The ABC of the IPL

2009-04-17 00:00

AND suddenly it’s here. The world’s first mobile cricket show — if you exclude the Barmy Army, that is — and it will be in South Africa for the next 41 days.

It’s the Indian Premier League (IPL), of course, which has relocated from India because of security reasons around their elections. Never mind that we have our own, imminent Jacob Zuma procession in the midst of all the glitz and glamour of the world’s richest cricket competition. The show simply must go on, especially as India’s population is a tiny bit bigger than ours.

Now, for the average spectator, all this sudden commotion can be rather confusing. What is the IPL? How dare they invade our rugby season? And why are they not bothering to sprinkle some stardust in Pietermaritzburg?

All these are relevant questions, and they shall all be dealt with. But first, a brief history lesson. The art of Twenty/20 — as it was coined in England in the summer of 2003 — has been a proverbial hit across the world, and the IPL has quickly established itself as the most watched domestic competition in the game.

The competition was created by the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), and it is chaired by the colourful Lalit Modi.

You may have seen Modi at the recent Pro20 international between the Aussies and the Proteas. He was the middle-aged chap standing next to the delightful Shilpa Shetty. That is what the IPL also brings. Glamour.

The owners and part-owners of the franchises — we will get to those in a minute — are a collection of Indian magnates, crafty businessmen and Bollywood stars and starlets. And then there are the players’ wives and girlfriends. Truly, there will be more Wags here than at your local SPCA kennels around New Year’s eve.

The likes of Shah Rukh Khan, the aforementioned Shetty, and Preity Zinta all have shares in the various franchises. These franchises are regions in India, and the significance of this is that a large percentage of the side has to be “normal” players from that very region.

Thus, if the IPL was our brainchild, we could have the Maritzburg Maniacs — you really need a flashy name for this — and their base would be The Oval.

The franchise would be allowed to go crazy and buy international superstars, but only four of these draw cards can feature in each match XI. This little footnote is what makes the competition the spectacle that it is. You have wide-eyed unknowns slugging it out against the likes of Glenn McGrath, Sanath Jayasuriya and Graeme Smith.

This local flavour is what drew capacity crowds all over India last year. Perhaps they wanted to see how their next-door neighbour bowled to Sachin Tendulkar, or perhaps witness a rising star flay Shane Warne’s leggies around the park. The home-and-away format allowed teams to have a home ground, and also build up a fan base. Quite how they will replicate this in Mzansi, we will just have to wait and see.

Then there are the jaw-dropping amounts of money invested in this slog-fest. You may have seen the headlines suggesting that certain players have become instant millionaires. Well, it was no April Fool’s lark — they most certainly are raking it in.

For example, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was signed up for $1,5 million last year. You may recognise the name JP Duminy. Yes, he of the Melbourne heroics and the dream tour Down Under. Well, little JP will need a big wheelbarrow to carry his $950 000 earnings for six weeks’ “work”.

Even our favourite Englishman is in the loot. Old KP was auctioned off for $1,55 million. His only regret must be that he cannot earn the full amount, as he has to leave early to prepare for a Test series back “home”. The sheer inconvenience of it all …

Before you really turn green, perhaps you should look at the numbers being crunched at the top end. Cricket South Africa (CSA) will pocket a handy R100 million for hiring out its stadia, security and vuvuzelas — quite why they are not regarded as weapons of mass distraction, I don’t know — while the stadia used will each receive R125 000 a match.

Again, this is small change compared with the really big bucks at the sharp end of the, er, top end. The IPL signed a $1 billion, 10-year TV deal for the broadcasting of the matches.

The franchises were bought for fees ranging from a measly $67 million for the eventual champions, the Rajasthan Royals, through to the nearly $112 million splashed out by one of the world’s richest men, Mukesh Ambani, for Tendulkar’s Mubai Indians.

The Indian government made nearly $20 million in tax revenue alone from the competition last year. So perhaps Gerald Majola was a tad hasty with the flick of his pen when Modi came calling a few weeks ago. R100 million does suddenly seem like pocket money when dealing with such heady sums. And there we were talking of a credit crunch …

And if you are still wondering why none of this loot will make its way to Pietermaritzburg, there is a simple explanation. We were never in the running.

Unlike the 2003 World Cup, which was cerebrally spread around the nation, the decision on venues was purely the IPL’s. They plumped for tried and trusted venues, with an eye on the unusual 12.30 pm and 4.30 pm start times in order to get big audiences back in India.

They will be in for a surprise when they turn up at Bloemfontein and Kimberley, places the climates of which most certainly don’t resemble an Indian summer.

But that is really nit-picking, for we have suddenly been given a glimpse of most of the world’s best players in the blink of an eye. All we can do is sit back and soak it in.

If you cannot make the trip to what will be a packed Kingsmead, then fear not for all the matches will be screened on SuperSport. They really have thought of everything, these business men in pyjama clothing. There will be dancers everywhere you look, film stars in every VIP box, and of course the cricketers in the middle.

It seems even Umshini wami may have to take a bit of a back seat, as cricket-mad South Africa clamours to get a glimpse of Ntini wami.

India’s ‘icon’ players

Five Indian stars were given “icon” status and were not put up for auction last year, thereby ensuring that they played for their home teams. They earned 15% more than the highest-paid player in their respective teams:

• Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai Indians) — $1,12 million;

• Sourav Ganguly (Kolkata Knight Riders) — $1,09 million;

• Yuvraj Singh (Kings XI Punjab) — $1,06 million;

• Rahul Dravid (Bangalore Royal Challengers) — $1,03 million; and

• Virender Sehwag (Delhi Daredevils) — $833 750.

Prize money

• Winner: $960 000;

• Runner-up: $480 000;

• Losing semi-finalists: $240 000;

• Fifth-placed team: $160 000;

• Sixth-placed team: $140 000;

• Seventh-placed team: $100 000; and

• Eighth-placed team: $80 000. —Sapa-AFP.

Order of play

Each team plays the other twice in a round-robin league with the top four teams qualifying for the semi-finals. There are 59 matches, including the semi-finals and final.

Top IPL earners (per season)

• $1,55 million — Kevin Pietersen (ENG): Bangalore Royal Challengers;

• $1,55 million — Andrew Flintoff (ENG): Chennai Super Kings;

• $1,50 million — Mahendra Singh Dhoni (IND): Chennai Super Kings;

• $1,35 million — Andrew Symonds (AUS): Deccan Chargers;

• $975 000 — Sanath Jayasuriya (SRI): Mumbai Indians;

• $950 000 — Ishant Sharma (IND): Kolkata Knight Riders;

• $950 000 — Jean-Paul Duminy (RSA): Mumbai Indians;

• $925 000 — Irfan Pathan (IND): Kings XI Punjab;

• $900 000 — Jacques Kallis (RSA): Bangalore Royal Challengers;

• $900 000 — Brett Lee (AUS): Kings XI Punjab; and

• $850,000 — Harbhajan Singh (IND): Mumbai Indians.

• Players not available for the entire tournament are paid on a pro-rata basis per match.

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