Wednesday, July 2, 2008

IPL ~ a revolution or else??

The IPL bubble like the internet bubble of the early 2000s appears set to burst under the burden of the egos of the owners and the out-of-control greed and lack of self-regulation.Since the IPL commissioner himself has family ties to two of the franchises, he is merrily writing and re-writing the rules as per the ever-changing demands of the franchise owners.All major American sports too have commissioners. But it would be unheard of for any of them to have financial ties to the very league they are supposed to independently monitor. In simple English this is called ‘conflict of interest’, an obviously alien concept in the IPL.The expected lifting next year of the $5 million salary cap per franchise has already created a rift. Ricky Ponting has warned against its consequences while Sachin Tendulkar is rubbing his hands in glee at the untold riches in store. The cricketers are under immense pressure from their corporate bosses to perform and are slowly waking up to this new bitter reality. It has led many of them to become stressed out and disillusioned. Bangalore Royal Challengers owner Vijay Mallya set the ball rolling with his petulant public attack on captain Rahul Dravid.Being part of the glitzy media launch and featuring himself in the team promos at the start of the IPL was all fair game for Mallya, happy to bask in the reflected glory of his team. But once the defeats started mounting, it became a case of abandoning the sinking ship. Dravid is currently in no position to defend himself. But he has said he will do so at an "appropriate time and forum" Expect the sparks to fly.In fact, the selection of the Bangalore team had come in for a lot of flak from the start as it was dubbed a Test team in 20/20 clothing. That has proved to be the case.Then again, who would have guessed a side packed with hard-hitting superstars like Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Shahid Afridi and Hershchelle Gibbs would be the other big flop of the IPL? Yet the Deccan Chargers currently languish at the bottom of the table.The biggest lesson for the big bosses of the IPL is that money can’t buy you instant success. After all, the cheapest of the franchises, Rajasthan Royals are the success story of the first year.Like any sport, in cricket too there are no guarantees, particularly in the 20/20 format which is more like a lottery. Yet the giant and fragile egos of the owners cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that only four of the eight teams can make it to the semifinals.Now the dressing room, always off limits to all but players and support staff, is being invaded by all and sundry, including the owners’ children and their bodyguards!Shah Rukh Khan claims he is staying away from the Kolkata Knight Riders’ matches as he is upset and confused by the IPL and ICC rules forbidding anyone else from approaching the team zone. Of course, here too the IPL commissioner is bending over backwards to placate the superstars like Khan and Preity Zinta. But the 15 minutes allotted to team owners is apparently not good enough for Khan. "Why pick on me?" he whines. Khan claims he is ‘anti-establishment’. Is he also against the laws of the land? Smoking is prohibited in public places in Kolkata and many other cities in India. Yet no one dare tell him to stop lighting up at the Eden Gardens. One official has been quoted as saying: "How can we stop him? After all, he is a big man and owner of the team." That really says it all. The latest owner/captain rift that has come out into the open is between Khan and KKR captain Sourav Ganguly. As the team has slid down the points table with one defeat after another, the prancing antics of Khan have become more and more muted. Someone should tell him sport is not a Bollywood movie with a guaranteed happy ending.The buzz is that Khan is using coach John Buchanan to clip the wings of Ganguly, the most successful captain in Indian cricket history. And Buchanan is happy to dance to Khan’s tune.Not surprising really since he has got his son Michael in through the back door of the team in the role of ‘strength trainer’. Jobs for the boys indeed!
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