IPL – Money & honey, but no cricket

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 16, 2010 14:58 hrs

I have always believed that there is a sin behind every fortune. That it is simply impossible to amass wealth without bending (equate it to sin) a few rules or laws or regulations or whatever you wish to call them, if not breaking them. The laws of the land are such that there is always a grey area between black and white.

In the case of the Indian Premier League cricket, with the kind of moneys being bandied about, it is like visiting Kulu valley in full bloom where one can simply walk up to a tree and pluck an apple. Even a Shashi Tharoor was tempted to take a bite of the apple only to realise a tad too late that it was a forbidden fruit.

I am no great fan of Tharoor though I acknowledge him being a man of letters and all that. But he has slipped a lot in my esteem with his involvement as a “mentor” of the Kochi franchise. For someone of his stature and repute, it is unbecoming to get entangled in such a murky affair that has the tax sleuths sniffing around the vast sums of money in IPL.

IPL Snippets: Controversies & a 50-50 chance

I couldn't care less whether the  MoS for External Affairs is the most popular tweeter or about his personal life that I feel should be left alone for he is old (and surely wise?) enough to know what’s good for him. The point is, he should have stuck to his field of expertise and what he is paid for by the government.

The Kochi issue is complex, to say the least. Only a handful knows the truth behind the "truth". I don't attach much significance to the many stories that are floating around, for a majority of these are carefully and selectively leaked to the Media and not without a motive.

For instance, two years after the inaugural auction, a self-styled do-gooder insider decides to whisper in the Media’s ears raising questions over the propriety of the process that led to two of the eight teams being owned by Lalit Modi’s relatives.

Likewise, it is said that in the case of Kochi that Tharoor’s interest and involvement as a “mentor” is linked to his supposed lady love Sunanda Pushkar, a Dubai-based businesswoman, being part of the consortium. Add to the mix, the lack of clarity on the actual ownership structure or rather partnership break-up of this consortium.

Yet, as per Lalit Modi's own admission, the pre-auction documents submitted by the Kerala consortium were scrutinized and approved, allowing Rendezvous to participate in the bidding process. They followed the same procedures and process as Sahara who bagged Pune. If that is so, then it is pertinent to ask as to why Rendezvous is being dragged through the gutter?

It is obvious then that there is another party who is keen on owning a team but was outbid by Rendezvous. And now, it would seem that Lalit Modi wants to snatch the candy from Kochi and give it to the very party that had bid and lost. Perhaps, it is perceived that Kerala lacks cricketing legacy or heritage and the "sophistication" to fit into the elite group of franchise owners.

Ask yourself – why this craze to be an IPL team owner? What’s in it for the franchises? Is it just another business venture and has anything at all to do with "promotion and development" (ugh!) of cricket? For me, it is all about money and honey, and certainly not cricket.

Both Kochi and Pune franchise owners, having coughed up a total of Rs 3,500 crore, might have worked out attractive business models for their presentations, but it remains to be seen whether such exercises are grounded in reality considering that routine and incremental annual outflow is in the region of Rs 100 crore. The economics just doesn’t make sense to me.

In one of my previous columns, I had likened T20 cricket to the Dotcom boom when anyone with serious money wanted to be part of the internet "revolution". A lot of glamour and social status was attached to the "IT czars" and look at the situation now. It is hand-to-mouth existence for most after the boom went bust.

As during the D-Boom, the current IPL teams have been valued at nearly four times their original price. A couple of opportunistic team owners are already contemplating a sell-out, just as it was during those heady Dotcom days. To stretch the parallel, there is bound to be a shake-up and consolidation, and it is anybody's guess as to who will be left standing when the bubble bursts.

I also foresee an overkill of T20 and the warning bells are being sounded, but nobody is hearing them. Next year, the IPL is getting bigger with 10 teams, more matches and hence a longer duration. This could lead to dilution of IPL and the law of diminishing returns is bound to kick-in.  

Coverage: IPL 2010

The IPL, beneath the glitz and glamour, is not what it seems to be. Sure, it is providing a night out for the hoi-polloi, fun for the kids who also get to watch some of the best cricketers on our planet. But conversely, with such humongous moneys involved, there is more to it than meets the eye.

It is a known fact that India is a popular conduit for not just arms but also money-laundering besides being a haven for bookies.

T20 is tailor-made for gambling activities and the temptations are just too great given the high stakes. Lalit Modi and his henchmen repeatedly trumpet that IPL is lilly-white, above-board and transparent, but if that was so, then my editor wouldn’t have asked me to write this piece!

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