Have you ever wondered at the astronomical prices that cricketers command at the IPL auctions? I mean, if there has been an explanation as to how 'base price' was fixed and the parameters that defined the eventual million dollars that the franchises coughed out, I have not heard or read about it.
To say the least, the complexities of IPL structure (the financial side) is beyond me and it is moot how big the bubble will grow before it bursts and the boys at ED (Enforcement Directorate) are watching.
Like Maxwell getting picked up for a million dollars with just nine international T20 games and a two-year experience as a first class cricketer. Virtually hardly a word written in his praise has been substantiated. So, how can Mumbai Indians justify a seven-figure contract to a player with no performance record worth speaking?
Ditto the likes of Senanayake (only two international T20) who was bought for 625,000 dollars by KKR, Richardson (just one ODI) being offered 700,000 by Pune, Coulther-Nile (mere 21 first class games) getting richer by 450,000, courtesy Mumbai, and Morris (one T20 international) flattered by 625,000 that Super Kings will be paying him.
I do not begrudge these 20-nothings their windfall, but I am not surprised that the auction that saw over 11 million dollars being blown up (and probably far greater next year), has come under the eagle eyes of the ED boys who slapped a 100-Crore fine on Rajasthan Royals for foreign exchange violations that include funding from Mauritius, a well-known hot spot for money laundering, less than 24 hours after the auction.
No doubt, the IPL games are a decent substitute for the mindless Hindi soaps that consume precious airtime, but the point is that few franchise owners seem to have any clue about cricket. Rather, they appear just a bunch of rich guys with spare money (whose?) to burn. Like madam Ambani justifying the Maxwell purchase as: 'He can bat and bowl, and I think, field well.' Quite amusing, really!
Money apart, I do wonder at some of the choices and the fact that cricketers with proven ability and credentials were left unsold. A couple of seasons ago, Gayle did not evoke any interest among the franchises until an injury to a contracted player saw RCB pick up the West Indian. As they say, rest is history.
This time around, the likes of Bollinger who performed so well for Super Kings in the seasons gone by, remained shelved along with a few others, while Ponting and Clarke, bought at their base price of 400,000, must be shocked that they were virtually sidelined by the likes of Maxwell of unproven credentials. Such has been the IPL auction that hardly makes any cricketing sense despite statements to the contrary by the franchise owners.
Whatever, the point is that this annual exercise beats me and often I wonder at the source of such fortunes that flow out of the franchise coffers. Yet, even granting that cricket captures the eyeballs, the money on offer for the Hockey or Golf or various other copy-cat events is peanuts. Hockey, our so-called national game, could not even find half-a-dozen franchises and not one from south that was once a nursery of talent.
A fee of 78,000 dollars had Sardara Singh, in my reckoning one of the finest players India has ever produced, blushing. Nobody topped this wily midfielder. The legendary Dutchman Teun de Nooijer, undoubtedly the greatest in modern era, managed a mere 66,000. These are only slightly better than the base prices that some of the most unknown cricketers commanded at the IPL auction.
The massive disparity in fees between cricket and hockey only reflects the popularity of individual sport. Even golf launched its own IPL-style event, but it barely raised an eyebrow, much less any funding. Other sports like volleyball, badminton, football, boxing and basketball too have drawn up grandiose plans along the lines of IPL, but there are few takers or at least, the buzz is certainly conspicuous by its absence.
Sunday's auction only underlined the fact that IPL is here to stay (at least for the time being) and in the bigger picture, it provides a study in contrast and contradiction that make up our country. Last year, a foreign player was baffled that while the franchises poured out millions, a few metres outside the auction hall, some of the poorest of poor struggled to remain afloat.
But then, that is IPL, a venture that makes no pretence of being there for the sake of sport. Rather, it's all about money, nothing less and nothing more. Oh, by the way, a bit of cricket is thrown in for your pleasure!