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IPL takes cricket beyond the boundary
by Partab Ramchand
Apr 20, 2008
``It will be a super hit’’ said Sachin Tendulkar a few days before the start of the Indian Premier League. It was difficult to disagree with this view what with the gigantic hype, the mind boggling figures associated with the eight teams and the players, the hitherto unheard of franchise concept and the auctions and the involvement of Bollywood stars and high profile industrialists.

Brett Lee caught the mood correctly. ``It has created history’’ gushed the Australian pace spearhead who was bought by Preity Zinta's Mohali team for 900,000 dollars. To use a cliché, cricket may never be the same again. The cynics may hold the view that it is all about money and there is nothing to beat national honour. A leading national newspaper in a scathing comment wrote: ``When Mohali's Brett Lee bowls to Bangalore's Rahul Dravid, will it be the same as Australia's Lee bowling to India's Dravid? The matches will be played every evening for 44 days. Can a tournament of this nature keep the excitement alive for so long?"

And yet just after a couple of days it can confidently be asserted that what the packed stadiums and millions of the game’s fans all over the world have seen is indeed cricketing history being made. The razzle-dazzle opening ceremony just before the opening match commenced at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore took one’s breath away even as the genuine cricket fan’s throat was chocked with emotion as the captains signed the pledge to play the matches in keeping with the spirit of the game. And yes, it was just great watching Brett Lee bowling to Matthew Hayden and Muthiah Muralitharan bowling to Kumar Sangakkara!

Cricket these days particularly in India is all about marketing and the IPL chairman Lalit Modi has emerged as a trend setter in the field. That cricket was no longer a sport but an industry in India had been well known for some time. But even after accepting this it must be admitted that events associated with the IPL have taken the game into a new realm. One always thought that the sky was the limit but those promoting cricket as a business venture would like to believe that there is no such thing as limit when it comes to big money in the game.

From this angle Modi the marketing guru in the BCCI is very much the man of the moment. In the last couple of years he has emerged as an aggressive, no nonsense administrator who has given a new dimension to marketing cricket. And by his latest venture he has made himself the most talked about person in the game.

As Lee aptly summed it up ``if we look back in ten years time this is going to be a massive landmark in cricket.’’ Landmark is right for despite Modi insisting that Test commitments would always take preference over the IPL, Haroon Lorgat, who is set to take over from Malcolm Speed as the ICC chief executive, says he is open to the idea of revising the Future Tours Programme (FTP) in order to open a window for the IPL. As he said in a recent interview "With the successful introduction of Twenty20 to the calendar, there is more cricket to be played, and as a result the time could come where workloads have to be managed. The IPL is something that is exciting and can be used to enhance and grow the game around the globe. Cricket is unique in that we have three formats now and that can be used to attract new fans. If we need to revisit the FTP, we will do that."

The inaugural edition of the IPL overlaps Australia's tour of West Indies and New Zealand's summer in England. "If well managed, I think all three forms of the game are sustainable, Lorgat said. ``It's just about finding the right balance." In an earlier interview too Lorgat had said IPL deserved strong support at the highest level.

As if this was not enough David Collier, the ECB chief executive said it would be very hard for England's top players to take part in the IPL because of the international schedule but added that the ECB was preparing to adapt their domestic Twenty20 Cup to attract more leading players and offer an alternative to the IPL. England captain Michael Vaughan, ODI captain Paul Collingwood and leading batsman Kevin Pietersen have all talked about the growing frustration among England players that they were unable to take advantage of the money on offer. And just the other day according to a survey conducted by the Australian Players’ Association nearly half of the Australian cricketers contracted with their board were willing to give up their international careers for playing in the IPL. Oh yes, viewed from any angle the IPL has already made an international impact.

The organizers are so confident of IPL’s success that even before the start of the inaugural edition they announced that the second edition of the IPL has been tentatively scheduled between April 10 and May 29 next year. ``I am confident of the inaugural season becoming a huge success and the second season will be even a bigger success,’’ Modi said.

Modi himself has been taken by surprise over the huge success of the IPL as a business venture. But he is convinced that all this is for the betterment of cricket. ``Money is good for the game,’’ he says. ``It’s not only the board but the players too who are making money. More money means more stars, more enjoyment for the people.’’ Given the massive build-up, the line-up of the teams and the unparalleled interest the project has generated the prediction can safely be made that the IPL will be a whopping success. But more than that as I said it could well alter the face of the game.
 
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