Archive for April, 2009

SRK packed off from the Cricket arena. IPL franchisees’ Deccan , & Royals- selling stake

It is lot of restructuring at BCCI. Ever since the ICC pushed for an early resolution with ICL and the Essel groups’ response to failed negotiations with strong legal actions have caused a lot of concern for the BCCI. The IPL cash-cow too has left a lot of loop holes in the second season. The announced deal and revised hike by IPl broadcaster Sony; is not all black and white. According to sources it seems that Sony will not part with cash and some parts of the revised hike, is in format of barter to the IPL & its franchisees- in terms of free air time for promotion. Tickets are being sold at a low rate of only about Rs 100. Even this low rate is not educing full houses and false propaganda of sell-out matches have become part of the IPL fictional folklore. This has left the franchisees with lot of heartburn; the central revenue (largely coming from the Bradcaster fee) may not see a hike in actual cash-flow as is being proclaimed by IPL officials. Gate receipts are a long foregone history making the red on franchisee balance-sheet’s far more prominent and dark.
SRK ill- advised to drop his city loyalty base and reposition his team into a pan global identity has met with dust. Latest reports that the Bollywood Badshah is on his way out of the IPL circus, further compounded by his teams’ disastrous cricket performance. Despite better cricket performances Rajashtan Royals & Kings 11 Punjab are financially bleeding and are looking for stake holders to keep the ship floating. The only way IPL franchisees’ can be bailed out is in form of additional central revenue from IPL. However that seems a distant reality with Sony officials admitting that offering additional broadcast fees was a mistake, especially after learning that the competitive suitors NDTV & ESPN were never serious about paying the revised rates demanded by the IPL body. Sony now has offered the IPL and its franchisee a strict part payment in barter (free air time for promotion) that results in lack on additional cash revenue from the central revenue system offered by IPL to its franchisees.

The BCCI changing its ICL stance largely lies on the fact that –an aggressive Essel group is going on the offensive. Sources at Essel, state that time for negotiations are over & they are looking at legal suits being filed both in India & internationally. Its strong legal ground means that BCCI has to try to break the ICL player pool by offering them the IPL and domestic cricket carrot. However, most ICL domestic talents are skeptical about the BCCI offer. Reason being, most are being paid about 30 lakhs plus by the ICL – returning to BCCI hardly guarantees them a place in the Ranji sides or IPL teams. A ranji player would pocket 20 lakhs in a financial year and no player wants a dip in his income. Secondly except for a few players like Rohan Gavaskar, none of the players are certain of a place in the Ranji or IPL Squads. The total number of ICL players from the domestic stable is about 80. SO no more than 10% are assured of an IPL or Ranji place! The only way they can be accommodated in the IPL is by addition in number of IPL teams; strongly objected by existing IPL franchisees as that reduces their share of the pie in regards of the central revenue. The ICL players are also aware of the treatment meted out to Md kaif, Vidhyut Shivramakrisnan, Sanjay Bangar , Akash Chopra et al by the IPL franchisees- making the transition from ICL to IPL a very risky financial proposition. The international guys like Shane Bond are drawing salaries to the tune of $ 8,00,000 ( 4 crores) from the ICL so they would not make the shift unless IPL offers the same amount. Post the Peterson & Flintoff debacle it seems IPL franchisees would not loosen their purse strings easily ;having burnt their fingers with expensive propositions. Therefore it may not seem as easy for the BCCI to break the ICL player pool ; justified that no single individual ICL player has been mentioned other than Sandeep Patil, who according to sources did not fair well in the ICL called – Sports performance evaluation. His side Mumbai Champs always figured last in the ICL tournaments and major restructuring was on the cards as far as that team was concerned.

These look interesting times for the BCCI president Shashank Manohar. His dislike for Lalit Modi is well documented by his absence at both the first and second seasons of IPL. His boss and mentor Sharad Pawar too has distanced himself from Lalit Modi in season-2. Srinivasan, Rajeev Shukla and Niranjan Shah ( BCCI powerbrokers) are fence sitters and waiting for the election results. Rumors are also afloat that if the congress returns to power Lalit Modi’s stint in Indian cricket would be history.
If the ICL issue was not enough then the BCCI also has to content with the APL ( American Premiere League). The BCCI wants to monopolize the game but an over priced IPL has broadcasters and prospective sponsors looking at private leagues like the ICL & upcoming APL as a more value for money proposition. These are interesting times in cricket Will the monopoly of BCCI continue or will it have to share space with ICL & APL? It’s an answer that only time will tell.

