Cricket as mega-buck business

Cricket industry (zero-sportsmanship venture) has evidently stretched  India’s economic liberalization to ludicrous lengths. We have DLF-IPL flogging 20/20 matches as entertainment product sold to cricket consumers by the seat – costing anything between Rs.200 to Rs.5,000 per fixture in Chennai. A season ticket could set you back by as much as Rs.30,000 (Chennai rates).  

Seven other cities have been franchised by the league promoters mainly to corporates helmed by folk such as Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya; and bollywood celebs – Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla (joinly holding Kolkata franchise) and Preity Zinta (part-holder of Mohali franchise). These people have paid big money. Mallya is reported to have paid $111.6 mil. for Bangalore and has spent another Rs.15.2 crores acquring players for the city team. 

Someone who plays for Bangalore need not necessarily be from the city or even the state. He could be from quite another country, depending on the bid size and depth of Mallya’s pocket. Players are auctioned and even the game is mutilated in form and substance to suit the requirements of a day/night fixture. Imagine the power bill involved in such a match. Cricket, as most lovers of the sport envisage, used to be a day-light game. Haven’t we seen Test matches being curtailed by poor natural light? I haven’t checked if they have a fixture on April 22; and if ‘Earth Day’ enthusiasts have plans to protest such conspicuous power consumption in the name of cricket. 

As if they haven’t thrown their weight about elsewhere, we hear IPL promoters are seeking to dictate terms to the media , laying down conditions for newspaper coverage and trying to put a cap on the number of  action photographs a newspaper can upload to its web editions. No self-respecting newspaper editor can be expected to accept such conditions. What’s more, the league promoters claim unfettered access to media material and visuals as a free lunch; and this, they demand as a right, to be fulfilled by the media at its cost. 

I haven’t , have you, heard of the corporate sector muzzling the media (instead of the other way about). The Hindu says it all in its edit: ‘Greed and arrogance’. Irony is the IPL franchise for Hyderabad is said to be held by a media group – Deccan Chronicle. 

IPL promoters or the franchise holders don’t appear to care for the interests of spectators. In my reckoning the 20/20 league organizers take for granted a multitude of their customers – cricket-loving public. Maybe IPL is aping the US business model for sports such as baseball, basketball or football. Is anyone addressing the issue whether turning cricket into a mega-buck entertainment business is conducive to our socio-economic reality. Besides, is it such a good idea to let a real-estate developer transplant in India a business model for cricket (which is almost a religion with our sport-loving multitude) for the benefit of a bunch of investors and a select group of auctioned players. If this 20/20 league gets going, it would not be long before we have multinational investors and takeover tycoons evincing interest in India’s cricketing entertainment prospects.  



4 Responses

  1. I always thought cricket is an overrated game, which has long since ceased to be a game, and cricketers a pampered lot. All this puffing up seems to be going out of proportion. There should be a realisation that no coverage and no media means no reach to the public – so no adoring fans, no adulation, and the crunch – will they be playing at all then?

  2. High five to Raji! You spoke my mind! Let’s hope these guys put off the cricket watching public so much that they get their comeuppance in terms of low ad revenues. Wishful thinking, of course. To plagiarize H.L.Mencken, no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the Indian public.

    “Someone who plays for Bangalore need not necessarily be from the city or even the state. He could be from quite another country”. True. And you know what? He doesn’t have to be from the human race either. Which is why Andrew Symonds is allowed to play. (cheap joke)

    Great Post!

  3. I cannot comment on the ticket prices quoted with an integer followed by many 0’s as I do not know the rupee buying power today except that iduring my last visit to India nearly a decade ago I was shocked to see
    my relatives taking one hundred rupee wad to go
    Nanjumalige vegetable market where I never spent more than two rupees in late 1960s and early1970s. I guess the ticket prices reflect the buying power of the rupee today. Looking at the plight of Dollar, perhaps this is not surprising

    The IPL ramifications however runs much deeper compared to football (soccer), the IPL star cricketers
    are modestly paid, and the ‘megabuck business’ is mostly confined to cricket playing countries. In England and South Africa football reigns supreme (SA stages the next football world cup) and even in Australia a form of football called rules football and rugby attract major talents. In West Indies, there is so much craze about baseball that all future Joel Garners ( tall players) shun cricket. Hence cricket and IPL may be big in India but do not register in the radar screens in a major way across Europe, North and South america, major parts of Africa and Middle East. Sure the foreign cricket stars who have starvation-level earnings compared to football stars in their countries get continually attracted to IPL nets.

    But what would happen to the state of test cricket in India itself ? Is there an opportunity for the development of real and sustaining skills which test cricket needs and demands? Would there be batsmen who would neatly execute the square drive that Gundappa Viswanath did so effortlessly or the rquirement is simply for ‘pinch hitters’? Would the game kill off other games by attracting the talents away just like the IT industry and education has done?
    Finally, would there be any interest at all in test cricket in India in a decade down the line?

  4. There is this obscene amount floating around everywhere, not just cricket. And, over are the days when these amounts that one earned, had any relation to one’s talent.

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