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The playground that harvests crores

The playground that harvests crores

The Indian Premier League (IPL) player auctions for the 11th season came to an end in Bengaluru.

When the auction keenly awaited by the cricket world concluded, the amount showered by the eight teams on the players came to around Rs 516 crore. Before the auction, all the eyes were on England all-rounder Ben Stokes who thrills the spectators with his huge strokes and bowling skills. When the auction began, the calculations did not misfire. Ben Stokes’s auction which began at a base price of Rs 2 crore, ended in Rs 12.50 crore, the highest bid. Three of the first five players who earned big in the two-day auction are Indians. The 26-year old from Saurashtra Jaydev Unadkat, (Rs 11.50 crore), 28-year old Manish Pandey (Rs 11 crore) and 25-year old Lokesh Rahul (Rs 11 crore) also earned big bucks.

IPL enters its 11th year by which time it has changed the landscape of Indian cricket and the country's sports over the past 10 years. IPL commenced in 2008 bringing corporate investments worth crores and Bollywood glamour into the field of cricket. The IPL recipe, which did away with the length of 50-over one day cricket and eliminated the monotony of five-day tests, contributed in no little measure to the wide acceptance of the abridged version of cricket. IPL quickly turned into the goose that lays golden eggs for the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) when games played by the Board and the brain of businessman and cricket administrator Lalit Modi came together in order to pull down the Indian Cricket League (ICL) which was jointly founded by former Indian captain Kapil Dev and Zee Entertainment. Though Lalit Modi escaped abroad as a wanted criminal accused in financial crimes, BCCI fully owned the IPL.

The advent and success of the premier league had paved way to kick-start wholesome changes not only in Indian cricket but in other domains of sports as well. Indian Super League Football, Premier Badminton League, Professional Kabaddi league, Futsal Premier League and Premier Tennis League are only a few instances. And all these helped to boost the country’s sporting strength in the respective items.

When IPL's acceptance increases by the year that opens the door of opportunities in the game for the youth. If Mohammed Siraj, the son of a Hyderabad autorickshaw driver, Kamran Khan who made the railway platform of Lucknow his home, and T. Natarajan the son of a tea shop owner in Salem turned millionaires overnight, it was all thanks to the IPL magic. When 136 Indians got a break across eight teams, scores of young players, who otherwise would have been confined to domestic cricket, became stars of national fame. In the process, a Keralite, a Tamilian and one from Jammu-Kashmiri had gains by winning their place. At the same, when crores are thrown in and cicket thus prospers, the game behind the stage also goes on in full swing, as evidenced by recent times. When in 2013 the scam of match-fixing/book makers became a shame on Indian cricket, it was a testimony of corporate power entering the scene with the sole motive of money. And the fact that even when water is not supplied to the farmer, it will flow in plenty to wet the cricket pitch, will suffice to speak for the power of the corporates.

When team owners fling crores into the fray with no bars, there will be attempts to win the money back through undesirable means. In addition, one cannot gloss over the bleak future of those who, when becoming instant millionaires, lose grip over their game under pressure. The phenomenon of players landing in a team at a huge bid and then ending up falling short of the expected performance and thus leading to being totally discarded, is a dynamic of IPL glory usually overlooked. Overall, the player auction that ended on Sunday, once again underlines the fact that neither the Lodha Commission, formed to steer BCCI in the right direction, nor the Executive council appointed by the Supreme Court has been able to insulate the game from corporate profit-motive.

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