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Saurav Ganguly a potential Warne or Bevan

The primary thing to identify with the ongoing IPL is that the golden rule of sports, applies to even this so called young-man’s game. Age certificate is no criteria for success in this format of the game. The biggest stars last year were Warne, Mcgrath & Jaisuriya & this year too seems to continue in the same vein with Tendulkar , Dravid & Gilchrist right backing contention in the T20 format of the game. The matter first came into prominence when people and a gullible fourth estate tried to run down the pioneers of the league cricket-ICL, due to the age of its international player-pool base. Then came the IPL and the biggest stars last year were Warne, Mcgrath & Jaisuriya. The experts did a turn around and followed the cliché mantra – “form is temporary, class is permanent”. So my strong request to especially the media; next time around judge the tournaments of both IPL & ICL objectively on basis of the cricket on display and not pre-conceived notions. After-all despite the facts that ICL is at the moment unofficial; its young players are domestic Indian talents who deserve more than just an ostracized rebel tag.

I am principally not against league cricket as it helps identify new talent and also provides economic prosperity for professional cricketers. It has helped prolong the otherwise short careers of some fine international cricketers, alongside helping some make comebacks like that of Shane Watson. However I have a minor disagreement with the way IPL is positioned as an entertainment tamasha. Such positioning does disservice to the game and its cricketers;e forced to take the backseat to overenthusiastic corporate czars & Bollywood personalities. I think it will also affect the IPL in the long run because it’s biggest critics are questioning the quality of cricket on its platform. Soon players will approach the tournament with a casual approach and the core consumer of the game –‘ hardcore cricket fans’, will turn away from it. I guess Lalit Modi’s advisers will do a great service to advice the self proclaimed Moses to reposition his product as a serious cricket tournament, with entertainment a critical but peripheral product extension.

Coming back to the game – kudos to Shane Warne, every time he takes the field he brings cricket back in the limelight and puts the entertainment quotient in its right place. What makes Warne special is that he has laid emphasis on what is a critical factor for a successful T20 league side-“ develop your domestic talent”. Success in both IPL & ICL depends on the contribution of the young domestic talents. After all every side is composite of 7 domestics and 4 internationals in both leagues and therefore the differentiating factor between a good & bad side is the quality of its domestic pool. This is what makes two coaches especially special, Shane Warne (Rajasthan Royals –IPL) & Michael Bevan (Chennai Superstars-ICL). Both are champion cricketers with supreme confidence in their abilities, both have been integral part of the most successful cricket team in the last 25 years & most importantly have delivered results. This is the whole purpose of ICL & IPL identify new talent not only from the player pool but also support staff and coaches who can take forward the international format of the game.
Two other coaches who come to mind are the combative Moin Khan who leads a mercurial Pakistan side – Lahore Badshahs on the ICL platform and Steve Rixon former New Zealand coach, who has championed the cause of Hyderabad Heroes (ICL) and the ICL –India team. The final word is written by deliverables and this is where fancy coaches like John Buchanan, Greg Chappel & Jeff Lawson have bit dust. A special mention for Moin needs to be added for the simple reason that he has created the old Pakistani magic with the Lahore Badshahs- they are unpredictable, combative, maverick , cheat with the ball to produce reverse swing, produce aggressive Pakistani cricket; true flavor of the troubled nation’s rich cricketing history. The Greatest achievement of Moin has been his ability to combine mercurial raw talent with discipline; making the Pakistani outfit at ICL a potent deadly unit.

