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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Business tycoons, belles, Bollywood and Bohali... and cricket too: IPL player auction

For the last 24 hours or so international media cricket coverage has been almost exclusively on the auction of players for the Indian Premier League (IPL) .
Even a high scoring tie in a New Zealand- England ODI has been marginalised by all the pizzazz emanating from Mumbai and reverberating through the intersecting worlds of cricket, media and entertainment.

As I post Cricinfo is displaying here a picture of Ness Wadia and Bollywood star Preity Zinta, the owners of one of the franchises. The same photo is printed on the back page of today's Advertiser with the caption " Indian business tycoon Ness Wadia arrives with his belle, Bollywood actress and owner of the Bohali team Preity Zinta". The alliteration sounds good but it goes a step too far: "Bohali" should be "Mohali" (the paper gets it right in a good overview of the teams on p84)

If you need a crash course in the IPL see here and here.

On Cricinfo Siddhartha Vaidyanathan assesses how the teams will stack up. His piece assesses each team's strengths ("USP"), weaknesses ("Chinks"), interesting choice("bizarre bargain") and also lists the players signed (or bought) for each side to date and the sometimes mind boggling prices paid for them.

I realise that I should count myself fortunate to have seen (by my count) 16 of the IPL contracted players in the two ODIs played here this week. Some of them, eg Sachin Tendulkar, did not perform at the their best (but his two low scores here were surely temporary troughs in a career of many peaks) whereas others, eg Yuvraj Singh, are clearly well suited to the T20 (and, on Tuesday's evidence) to the 50 over game.

The question everyone is asking is: will the IPL be successful? Given the huge amounts of money invested by private investors it is difficult to imagine that the concept won't catch on, either because of its intrinsic qualities or because of the high energy marketing which will inevitably accompany it. Already some players, notably Andrew Symonds, seem to be on the verge of walking away from their national team responsibilities. Others like Adam Gilchrist have timed their retirements well. Despite all the talk about preserving the existing international cricket calendar it will be impossible for this to happen., as several commentators, eg Scott Heinrich have noted.

Beyond that there are many possible implications for international cricket. The name "Indian Premier League" is a clear echo of the English Premier League, which despite its English base, has an enormous following around the world. More significantly, just as everybody knows what sport the EPL plays or oversees, though it's not mentioned in its title, if the IPL is even partly successful, then everyone will associate the best of world cricket with India. The difference between EPL and IPL is of course that there is only one form of soccer, whereas there are now three forms of cricket, and the IPL looks as if it will cement Twenty20 as the dominant form of the game. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I wouldn't like to see international test cricket squeezed out of existence by the brash new rich kid on the block.


Indian Premier League

How the teams stack up

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