To be rich, or not to be…

If you’re already fed up of hearing about the IPL outside of India, you should feel lucky you’re not here. I’m beginning to get the distinct impression that the tournament peaked on the day of the big player auction and interest has been slowly dwindling ever since.

This is not helped by an attitude of such complete superiority by its owners that it would shame even those Englishmen at the Imperial Cricket Council 50 years ago who believed they were born with the right to govern the game on every continent.
Far from devising a competition to inspire the world’s imagination and then sharing it, the IPL is treating their new institution as though it was exactly the sort of snooty, gentlemen-only club that their Colonial masters used to frequent.

Except, of course, they are infinitely more obsessed with (and successful at) making money. It’s not just about who you know and who your went to school within the new India, it’s about how much cash you’ve got and how many faces you can wave it in.
Much fuss has rightly been made about the hilarious accreditation regulations which the IPL tried to attach to those people who had the audacity to want to cover the tournament. My personal favourite is this absolute gem:

“For the avoidance of doubt, IPL shall be entitled to use and reproduce, free of charge, worldwide and without limit, in time any and all photographs/images captured by the Accredited Party at any ground and the Accredited Party shall make the same available promptly [within 24 hours of a match] to the IPL…at his/her cost.”

For the avoidance of doubt? How could they possibly imagine there would be any doubt? In fact, I’m surprised the media will be allowed to earn any money at all. The next regulation, and it’s just a matter of time, surely, will be: “Any monies earned by accredited media will be immediately appropriated by IPL accompanied by a letter of thanks from an accredited journalist.”

The IPL has refused accreditation to all websites although they will allow them to attend pre-match and post-match press conferences. Given that matches will last only three hours, and anybody with a laptop can update a website with live scores from the comfort of their own living room, it would appear that common sense has been abandoned. That’s the trouble with lots of money – it scrambles the brain

The trouble with all this money sloshing about is that everybody wants some. The Cobras and Titans players, for example, will all lose piles of cash by flying home after the third Test to compete (maybe) in the semi-finals and final of the Standard Bank Pro20. Jacques Kallis tops the pile with potential ‘losings’ of $224,000, close to R2 million.

IPL players will be paid on a pro-rata basis according to their auction price – in Kallis’s case, that’s $900,000 (minus tax!) divided by 14 IPL league matches at approximately $56,000 per match. He will miss the first four matches to return to Cape Town. Bangalore teammates Mark Boucher and Dale Steyn aren’t too far behind.

Cobras chief executive Andre Odendaal was quoted recently as saying that Kallis, Boucher, Ashwell Prince and Graeme Smith were “needed” by the Franchise while IPL chief executive Lalit Modi issued a confident statement a few days ago saying that the “Cobras players will definitely be available for all IPL matches.” From where does the discrepancy arise?

Modi is a man well versed in solving all manner of problems with money and, acutely aware of the long and gloomy financial quagmire hindering Western Cape cricket, he offered Odendaal $120,000 as compensation for the loss of his big stars. Modi reasoned that Odendaal couldn’t turn down this unexpected R1 million windfall and, according to what Indians refer to as “a well-placed source close to Modi’s office,” the man was not expecting Odendaal to try and ‘up’ the compensation fee to $150,000.

While this messy haggling was carrying on, the third Test was fast approaching and Smith was becoming more and more agitated by the distraction on his players’ minds. He asked CSA to make a decision, once and for all.

There were many things to consider, chiefly the sponsors, Standard Bank, whose equanimity about the value of their tournament being undermined by the IPL had been stoically and admirably strong. After all, new stars have been made in the absence of the national players. Rory Kleinveldt had stepped into Kallis’ breach and Faf du Plessis into AB de Villiers’.

Strong leadership was being provided by Smith in India. He reminded all of his players that their foremost loyalty remained to CSA and their Franchises and constantly reminded CSA that he and his players were willing to do ‘the right thing’. But he needed strong leadership from back home.

Two nights before the Test match, it came. CSA chief executive, Gerald Majola, stood up for Standard Bank and stood up to Lalit Modi by decreeing that the entire squad would return, as a team, to South Africa. Even if the Titans don’t make the semi-finals, and the Cobras are knocked out in the semis, they would all return. If that means some of them will return to India barely three days later, so be it.

Once again, Majola has shown fearless leadership. I have little doubt that he could have spoken money to Modi, and Modi would have spoken back. But sometimes there is still a place, even in professional sport and the new India, for leadership based on what is ‘right’ and not just about how much money there is to be made.

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