As a cricket fan one can only hope that sanity prevails and the game (Cricket) & the above magnificent gentlemen take the center stage at especially IPL. One quality that Warne, Bevan & Moin had in common in their playing days was their gritty approach to the game and that opportune’s, food for thought for the most troubled IPL side –KKR. We all know that Saurav Ganguly may be a bit over the hill- but his grittiness provides for a great opportunity to make him a player cum coach of the Kolkata side! Ganguly has always shown interest in coaching- his greatest quality as an Indian captain, was his recognition, nurturing & backing of young talent like Harbhajan,Zaheer & Yuvraj.
I repeat the crux of success for a T20 League side is dependent on how well the coach harnesses the domestic talent available to him- Bevan has done that with R Sathish, G Vignesh & P Syed Mohammad. Warne has done it with Asnodkar, Kamran Khan & Ravindra jadeja & my bet is Saurav Ganguly has the credentials to do better with young domestic boys than good old “Buck”- whose expertise lies with managing big players rather than young upcoming domestic boys.

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Welcome Lalit Modi to the bloggers world

Well Moses is what Ravi Shastri called you for inducting IPL on the cricket map. I am sure Shastri will soon realize that his own no- nonsense and gritty image as commentator earned after his famous whiplash at Mike Denis in South Africa after the infamous Indo- SA test is diminishing fas and replaced by a puppet of the commercialized cricekt world .THe infamous press conference post  Mike, the match referee banning  six Indian players including Sachin Tendulkar saw Shastri win over the audience for his sharp and incisive comments that followed for years in his stint at ESPN. Since his shift to the IPL Shastri, is left with nothing but a peripheral role of a known-commentator; milked by the IPL commissioner to propagate his white lies.

Lalit Modi in his latest avtar is now seen as blogger on his monetized website and in his inaugural post he takes a dig at the fourth estate covering his cricket circus as – “ill-informed media commentary that we have introduced strategy breaks simply to squeeze in more ads does us a disservice.”

I cannot fathom the fact that this man gets away with murder every time he and his IPL circus is doing disservice to the game and its true patrons -the cricket fans. Why does he just not admit that the strategy break is for additional revenue as he has arm-twisted his broadcaster to pay extra 400 crores.

The panic in his camp was realized as soon as the TRP’s were released. Sony and the advertisers are seething in anger according to well placed sources. I mean the biggest joke is when the IPL camp say that tickets have been sold out (empty stands show a completely different picture though!). The justification given by poor commentators says that tickets were sold but people have backed out due to bad weather. Which sane person would buy a premium ticket and not turn up for a match. I guess top angle shots on a doctored audience section – trying to justify a packed attendance is nothing but what in filmi lingo is known as cheat-shots. I am amazed how come nobody from the media covering the tournament, clicks a true picture to show the true picture to  the fans of the game . I am sure they are in agreement with me that this is the least the Indian fan deserves – a honest appriasal of the tourament.

You may ask me why so much anger against Lalit Modi . My answer is simple- I just cannot take the following facts

Some questions for Modi and please to answer them through his blog or more importantly I would urge you as custodians of the forth estate to poke him with the same :

1. You call your product recession proof and at the same time, pack back domestic Indian boys. MD Kaif & co are considered excess baggage while IS Bindra , Niranjan Shah , Rajeev Shukla sip on wine shamelessly at the matches.

2. Teams are not known by the players but either through their franchisees or filmstars owning exaggerated stakes in various teams. I would seriously want to know if Shilpa Shetty has paid the said $ 15.4 million for a 12% stake. ? Would you make available the relevant documents on a public forum? More imporatanly are you addressing the issue as  the BCCI president – on why Indian cricketers are bestowed with second class status on what you procalim to be a domestic  Indian tournament?

3. You are interviewed by Ravi Shastri in a doctored interview during the live telecast of the match and you say that ratings are sky high & the tournament is picking up? But opening figures for your matches show a completely different picture can you clarify?

I guess three questions are enough to fill your second blog and you would do a great service to the people of India who have given cricket the pedestal it enjoys today.

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An Inferior cricket product leaves IPL-2 on the verge of a bubble burst

The self proclaimed messiah of world cricket Lalit Modi, seems to have taken too many liberties with the brand “Cricket India” ;resulting in heartache for IPL broadcaster-Sony, IPL Sponsors & advertisers ;not forgetting most important constituent – the cricket fans of the country. This time round Modi & his coterie of franchisees felt that moneybags gave them the final say in terms of what was best for the game ridiculing cricketers, legends and the basic ethos of cricket.

