One of the reasons that most of us find the current hullabaloo surrounding the IPL boring is because we don’t understand what is actually going on. ‘Corruption’ may be a part of our everyday lexicon, but whereas we may have learnt to understand what “government tenders” mean in South Africa, stake holdings in IPL franchises in a foreign economy are more difficult to grasp.
For the vast majority of the world’s population, the only money that matters is the “real” money in your wallet or, if you are fortunate enough to have one, in your bank account. But in the rarefied world of the megarich, most of the money is not “real” — it is projected, or forecast.
In the first season of the IPL each game may have generated around one million US dollars in advertising revenue. In the second season, in South Africa, each game is alleged to have generated 2 million US dollars. The third season, we are told, has seen each game generate $3 million in revenue. It takes neither an economic genius nor a mathematician to project that scale of growth over 10 years.
The problem is, the world and circumstances change. Just ask the world’s leading airlines how their profit forecasts have been affected by the volcano in Iceland. More than any other major sport in the world, cricket is facing an uncertain future. It may be very bright, fantastically so, but there may also be several very bleak periods in the near future.
If three, four or five major investors have committed themselves to hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in the IPL, and the world’s sporting landscape suddenly changes, you can be sure that only a certain portion of that investment has been paid upfront and that the rest will not materialise. At which point the house of cards — or perhaps a skyscraper of cards — will begin trembling at the foundations.
For the last eight days, I have been very close to the extreme opposite of big-time cricket. Zimbabwe have been based on the island of Grenada for the last 10 days trying their damnedest to mount a simultaneous assault on two near-insurmountable peaks. They played a four-day game against West Indies ‘A’ in an attempt to further convince the world of their credential for a return to test cricket and immediately thereafter began to prepare for the ICC T20 World Cup.
The logistics of the tour would have challenged the most senior of the world’s cricket playing nations. Two sets of pads, gloves and helmets — not to mention the playing kit, red and white. Unsurprisingly, not everything has gone according to plan. Tins of red spray paint have been purchased and players have been seen on the burnt grass lawns of their moderate hotel doing their best to make clear appropriate changes to their pads.
One player, 19-year-old Tendai Chatara, did not have that problem. He did not have any kit. Somehow the young fast bowler had managed to busk his way through the last few years of school and into franchise cricket without owning a single new piece of kit of his own. Even his bowling boots were second-hand. If he had harboured hopes of earning himself some decent pocket money by saving significantly from his 50 US dollar a day allowance in the Caribbean, they were dashed when the management frogmarched him to a local sports shop and made him purchase his first-ever decent pair of boots and some gloves.
It is entirely feasible that Chatara could come face to face with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni in five weeks time when India and Sri Lanka tour Zimbabwe for a triangular one-day series. It would be literally, physically and emotionally impossible for Chatara to have any concept or understanding of the world inhabited by Tendulkar. But it would be entirely possible for Tendulkar to empathise with the humble background from which Chatara has come. That is what makes him so great and different.
It is hard not to wonder how many of the IPL’s chief bigshots have forgotten about what goes on below their crystal palace.
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