The Indian Premier League auctions for this year has as usual dominated the airwaves. I am not a fan of cricket, and therefore have played the least possible amount of attention to the auction. I must confess however, that I am greatly interested in the economic model of the Premier League. It is a competition full of glitz and glamour, where Bollywood, corporate world and politics meet on the cricket field. The attraction does not elude me. But more than anything, it generates a great deal of wealth - to the players, to the franchise owners, to the BCCI, to practically everyone involved. The audiences are of course entertained by the Twenty20 format, which is batsman-friendly, just as they prefer.
As the teams are arranged along the major metros/regions, audiences all over India have an affinity to one team or another - some choose according to the team closest them, others according to where their favourite player ends up. Point is, Cricket sells. IPL sells better. The money might be slow for the franchisees, as Ashok Malik suggests here, but there is no doubt that it adds a great deal of value.
Perhaps more importantly, the IPL has given a formula for other sports to launch their own professional sporting leagues, infused with glitz and the glamour of Bollywood and backed by corporate money. Football, badminton, tennis, hockey and kabaddi have all replicated the IPL model to varying degrees of success. The profile of these sports have been raised considerably by these competitions, along with the success of their star players.
Private investment in these sports will serve as a huge boost, and help India to perform better in International sporting events. As Ravi Kiran points out in this article, the success of cricket and badminton is because the BCCI and the Badminton Association of India (BAI) are financially self-sufficient, and the resulting inability of the Union government to control the association. Let us not forget the role the Pullela Gopichand had in creating the current batch of badminton superstars. He set up his academy using private funding, with the State government led by Chandrababu Naidu graciously providing the land for the academy.
The failure of governmental intervention in the sports arena does not prevent politicians calling for more intervention into sport authorities - the CPI (M) party paper called for greater public funding of sports in the country in the wake of the "failure" in the 2016 Olympics. Even more amusing was Manish Tewari's tweet, which questioned the logic of assessing players’ worth by way of auction:
Is an auction of human beings( read IPL Players) a good idea? Auction of humans used to take place in barbaric ages. Canât there be a more dignified method of evaluating skill and talent?— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) January 27, 2018
Maybe the Union Government should intervene and create an IPL Players Equitable Worth Committee (IPLPEWC) filled with ‘public intellectuals’ and bureaucrats to determine the worth of a player. Or even better, the Supreme Court should include IPLPEWC as part of the the Lodha committee recommendations. Sorabh Pant had an interesting response to Tewari's tweet - that the players are paid the auction money with their consent. To that logical point, the morally indignant liberal asks if we should be allowed to sell ourselves into slavery.
Tewari's argument is absolutely illogical, almost to the point of absurdity. But that is not the only morally indignant tweet on IPL. One editor of a ‘listicle’ site suggested an ‘IPL style auction where India’s crorepatis bid to eradicate all our problems’.
But as with many 'ideas' that liberals have, they are practically useless. It is of course true that private charity is more productive than government spending. But sinking money to charity won't help. Investments do. Why? Because charity breeds dependency. Investments bring in sustainable jobs and productivity, which could spur further growth. (Suggested reading: "Dead Aid" by Dambisa Moyo.)
Besides, it's not up to us to decide what private citizens should spend their money on.
Many cricket purists may decry the effect that the Indian Premier League has on youngsters entering the sport, and there are more than enough examples for the fickle nature of the stardom of the IPL. But that does not mean that the competition is a death wish for players. The competition incentivises franchises to promote domestic players - a minimum pool of 100 Indian players will be involved in the competition, providing a lifeline to many players who maybe struggling otherwise. The BCCI gave out only 32 central contracts last year, for example. This means a majority of domestic players do not receive a largess from the BCCI, and they can very well depend on the IPL as a source of their income.
The average IPL salary, as of 2015, US $4.33 million per year (pro-rated), is the second highest among all sporting leagues in the world. Recall that the league is organised for less than 2 months, unlike most sporting leagues.
Numerous success stories
The biggest example of IPL's success is R Ashwin, the dynamic all-rounder who has become a mainstay of the Indian cricket team. Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah have also greatly benefited from the league. It provides a platform like no other for youngsters to learn and grow.
It is not only budding Indian cricketers who have benefited from the IPL - 22 year old Jofra Archer from England became an overnight millionaire when the Rajasthan Royals signed him for Rs 7 crores, despite him not playing international cricket.
The IPL adds ₹1,150 crores to India's gross domestic product according to a 2015 study by KPMG. It very well might be higher now. Just look at the title sponsorship amount - in the inaugral season, DLF payed Rs 200 crores for title sponsorship rights for five seasons, while Vivo paid ten times the amount ten years later - Rs 2,199 crores for the next five seasons (2018-2022).
There are many who may have objections to the 'effect' that IPL has on the 'spirit' of the game, and since I am not a cricket fanatic, I am really unable to comprehend those niceties. But of course, there are persons like a former cricket administrator and historian, who portrayed the IPL as symptomatic of a 'capitalistic disease’ that is affecting the social and democratic character of the Indian Union. Those allegations are without merit, and ignore the many positives of the League.
The author would like to thank Vishnu Rajesh for his inputs.
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