And now for 44 days from April 18, India'sgreat cricket tamasha gets underway as the modern gladiators owned by Bollywood stars and industrialists battle for a prize money of US $5 million which is five times the prize money at the 2007 ICC World Cup in the Caribbean.
So, all those complaints of overdose of cricket and hectic tour schedule have all been pushed into the background and truly the Indian Premier League (IPL) has become Indian Paise Lob for it is just the money making the stars go round. And all this to counter the earlier Indian Cricket League (ICL) launched by media magnate Subhash Chandra.
The current tournament of twenty overs a side has the blessings of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) whose only interest appears to be to keep on filling its coffers. Surprisingly, the chairman of the BCCI, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, has preferred to maintain a silence on the issue.
Being one of the richest sports bodies in not only India but the world, the BCCI has now got the cricketers into the fold of making a quick buck and what better way than to have this IPL.
It is all fine to have such a league but what about the national team'sperformance which has been very much below par except for an occasional flash in the pan victory. Look at its performance in the tour of Australia. We may have won one test and a couple of victories in the One Day tournament but overall, what has been the team'sstanding.
On the other hand, look at the Australians and their professionalism. For them country comes first and many of them are not even keen on participating in this great circus.
Instead of having this kind of tamasha and trying to raise the pitch, it would have been far better had these same Bollywood stars and industrialists put their money in state sides for the Ranji Trophy and other national level tournaments where at least there is loyalty to the state. Here a player from Delhi like Ishant Sharma bought by Kolkata owned by Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan plays against Delhi, it is nothing but money that is doing the trick.
Comparing the IPL to the English Premier League (EPL) football is odious. Clubs like Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea playing in the EPL may have foreign stars but also has local players in its side and many of them have been nurtured from youth sides of these clubs and thus these football clubs have a loyal fan following.
On the other hand, the teams in IPL having rather romantic names like Delhi Daredevils, Royal Challengers and Chennai Super Kings may look impressive but what about fan loyalty. In most cases it would be a big tamasha with the fans coming to see the fun rather than a good game of cricket.
The television rights for this great Indian circus has already been given out for over $1 billion while the franchisees have already committed close to US $723 million. Top players are expected to earn minimum Rs one to two crores per season.
It was indeed rather sad that the players were being auctioned similar to the fairs like Pushkar where cattle are sold and the only difference being that this was in a five star hotel where crores of rupees were being flaunted in the full glare of the media.
With the hype and excitement surrounding the players? auction, it has become clear that dangle the money and cricketers will forget all about being overburdened with cricket and even injuries.
Whatever maybe the outcome of this ?Great Tamasha,? it is bound to change the face of cricket and could well entice cricketers to put a price on their heads as TV channels and other stake holders come out with innovative methods to reap profits.
However, in this new world of entertainment there are a few who have put country before the lure of a quick million or two. Like Australia'sMichael Clarke whose decision to give the IPL a miss is reported to have gone down well in his country.
The overdose of cricket which had been the constant complaint now seems to have been pushed into the background in the wake of the large sums of money dished out for the players.
The only complaints, if any now, would be the price on each player and it could well stir up feelings of both joy and anger as some youngsters have been priced higher than some seniors.
Take the case of 19 year Ishant Sharma of Delhi who has been bought by Shah Rukh Khan for Kolkata at US$950,000 while Indian captain Anil Kumble has been bought by his home team Bengaluru for US $500,000 as also his senior teammate Irfan Pathan for US925,000. In fact India'sunder-19 cricketer Manoj Tiwary has been bought by Delhi for US$675,000 which too is higher than the price paid for Kumble. Indeed these kind of going rates for cricketers who are comparatively fresh while veterans have been bought for lesser price would definitely cause heartburn among many.
The ball was set rolling by the ICL, a venture that came into being following the failure of a television channel to secure telecast rights from the cricket board.
However, with the kind of money dished out for players ranging from US1.5 million for India'sOne Day International captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni by Chennai and the media glare on the bidding and other aspects of the IPL, the ICL has been overshadowed.
Life for cricketers has become immensely lucrative as can be seen that in the 1950s and 1960s, a cricketer considered himself lucky enough to be selected to play a Test match for he would be richer by Rs. 250 at the end of the five-day game. The fifty-over one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches were unheard of nor did television exist.
It was with the appearance of private TV channels that the face of cricket changed. Star cricketers began endorsing products and the cricket board began exploiting the commercial opportunities to swell its coffers. Money, money, and more money. With cricket being brought to the drawing room it was considered fashionable to say that cricket had become an addiction. But, what about the crowds that thronged to see one-day matches and now Twenty-Twenty matches when it came to domestic tournaments like Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy.
Where did those masses disappear though it is in these domestic tournaments that cricketers endeavour to excel in order to earn the India cap?
The following are the bid amounts and winners for various teams in the Indian Premier League: Vijay Mallya won the bid for the Bengaluru team for $111.6 million. Shah Rukh Khan won the bid for the Kolkata team for $75.09 million. GMR Holdings won the bid for the Delhi team for $84 million. Mukesh Ambani won the bid for the Mumbai team for $111.9 million. India Cements won the bid for the Chennai team for $91 million. Deccan Chronicle won the bid for the Hyderabad team for $107.01 million. Emerging Media won the bid for the Jaipur team for $67 million. Ness Wadia won the bid for the Mohali team for $76 million, reportedly.
These figures only go to show how much money is being spent by Bollywood stars and industrialists on these modern day gladiators for what can be merely a momentary pleasure as Twenty-Twenty is no game for the connosieurs and may even not be able to help the Indian cricketers in the long run except to make them quick millionaires.