By Sanjay Jha
Cricket is recession-proof, says Lalit Modi, VP of BCCI in a sea-side resort in salubrious Goa. Elsewhere, pink slips have become the dreaded color, ad budgets are being slashed around like the knife of Jack the Ripper and a gloom overhangs like the Damocles sword over fragile necks in various boardrooms.
But this bikini-sized game of T20 played in the IPL kingdom is beyond conventional economic theory, espouses Modi with his not so unusual hubris. Even the supposedly invulnerable Bollywood is facing some strange developments, with some Singh is King types taking 80% cuts in their leviathan pay-packets, but IPL, says Modi, is beyond worldly metaphors.
Formula 1 and Manchester United are scrounging dingy alleys for the evasive cash sponsorship, and even the great Tiger Woods was left as high and dry as a hitch-hiker on the highway by General Motors. But IPL, says Modi, is a different kettle of flying fish. Thank you, Sir!
For some extremely understandable reasons (like hyping a celebrity event for cheap TRPs) the second-edition of the player auction was made to look like the rebirth of Adam and Eve. The ultimate farce (which revealed their desperate obsession for headline news and some obtuse business knowledge) was two of India’s leading newspapers running bold text (take a backseat, Rakhi Sawant) stating — What Recession? Take a mint; pals said the bullish story with the pink bottoms! Whew!
But despite all the sand, sex appeal and sunshine on display, what finally transpired was a cipher of a whimper or vice versa. Two Englishmen who were recently on a collision course were ‘picked up’ for a whopping (sic, really!) USD 1.55 m, which given prevailing exchange rates, was perhaps a tidy profit for them.
These two British patriots got so enamored by the windfall booty that they ensured they had a huge role to play in England’s mortifying total of 51 runs against the West Indies just a day after. I am hoping the big guzzler with the French beard who has enough time to buy cricket players personally sent Kevin a congratulatory SMS.
Also, that while we keep hearing some half-hearted squeaks from franchise owners that they have broken-even, how come two big revenue streams, merchandise sales and gate receipts is hardly ever discussed? Barring KKR of SRK last year, and Mumbai Indians later, there was hardly any apparel of a franchise worth losing a shirt over.
Currently Sony Set Max is having a royal battle, as ferocious as that between Sreesanth and Bhajji (the tight slaps, if any, will be in the boardrooms, so are confidential) with BCCI over a Reliance-AirTel sponsorship clash.
Modi himself is appearing more as a newsmaker for not very charitable reasons such as fraudulently acquiring mansions, even as we see him doing more of the I-Me-Myself act for a telecom commercial. In his last life Modi must have been an optician; he is an ‘I’ specialist.
Rest assured, the IPL mill will soon be on the cover of Stardust, the way things are going. And at Rs 75 crores for a 12% stake, you do realize, that love has no limits when it comes to valuations really. Of course, no one asked if this was a cash deal or will it be a reimbursement for Ms Shetty’s cheer-leading skills and brand promotion blah blah blah. And yet everyone’s talking ROI.
Hey, sorry to be a damn dampener, you IPL addicts. But old habits die hard, you know.
Extract from the book 11: Triumphs,Trials and Turbulence, Indian Cricket 2003 – 2010 by Sanjay Jha