IPL 2009 (IPL 2) is a commercial joke!

The IPL 2 (Indian Premier League), which is being held in South Africa is becoming a big joke this time around. Though Mr. Lalit Modi and co put together some good effort to make it colorful and guaranteed on time delivery of the tournament, the undertone now is MONEY and not cricket!

The South African cricket board has done a wonderful job by hosting the tournament at such a short notice. However, there are some things about this edition of IPL that makes it less attractive for the cricketing world.

First of all, the game rules were changed to make money for the advertisers and Sony Entertainment Television. It is really pathetic that a prolonged and so-called strategic break (10 mins break after 10 overs in an innings) is taking the momentum and steam away. Sometimes I felt that they are using much more than 10 minutes. This break has nothing to do with on the field strategies but to stuff more ads for the Indian spectactors watching it on the TV

Secondly, I am really getting irritated with SET MAX’s ‘technical difficulties’ at key moments during the game. This usually happens during the toss and I get a feeling that they are intentionally doing it.

Thirdly, the weather, which was cited as the prime reason for moving IPL to South Africa (and not England) doesn’t seem to behave as predicted. Half the matches so far have been shortened or wiped out due to bad weather.

As I mentioned in the last post, I was hoping for really fiery pitches so that some of the Indian batting heroes in dead rubber gets to reassess themselves. Definitely the pitches are much better than those in India but somehow not as pacy as expected.

I am also disappointed due to the fact that only 4 foreign players can be used in the 11 member team. Probably this number should have been 5 or 6 as the match is being played abroad. Talking about the game abroad, we are also missing the noise and buzz in the stands that you get to see in India.

The missing real fanbase is another issue. Since there’s no concept of home and away matches for the local teams (Chennai, Delhi etc) some part of the excitement and fan support is missing.

The money aspect is visible in every stage of the tournament. Several teams have sent back their under performers ruthlessly to cut cost. The emphasis is always on how much the broadcasters and team owners can make.

The only positive so far is the older stalwarts who are proving their points. Anil Kumble, Muralidharan, Shane Warne, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman are just proving the fans that with technical perfection the problems with age can be offset. Many of the young batting heroes and young bowlers have already failed miserably.

I hope that the situation improves as the tournament progresses and weather gets better. But certainly, since IPL first edition had set a lot of expectations, this time around it is turning out to be a less exciting event.

IPL: Sourav Ganguly should join politics

The IPL is still called the Indian Premier League but this time around it will be conducted in South Africa – thanks to those terrorists in the sub continent. At the outset, I would like to appreciate Mr. Lalit Modi’s proactiveness and immediate actions to move this edition of IPL out of the country as there’s been political issues over the security in this country. By taking such a bold decision on a short term basis saved the franchise’ and several international players’ interest. After all, this year probably will be Modi’s last chance to prove that IPL and Twenty 20 success can be carried forward further as his @$$ is on fire after loosing in the Rajasthan Cricket Board elections.

Ganguly plays politics again

When Rahul Dravid lost captaincy of the Indian team or even most recently that of the Bangalore Royal Challengers nothing really happened in Bangalore or Karnataka. But the case is different when Sourav Ganguly is stripped off power. The ever innovative (and sometimes lunatic) John Buchanan, the team coach of the Kolkata Knight Riders, suddenly had an enlightenment that his Twenty 20 team needs three or four captains this time. This is mainly to ensure that just in case Sourav Ganguly didn’t figure in the scheme of things, he needed somebody else to lead the team. As usual Dada didn’t take it quite well. Just like the times when he was dropped from the Indian team, he played all his ‘hinting’ statements in the press that he is unhappy. Finally Mr. Shah Rukh Khan, the team owner, got involved and he ensured Dada’s crazy followers that Dada will be consulted on the captaincy issue. According to Buchanan he was already consulted.

The following are my views on this issue:-

. If Buchanan and Shah Rukh Khan didn’t want Ganguly in this edition of IPL, they should have told him that directly and dropped him rather than coming up with this ‘Panel of Captains’ theory.

. Not just Ganguly but even people like Rahul Dravid should stop playing Twenty 20 cricket as this version is not meant for people in their late 30s.

. Dada has not been playing competitive cricket for quite sometime now that he will be a burden to the team.

. Ganguly may stop playing politics and if he wants to do so he should actually join Indian politics as he has been a shrewd thinker off and on the field.

