IPL goes ‘Tender’

By Sanjay Jha

In IPL money does not just speak, it shouts. If today’s report in a leading national newspaper is to be believed then Mr Sunil Gavaskar and Mr Ravi Shastri have risen in a collective remonstrance against the supposed “reprimand” given to their beloved reincarnate of Moses Lalit Modi, IPL Commissioner by the BCCI President Shashank Manohar and other assorted members of the governing council. Gavaskar’s staunch defense of Modi even overshadows his classic postures at the crease at protecting his coveted wickets. Wow, but Sunny honestly never ceases to surprise me anymore. Incidentally, how did Gavaskar’s confidential mail land up so ingeniously in a journalist’s inbox? Was it by some new operating system of Microsoft on beta testing that made the e-mail fly in pre-determined destinations? Or is this an orchestrated planned public relations damage control effort being fronted by two eminent ex-cricketers for their dear crony ? So tell me, who is now washing dirty underwear ( we are talking T20 aren’t we??) in public spotlight ? Will BCCI/IPL ” reprimand” Sunil Gavaskar for breaching terms of proper official conduct? Shouldn’t it? Is he the first among equals?

Last week , of course, we witnessed the archetypal mammoth build-up to the sale of new franchises which was to be made public with much hullabaloo, hype and heat. Instead, what we all experienced was a vapid premature ejection of the whole tender-process with a dramatic about-turn done by Modi. It was as we are so accustomed to all things with BCCI-IPL, an utter flimflam affair , a manifestation of IPL’s brazen , dictatorial ways. Technically of course they had it appropriately covered with a catholic clause bordering on superciliousness of the highest order ; the IPL could terminate the tender process anytime without giving any reasons thereof. It reveals the desperate state of new bidders that they chicken-heartedly comply to such draconian terms. Bollywood actors Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor looked befuddled, bemused and bewildered as they were told to go home and rework their tender, with love and care.

So Modi was just lawfully exercising his legal rights , with I am sure plentiful support from his co-partners IMG , who are past-masters at drafting convoluted agreements to cover all possibilities, even the appearance of George Bush Jr in polka-dotted underpants from a space-ship. Or incorporate a clause stating ” that the tender will be deemed null and void if the bidder is found wearing VIP under-garments on close bodily inspection 5 minutes before the announcements”. Don’t put anything past them.

But there are more serious damaging revelations now out of the can of slimy slithering worms besides two hot headed members engaged in an acrimonious exchange. . For one , it seems that the tender document was not even circulated to IPL members before it was made public; now that is professionalism, transparency and decision-making reaching an unparalleled pinnacle! Take your hats off, IPL Governing Council! Worse, it seems Manohar’s approbation of the tender terms were taken verbally on the phone without any documentary sign-off, and we are talking about submitting bids exceeding USD 225 million! Pardon me, but I think IPL management style is a basket case-study in “unethical, grossly inept and unorthodox business practices”, for private circulation only.

The billion dollar net worth and bank guarantee within 48 hours of bid amount are exacting , exorbitant terms as it favors established corporate firms with sufficient cash flows and historical reserves. But no one is asking the most germane question; how did the IPL establish the minimum base price of USD 225 million? Is it pure perceived value based on a simple arithmetical calculation and demand-supply or does it have a sustainable revenue reasoning behind it? I think it is beyond doubt that it is the former formula as currently IPL is riding a media-driven publicity positioning that makes it a huge summer event. But where are franchise revenues justifying a three-fold increase ( the initial minimum bids were for USD 75 mln) in financial valuations within 2 years? Has anybody seen a published result or at least an official document or press release duly certifying the exaggerated stories we read in planted columns? It could also be the thick incestuous IPL cartel with a little help from magnanimous friends arriving at their own unique method of increasing the value of their investments . It is not just impossible, it is a preposterous grandiose heist having no commercial logic. But as long as there is demand in the form of Bollywood ego-hunters, social butterflies and old moths and corporates flush with idle cash, Modi may be well justified in making quick buck. The bottomless downside of this risky model is it’s over-the-top acquisition cost; how come no one is asking as to how and when will a USD 225 million owner of a franchise ever break-even when even if the earlier proprietors with a USD 75 million purchase cost are still in the red?

And yes, lest I forget, I must mention that IPL members were banging desks with monumental passion for the heroics of Mr Modi and Mr Gavaskar was deeply offended that it was not suitably recorded. Now it is.

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