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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