. Shah Rukh Khan should stop behaving diplomatically if he really wants his team to win. The contracts apart, the Twenty 20 format is so dynamic that, today’s hero is nobody in a few months time.

Fortunately, Buchanan was much more diplomatic and composed than Greg Chappell and hence he’s still with the team.

Looking forward to the IPL

I am really looking forward to this edition of IPL mainly due to the quality of pitches and grounds in South Africa. Moreover, these bouncy tracks will definitely prove too good for many Indian heroes but I expect a couple of adaptable youngsters to emerge to replace some of the old faces in the current Indian ODI and test teams. Though it’s a fast and short format, those who can play in bouncy pitches can be easily spotted and picked!

Let’s wait and see how it goes.

Controversy over Test Ground, Stanford and the IPL lord…

The past few days’ good cricketing action between Australia & New Zealand and West Indies & England have been offset by some controversies. At first it was with the Antigua test ground, then cases of fraud against the Mr. Allen Stanford – the billionaire behind the Stanford 20-20 – and finally the number of FIRs (First Investigation Report) filed against the IPL master brain, Mr. Lalit Modi.

Antigua Test Ground

Antigua was in news twice this week and both for not-so-good reasons. The second test between West Indies and England was abandoned after just 10 deliveries the reason was a sandpit ground which apparently put bowlers at risk. It was pathetic to see how the sand was being showelled out by bowlers’ run up. Finally the captains and umpired called it quits and an enquiry has been ordered into this controversy putting the WICB in huge embarrassment.

Sir. Vivian Richards was of the opinion that the WICB should do justice to the grounds named after him by at least maintaining reasonable quality there in. I am sure the past heroes of the game should not loose their faces due to the current pathetic conditions of their homegrounds.

Allen Stanford admits errors

Another Antiguan, Mr. Stanford – the brain behind the lucrative Twenty 20 initiative in the West Indies – has been charged with multiple frauds related to his company’s insider and illegal activities while listed in the US markets. Stanford has been charged with the way he manipulated the past and present numbers of his listed entity thereby cheating the investors. God alone knows what’s awaiting him now! Antigua, the beautiful island, into shame once again!

Modi bowled by allegations

A similar rich administrator, Mr. Lalit Modi of Indian Premier League has been charged with misappropriation of funds and illegal ways by which he won the RCA (Rajasthan Cricket Association) president role in 2005. As it looks, the change in state politics has affected Modi’s fortunes as his dissidents (apparently jealous of Modi’s IPL stature) and opponents are trying to corner him. Mr.Modi is alleging foul play and has threatened to take all IPL 2 home matches of Rajasthan Royals out of Jaipur. With the RCA elections around the corner and most importantly with IPL 2 gaining momentum, even those who are opposing Lalit Modi can gain a lot of popularity! Nice plot!!

(PS: I could not write about the wonderful 20-20 match between Australia and New Zealand last week. It was the 20-20 at its best with some exceptional hitting, ground fielding and controlled spin bowling)

England in Dire Staits, IPL auctions and controversies…

It was not a great week for England where they got trashed by West Indies in the first test match at Sabina Park. The visitors received an innings defeat and more importantly they managed to score a mere 51 in the second innings.

It’s really bad to see that the typical problems of teams like India or Pakistan now has gripped England as well. Basically, the team now has several former captains, no proper coach and with Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores getting axed the on and off the field tension is affecting their game.

IPL affecting teams

Another important thing is the greed that IPL has created. I guess with KP and Flintoff getting offers of the tunes of more than 1.5 millions they must be wondering what’s there in playing for the country. This can happen to any other country and as I maintained in the past Twenty 20 cricket and Indian Premier League will spoil all international teams. To make things worse, Lalit Modi even commented that he wouldn’t mind if Cricket Australia sacks Andrew Symonds from their national side because in that case he gets to play IPL second edition throughout the event.

Pakistan Cricket Board in the meantime has not allowed their key players to participate in IPL. Sri Lankan Cricket Board’s ex-chief Arjuna Ranatunga is trying to amend his stand by telling that he’s not against IPL or BCCI.

Basically, the Indian Premier League has created a lot of headache for the international cricket boards and their national teams. I don’t think, it can continue like this forever.

