R Mohan

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IPL honchos get most things right

To say the IPL was a success is to gild the lily. All the indices said so — a television audience well in excess of 100 million over 44 days, four million spectators at the grounds, TV viewership ratings in excess of 8 TRPs and record rates for 10-second spots at the final to rival US networks at primetime.

Where the IPL goes from here is what will define world cricket. Will the ICC wake up to the reality of a player-centric popular tournament and create a window so that all, including the English players, can get into the IPL and enjoy the competition and the monetary benefit?

If they choose to block it, it is the member countries of the ICC who will be left facing a rebellion. To stifle market forces would be to invite consequences the administration is not qualified to handle as we saw in the Packer case 30 years ago when Justice Slade came down on ICC like a ton of bricks.

 

Can there ever be two IPLs in one season? That is too fanciful, perhaps a typical instance of chasing success that may prove to be the ruination of the event. By offering distilled cricketing action in the new format the IPL has captured the imagination even in its saturated, daily presence. A second season may kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

 

Such a season may also face stiff opposition from the franchise owners who may be the ones who have many reasons to feel dissatisfied with the the first year. The financial packaging of the IPL's 10-year plan would face severe disruptions if a second season creeps in. Additional teams would also mean lesser share of central revenues to franchises.

 

The point is the first event was a roaring success, from day one of Brendon McCullum's pyrotechnics that dazzled even more than the fireworks down to the finale, which, as Warne said so well, could not have been better written by a scriptwriter. Why tinker with a successful product is something IPL mandarins must ponder over.

 

The IPL was also such a success because none of the foreigners were mercenaries out only to make a buck as people may have suspected. One look at the Rajasthan dugout in the final moments, when there were more closed eyes than at an Alfred Hitchcock movie, would have convinced anyone how much the result meant to all, including Graeme Smith who was benched due to injury.

 

There is bound to be heartache when the barter or transfer windows open. If, say, Kevin Pietersen is paid $4 million a season, as the grapevine has it, then it would become an awkward talking point among the professionals.

 

They were bought collectively when there was a $5 million cap on salaries but new signings may not be subjected to the same controls.

 

Much has been said already about how the salary cap will go soon, which means IPL cricketers will soon be laughing all the way to the bank. What this will do to franchises whose budgets will implode is a different matter altogether.

 

The expectation is teams can go on to the bourses through an IPO (Initial Public Offering) even if it remains to be seen whether we are mature enough to consider sport a business and buy shares of a cricket team that would have become a public limited company.

 

A number of momentous issues are likely to arise that will test the ingenuity of the IPL honchos who got most things right from first ball to last.

 

The route forward seems to point to taking the concept to the entire cricket world rather than tamper with the Indian success story.

 

Republished with permission from The Asian Age

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