The first problem arose when an arrogant Modi called his product recession proof and bullied his broadcaster to cough out an extra Rs.400 Crores, least appreciating market conditions. Sony took the bait of Lalit’s proposed product modifications (forced mid innings break); ignoring consumer requirements as well as player considerations. Fans, experts and cricketers (none less than Shane Warne, Sachin Tendulkar & Harbhajan Singh) have been unanimous in their protest against the marketing gimmick that has affected the sport product adversely. The Coaches have no say in the timing of the break that makes it a poor cousin of the original time-out concept adopted by sporting disciplines such as Basketball and Volley-ball.
The affect of this has been the fact that people have lost interest in watching the matches as shown by Television rating figures for IPL matches. The decline in TRPs is drastic making one wonder how the Sponsors and broadcaster can justify the costs borne by them for this cricket Tamasha. The fact that the IPL matches are just not holding the attention of the audience can be best reflected by the AMap (market research agency) finding. According to CEO of aMap, Amit Verma: “Even though larger number of viewers watched the first two matches, curiosity did not sustain as much as last year.”

The product is fast loosing its fizz. As compared to TRPs of 8.21 achieved last year by IPL , this year has seen a sharp decline at TRP ratings falling at a dismal 5.48 by the second match of IPL season-2 (latest Tam ratings). It is important to realize that 8.21 Trps was the highest achieved by IPL- season1 and was registered in the tournament opener which averaged to around 6 for the entire tournament. So it is only certain to predict that the poor figure of 5.48 will fall further having catastrophic consequences for an already bleeding SET MAX and it’s on-air clients; who have presumably paid Lalit and his IPL tamasha a higher premium as compared to last year!

I find it ironic that the ICC which rejected the official recognition of the Indian Cricket League (ICL) on basis of affecting the basic fabric of the game –finds no faults with the whims & fancies adopted by the self proclaimed messiah of modern cricket- Lalit Modi.

I also urge the media to recognize the fact that cricketers and legends of the game have been reduced to mere puppets or ridiculed by Money Czars ( IPL franchisees) and market considerations. It started with the Gavaskar- Shahrukh Khan verbal dual where the filmstar questioned the credentials of India’s first sports hero in the modern context of the game. Gundappa Vishwanath –match refree for the first match was a mere spectator at the toss where the coin was tossed by Lalit Modi instead of the batting maestro who was reduced to the job of just picking up the coin from the ground. Match-2 saw the same treatment being meted out to Yashpal Sharma who had to pass the honors of tossing the coin to India’s infamous traveling goon – Niranjan Shah. I want to ask the ICC now is this not affecting the basic fabric and ethos of the great game of cricket?

The biggest fraud in this whole tamasha has been the handling of the domestic Indian players. Rajashtan Royals has sent back its domestic talent , Chennai Superkings have followed suit and many more domestic boys are on the way back, if sources from the various IPL franchisees are to be believed! This has been a perennial problem with all IPL teams, Season-1 saw players being asked to vacate their hotels for franchisee guests. The treatment meted out to Ranadeb Bose (team India player & highest wicket taker in the domestic format) by Kolkata Knightriders has well been documented. I think if IPL is recession proof and if the revenues are larger than last year –how come so many domestic boys are facing the axe !!!!!!!!!!!

The matches too have been drab. The avg scores are below the 120 runs/ innings mark making it a poor viewing experience for the sports fans. Ajay Jadeja ( NDTV cricket expert ) made a relevant point in his analysis judging the IPL as an inferior cricket product that has certainly been overpriced as a sports property.
The biggest blunder has been in Lalit Modi- ill-advising his franchisees of shifting their city loyalty to a more global presence. Saurav Ganguly’s handling by KKR management and their strategic decision of removing Kolkata from all their merchandise has seen their brand equity disappear as quickly as a plate of rosogollas from a KC Das store. If most franchisees try & follow suit forgetting their home base ( IPl was formulated on city loyalties) then dooms day is not far for the overvalued IPL bubble to burst.

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