Cricket and Commerce Come Together
This is a revolution in the world of cricket, a sleepy, colonial era, gentleman's game that the British brought to their colonies including India and Pakistan. Taking a leaf from the sports leagues in US and Europe, it represents a coming of age for the business of sports in India. According to the New York Times, the Indian billionaires are for the first time staking their prestige on sports teams. The Indian Premier League’s most expensive franchise, at nearly $111.9 million, is the Mumbai Indians, fittingly owned by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. The flamboyant liquor baron Vijay Mallya picked up the Bangalore-based Royal Challengers for $111.6 million, and the actor Shah Rukh Khan is backing the Kolkata Knight Riders for $75.09 million.
Forbes magazine reports that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), a nonprofit body controlling the game in the country, has racked up $1 billion to date from selling commercial rights to Indian cricket for the next five years. (One source: Nike paid $45 million to flash its logo on players' apparel and to sell garments to cricket fans.) "It's all about extracting the most value," said Lalit Modi, BCCI's new marketing chief, who hopes to eventually make $1.5 billion from Indian cricket, ten times what BCCI made in the last go-around.
IPL offered contracts to several Pakistani players including Shoaib Malik, Shoaib Akhtar, Muhammad Asif, Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan, Muhammad Yousaf and Inzamam ul Haq.
According to the BBC, the players were offered to the franchisees in an auction process. Australia captain Ponting is among 13 of his compatriots in a pool of international cricketers available to the franchises, which were allowed to spend a maximum of $5m on eight contracted players. There have been recent reports that several top Australian players have been promised the IPL's salary cap will be axed in the future. The biggest stars could then expect IPL contracts of about $15 million. Australian captain Ricky Ponting has opposed this move. "I have certainly heard there may be no salary cap next year but I'm not sure if that will be good for the IPL," Ponting told Australia's Courier Mail. "The more I've thought about it, it might be detrimental to the whole set-up.
The winning bids, which were selected electronically in a sealed room, offered Pakistani players as follows: Shoaib Akhtar $425,000, Younis Khan $225,000, Kamran Akmal $150,000 and Umar Gul $150,000. These amounts are several times larger than the current compensation they receive from PCB.
According to BBC Sports, IPL's top 10 winning auction bids in February were:
Mahendra Dhoni: $1.5m (Chennai)
Andrew Symonds: $1.35m (Hyderabad)
Sanath Jayasuriya: $975,000 (Mumbai)
Ishant Sharma: $950,000 (Kolkata)
Irfan Pathan: $925,000 (Mohali)
Brett Lee : $900,000 (Mohali)
Jacques Kallis: $900,000 (Bangalore)
RP Singh: $875,000 (Hyderabad)
Harbhajan Singh: $850,000 (Mumbai)
Chris Gayle: $800,000 (Kolkata)