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Cricket is not about sentiment. It is business.
by Suresh Menon
Jan 11, 2011

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Now that the spectacle of excess (to borrow a phrase the culture critic Roland Barthes used in another context) is over, we have to ask ourselves just how much the culture of IPL has changed since the departure of Lalit Modi. Not a lot, is the answer. The message to Sourav Ganguly has been analysed threadbare; the former India captain has tended to take the focus away from the real issues.

The much-promised transparency in the IPL process (before the product there is the process) has not come to pass. The vagueness about what the 'retained' players will get remains. Royal Challengers' Vijay Mallya was forthright: "It is a private matter between the franchisee and the individual", he told us. Which means that Sachin Tendulkar or  M S Dhoni might get more than Gautam Gambhir's 11 crores and something. ("How many zeroes in a crore?" was the most popular cricketing question of the day). Not that it matters who gets what – except that it makes a mockery of the salary cap. And that is a fundamental issue.

The feeling that rules are made on the run persists. The second (and third) round of the auction for unsold players was a farce, with not even the teams who had asked for those names bothering to bid. Next time it might be useful to mandate that a team which has a player on its wish list is obliged to bid for him. Auctions are as much about spending money as about making the other fellow spend his money, but the already long process becomes overly cumbersome when teams begin to act cute.

At least one of the experts on a news channel had a theory that the IPL was bound to keep the game going till six in the evening on the second day to accommodate the channel which had exclusive rights to telecast the proceedings live. Perhaps he was right.

And above all, there was the presence of N Srinivasan, all his hats clearly visible, so to speak. Board secretary, Governing Council member, owner of a team, he is by some distance the most powerful man in the IPL. But unlike Modi, he keeps in the background. Modi wore his intentions on his sleeve. Srinivasan is more subtle, focussed more on getting his way than on telling the world how he gets his way.

Chirayu Amin, the governing council chairman evades media questions just as comfortably as Modi did. Ask him about a colour and he will tell you a number. Ask him about transparency and he will talk about his friends in the franchises who will face stern action if anything "underhand" is discovered. But little is done to ensure that there is no temptation to go underhand.

The message from the franchisees was clear: sport is not about sentiment. It is business. It is about the bottom line. It is about results. Corporate India dealt with cricketers in a matter-of-fact manner, reducing the great names in the game to their bowling averages or strike rates. Getting a young team together or a bargain or a cheap buy was more important than anything else.

It was a lesson for the cricket board which often lets emotion cloud its judgement, and is happy to rely on past glory when the current form is not so good.

Shah Rukh Khan told us from South Africa that Ganguly was a valuable player, but didn't think it worthwhile to put his money where his mouth is.

Still, isn't nostalgia an important aspect of enjoying sport? And what is wrong with sentiment?
 

 
More Views by Suresh Menon
  Why is Dhoni scared of change?
  India's pathetic showing in England
  The odd series win at home does not compensate for the many losses abroad
  New look Indian team holds out great promise
  For India, First Test syndrome laid to rest
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