IPL auctions shows confidence of cricket economy

The hardcore cricket buffs will spend much time analysing the strategies adopted by the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket franchisees at the auction in Goa on Friday; others will wonder why such monies are not spent on other sports in India. For the moment, though, I will sit back and smile at how the IPL auction stretched beyond merely the spectacle that the product is.
The fact that eight franchisees signed up 17 overseas cricketers and spent more to $11.5 million – and remember there was a cap of $ 2 million that each franchisee could spend – at the auction is a clear pointer to not just IPL’s health but also that of the cricket economy in the country and, for good measure, the state that India is in.
If you had any doubt about that, you just have to throw a cursory glance at how Kolkata Knight Riders fought tooth and nail with Kings XI Punjab to sign up Bangladesh all-rounder Mashrafe Mortaza. His base price had been set as $50,000 and the Kolkata team ended up bidding as much as $600,000 before the Mohali outfit bowed out of the race.
Cricket, as the venerated West Indian sociologist CLR James wrote, is not played in vacuum but in a society and always reflects that society. It is a message – may be even a powerful statement – to the world that India’s economy is steady on track and, despite reports of jobs being lost in the export-related industry, far from coming unhinged.
My mind goes back to a recent conversation with a colleague of mine who called to ask if I believed the second edition of IPL would happen at all. The question was not with basis, coming as it did in the wake of reports of franchise owners getting together to seek concessions from the IPL Governing Council because of recessionary trends they perceived would hit them.
Yet, some owners were quick to play that down themselves. Kings XI Punjab owner Ness Wadia hit the nail on its head when he spoke of how cricket is TV-based entertainment that reaches to every household. “The economic slowdown will not dampen the spirit of sports. I don’t think there will be any problem to get the sponsors,” he said.
“I don’t think recession is going to affect IPL,” says Kolkata Knight Riders’ owner Shah Rukh Khan, echoing my own sentiments expressed as early as on January 21. “I don’t even think recession is the word for the situation India is in. I would call it a time for correction of figures.”
Hero Honda Managing Director and CEO Pawan Munjal had already indicated that there would be no reduction in his company’s ad-spends. “In fact, we are going ahead with whatever we had planned,” he told SportzPower.com. “All our existing properties will continue to get greater support from our end. Normally, people would say things are bad, let us not support sport, let us not go to TV, but we have a contrarian view. Our call is to back sport more actively.”
The world of sport could not have given the Indian economy a better vote of confidence than this. And I shall savour this moment. Even if I benefit directly by the reduction of petrol prices by Rs 10 a litre and have no direct benefits from the IPL auction in Goa on Friday, I will see the developments as a telling commentary of the confidence in the Indian market.
I see the fact that the two teams chose to bid intensely for Mortaza rather than chase any who had been marked higher reserve prices as a reflection of the fact that India and its businesses, especially those which can bank on experience gained over a year, can now exercise choice. There cannot be any other reason for the likes of Stuart Clark and Luke Wright to be left out.