XYZ Newswire: May XX 20xx
Doctor Vijay Mallya hit the nail on its head, pierced the bull’s eye and put his finger on the problem all at once when he commented, “At the end of the day people need to understand that the IPL has a corporate side to it, and a very definitive corporate side at that. It is not at all cricket in the traditional sense.”
This was indeed refreshing news to be greeted with first thing in the morning. We happened to be staying in the same hotel as the Royal Challengers and were not shocked to find a slip of paper under our doors outlining Team RC strategy. Or so one thought.
In today’s world where people hear of banks rationing toilet paper, Team RC’s strategy wasn’t uppermost in the mind of the writer(s) of the piece of paper. It was about controlling the team’s expenses in these times of high inflation. A few salient features which could pass the test of the Censors are reproduced below.
“As all the players may be aware, the US-led global economy is entering a recessionary cycle and the Royal Challengers team is showing no signs of coming out of one. As the good doctor mentioned, it’s not at all cricket in the traditional sense. The buzzword is ‘performance’. Repeated stress on this key issue seems to have inexplicably increased the stress levels of the players, coaches and managers. This is clearly unacceptable. The franchise is losing money faster than Ricky Ponting is losing friends and the writer losing his hair. With a view to bring back some semblance of business sense to the said undertaking, players are advised to adhere to the following principles.
- It has been observed that each player has been carrying more than 8 bats in his kit. Team work is all about sharing and caring. Henceforth, the team will have a rolling stock of 6 bats with 6 more being kept in reserves. The remaining bats will be sold off at auctions. Players are requested to get autographs of other teams’ star players to enhance ‘bat valuations’.
- For ‘home’ games, local players are requested to take care of their team mates’ boarding & lodging requirements.
- During the remaining tenure of the IPL, players will be provided with rations of 3 bottles of beer. This step has to be taken as the cost of a beer bottle for the owners is higher than the cost of bottled water, which is produced only to be displayed on TV ads. Players will have to pay a (subsidized) rate for additional beverages consumed.
- Players who haven’t played in a single match till date are requested to take care of the laundry of the entire team. A washing machine will be provided at all venues for assistance.
- All players will have to attend a daily crash training course for pursers. All future flights will have to be undertaken as pursers/air hostesses (there’s no cause to worry as all uniforms will be provided by the management). In an extreme case, a player may be accommodated as the co-pilot. Players with international driving licenses are requested to register themselves with the management.
- At the end of every match night, there will be a round of ‘match ka mujrim’ (for the uninitiated, this program is a witch hunt on a popular news channel after every loss of the Indian national cricket team) to decide who pays for that night’s drinks and dinner.
- It is proposed that Katrina Kaif be sacked as the team ambassador. A search for the replacement is on. One of the cheerleaders has shown keen interest in the said position.
- One of the members of the accounting team has expressed his surprise at bats being treated differently from abdomen guards and has ….
The remaining part of the text has been edited to prevent offending the sensibilities of the millions of sensitive souls out there.
One common refrain of most commentators on the Mallya episode has been – We told you so. This is what the IPL will do to cricket. Make it a slave to accountability taken to its extreme, at best and the whims and fancies of the owners at its worst.
What Mallya has done by publicly criticizing Rahul Dravid’s team picking ability is nothing but publicly castigating his team’s captain for it’s pathetic performance. Accountability may be one thing but the manner in which people are held responsible for a debacle is quite another. Mallya went too far.
But does this incident prove that IPL is out to convert cricket into a completely different entity. Let’s take the case of the other 2-3 teams which haven’t done too well. The Deccan Challengers seem to have been the underperformers of IPL season 2008. With big name signings like Gibbs/ Gilly/ Laxman / Styris/ Rohit Sharma / Andrew Symonds and Shahid Afridi, they can be safely called one of the top contenders for the wooden spoon. The DC owners may be extremely upset with the results, but one has hardly come across any statements or actions from them. Similarly Mukesh Ambani may have the right to feel peeved about his team’s standing and also the sort of team that was picked up for the tournament. No harsh words/actions from him either.
Maybe the problem with Mallya is that, despite his utterances he thinks he knows the game himself. To draw an analogy, one has to go back in time by just an year. The kind of reaction after India’s WC debacle from the ‘knowledgeable’ public and experts and the team selection demanded for the Bangladesh tour was very similar. They were over reacting and so is the good Doctor.
The English Premier League which is supposedly a role model for the IPL has enough and more examples of Team Owners conflicts with managers. Jose Mourinho, who was brought to Chelsea by the Russian billionaire Roman Abrahamovich, quit at the start of the season as matters between the two had come to a head. Two EPL titles in the past didnt matter. Ostensibly, Schevchenko not playing was a point of contention. Or so says the omnipresent rumour mill. But really it came to a standstill / standoff when Chelsea got just 11 points from their first six games this season and Arsenal and Man United were running away. Then there’s the current struggle between the American owners of Liverpool and their current manager Rafa Benitez. In most of the cases, team performance has been an issue. But normally the owners haven’t claimed to possess sports knowledge worthy of the managers.
Mallya taking hardly 3 weeks to blame someone for failure and the years it took for the Indian Sports Ministry holding Gill responsible for the IHF functioning are two extremes of the spectrum. It’s not the IPL that is bringing this phenomenon single handedly to cricket. The inexorable march of modern sport to professionalism will ensure its presence in the near future. Amen.
But, is it really all evil and dangerous ? Were the 1 crore bonuses paid to the selectors for daring to choose a largely newbie team which resulted in the ODI series win in Australia not “corporate” ? Are all the brand endorsements that everyone so strongly condemns as a reason for our defeats (in the oh-so-pure forms of cricket ) really a corruption of the game ?
Sure, Vijay Mallya’s behaviour was “signature” egoistic, but if thats good enough to generalise the corporate evil then we’ve seen it before.
Not that we agree but thats a bit like saying
“Pawar corrupts. Absolut power corrupts absolutely”….
Posted by Rahul and Sfx