Other highlights of the week

India won the ODI series in Sri Lanka 4-1. Though, India put together great all round performance, they were lucky to get the toss in their favour four out of five times. New Zealand had a great start to their 5 match ODI series against Australia and are now leading 2-1.

The week was otherwise pretty boring as most of the matches this week were pretty one-sided.

Lalit Modi lambasted by the British media

Lalit Modi shot into international fame not because he is on the board of the multi billion Modi Enterprises or Godfrey Philips but because he was the father of IPL. The IPL success has made him a celebrity that has even started appearing on TV commercials of late!

Unfortunately the shrewd businessman, who almost always think of money alone, put behind the human values and spirit of cricket when he expected the English team to continue the test part of the on going tour in India amidst terrorist attack. First of all conducting the Champions League Twenty20 in India amidst tight international schedule itself was a bad idea. Especially on the same year when we already got to see too many Twenty20 encounters in ICL, IPL and more. Our man must have been thoroughly frustrated when the terrorist attacks hit Mumbai this week not because of the number of people died but because of the money lost due to cancellation of the Champions League. As a last try, he wanted the English team to come back in less than two weeks to complete the test series.

The British media already frustrated with the way the India-England one-day series went, picked on him instantly and lambasted! I thought they are right! The BCCI and its money minded monkeys seem to be interested only in playing as many matches in India as possible, regardless of the political and security conditions. This is a good lesson to the Indian cricket authorities that the power and money that they enjoy may be short lived in case of unexpected events like this spurt out.

Tail Piece: Lalit Modi may be the father of IPL. But I thought Kapil Dev and his team are the ones who brought in the concept though they didn’t have this kind of money and franchise model to monetize and market the same the way Modi did. Of course, Kapil is not as shrewd as Mr.Modi. And in this cricket-crazy nation, probably father of IPL is bigger than father of the nation?

It is all about Money – WICB doesn’t have It, The English players want More, Symonds ready to settle for Less

Cricket is ‘flourishing’ where money is… India is the fastest growing economy among the cricket playing nations and that is reflecting in the way the game is played and paid as well. While other cricketing boards and players are crying for money to save cricket the BCCI’s pockets are always full!

West Indies Cricket Board in trouble

The WICB has asked the International Cricket Council (ICC) for a loan of US $3 million, to save cricket in that part of the world with a great cricketing past. How painful is it watch West Indies cricket degrading the way it did over the past ten years or so. In the rat race between those who have money, the WICB seems to have lost out! One of the issues that the ICC and WICB themselves need to look into is whether the West Indian countries and islands now need to seperate out and form individual international teams?

English players want the IPL ‘experience’

The likes of Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen have come out openly to state that they want to play the Indian Premier League (IPL) season II. Andrew Flintoff feels that the IPL has given a lot of experience to the Indians and done good to their cricket but who doesn’t know that they are after money?

The English Cricket Board, in the meantime, has clearly indicated that those who want to play IPL may do so at the cost of their central contracts. Looks like, the board has learned a lesson or two after several counties got involved with the rebel ICL and was on the verge of legal actions from ICL earlier this year.

Andrew Symonds ready to settle for a low pay?

It seems Andrew Symonds offered to ‘work’ for a contract lowered by $250,000 this year as a discount towards his off-field activities. The Australian board however, stressed that the sportspersons on international duty should be responsible enough to understand their roles and hence no cuts for the time being. Cricket fraternity feels that Symonds may still retain his contract this year as well, despite some ‘minor’ behavioral issues.

Well, he can afford to loose $250,000 a year as his income from IPL may compensate that or even more.

With the IPL and cash rich BCCI flexing their muscles, the world wide cricketing bodies and players seem to suffer more. I think it’s time BCCI realized where to draw the line. The money power has definitely got into their heads and even trying to influence ICC every now and then. The latest examples being (1) the warning to ICC against the Gautam Gambhir test ban, though everyone knew that the player was guilty, and (2) requesting the English Board to postpone the first test match by a day because it happens to be just a day after the Champions Twenty20 league final (where Dhoni might play, just in case Chennai Super Kings qualify for the final). It’s a shame on cricket that BCCI’s schedules are taking precedence over the ICC Test match schedules that were scheduled months and years back! It’s all about Money!!!

Tail Piece: The economic slowdown is showing on cricket stars’ pay and sponsorships as well. The Pak board is all set for a pay-cut on the players contracts this year. Others may follow as well?