cool and efficiency personified.

And then we have Vijay Mallya — the king of good times — raising his arms after buying an Englishman for Rs 7.5 crores, and not even raising an eyebrow while doing so!

Kevin Pietersen, great cricketer that he is, deserved every penny of what he got and should be cherished by Mallya, who may have been cutting salaries of his pilots and even seeking financial help from the government to save his airlines, but isn’t holding back when it comes to India’s real religion — which connects the country far more than his airlines does. After all, the cause is greater than the losses one suffers, even if that might be at the cost of the jobs of your employees. By making light of the worldwide recession and offering unheard amount of money for a mere one-and-a-half months of cricket to two Englishmen, we have finally set the sun on the English empire. We’re told that Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff are in shock, as just a few days ago they had heard American President Barack Obama issuing a withering critique of Wall Street corporate behaviour, calling it “the height of irresponsibility” for employees to be paid bonuses while their crumbling financial sector received a bailout from tax-payers. He even imposed a $500,000 (around Rs two and half crore) cap on senior executive pay for distressed financial institutions.

Giving more than three times that money to two players is the real ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ story — produced, directed and scripted by the Indians, unlike the one which we’re hoping will win the Oscars this month.

Jai Ho.

First Published: Feb 08, 2009 22:19 IST