Games People Play
In the IPL, a team franchiseâ€™s true value is based on performance both on and off the field.
For every cricket enthusiast, there was the World Cup. For everyone else, there’s now the IPL. Now that the World Cup is over and won with, the slate will be blank and the stadiums will be full, but for a different reason. Call it the three letter juggernaut, or the toxic twin of modern day cricket, or even the candy floss version of the Gentlemen’s game; the truth is that it’s here for the next 51 days. Here to dominate news headlines and gossip columns in equal measure—with all the subtlety of a tsunami.
For a tournament that is built on money and money alone, it’s near impossible for it to be clear of controversy or drama. As another adrenaline-filled edition gets underway, one gets the same feeling about the IPL as one gets just before the Mumbai monsoon: you know it’s going to be bad, but you can’t really know how bad. So instead of speculating on the future, we’re delving into the past. To brush up on all that has happened with the teams so far and how they each rate on entertainment value (because, as we all know, the IPL is as much about entertainment as it is about cricket), read on:
Entertainment value: 9/10
The Mumbai Indians, expensively put together by Mukeshbhai Ambani and carefully looked after by his wife Nitaben, come into this edition having made some important strategic decisions. Sachin Tendulkar, Kieron Pollard and Lasith Malinga have been retained, and surprisingly, even Harbhajan Singh has been kept back. After all, we only remember Bhajji for slapping Sreesanth, and for carrying Mrs. Ambani on the field. This year, Bhajji has to face the challenge of surviving the tournament with an old rival, a man twice his size and with half his patience, Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds , who was previously playing for the Deccan Chargers.
CHENNAI SUPER KINGS
Entertainment value: 4/10
The team owners of the Chennai Super Kings have got it all wrong. India Cements, the company that owns the CSK, is under the impression that the IPL is about cricket. How else can you explain their robust performance in the IPL so far? Already runners-up once and champions last year, the Chennai Super Kings have largely flown under the radar in the auction. In fact, one of their most expensive endeavours has been the Rs34 crore that they’ve spent on captain M.S. Dhoni’s insurance for the tournament. It takes a South Indian company to prove that even in extravagance, there is prudence.
Entertainment value: 3/10
Purchased for a $107 million (Rs471.4 crore), the Deccan Chargers are owned by two media companies, The Deccan Chronicle and the Group M. And the team is what every media company wants to be: competent at what it does and controversy-free. That may work in other spheres, but not in the IPL.
Entertainment value: 4/10
Another one of those unusual situations where the team is in the headlines more than the team owners. GMR Holdings is the company with the rights to the Daredevils, and not much is known about them in the cricketing circles. But maybe a crash course from Mr.Mallya or Shah Rukh Khan could show them how to be at the forefront of the action.
KINGS XI PUNJAB
Entertainment value: 8.5/10
Couples usually buy pets to test how well they’ll adjust as a family. Ness Wadia and Preity Zinta thought it cute to buy an IPL franchise instead. The only problem with that was a gentleman named Yuvraj Singh. It started well, and with Singh as the team captain in the first edition, the Kings XI finished third. But rumours that Singh was getting to know his female team owner a little too well started doing the rounds soon. Wadia stepped in, sacked Singh as the captain, and then promptly decided not to retain him before the player auctions. Singh now plays for the Pune Sahara Warriors, and Wadia and Zinta are no longer a couple. To add to this was the racism row that took place in 2008, when two cheerleaders alleged they were denied entry into the Mohali stadium because they were of African descent; a dispute with the Punjab State police, where Wadia almost came to blows with the Mohali Senior Superintendent of Police, and the team almost being expelled from the IPL this year because of financial discrepancies.
KOCHI TUSKERS KERALA
Entertainment value: 7/10
Team Kochi is new to the IPL, but is already one of the heavyweights when it comes to controversy. Right from the bidding stage, there were problems because of the uncertainty over its ownership; Shashi Tharoor’s involvement (both in the bidding process as well as with Sunanda Pushkar); and whether the franchise was to be set up in Kochi or Ahmedabad. The controversy started when IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi revealed that Tharoor’s friend and now wife Sunanda Pushkar had equity stakes in Rendezvous Sports World (RSW), which was heading the consortium that owns the Kochi team. It was later disclosed that Tharoor was using his influence as Minister for External affairs to help RSW get the bid and that Pushkar was given sweat equity to the tune of Rs70 crore. And all these controversies came rumbling before a ball was even bowled. Way to go, guys.
KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS
Entertainment value: 8/10
One man who has figured out all the IPL represents is Shah Rukh Khan. And that’s why, in the first three editions of the tournament, the Kolkata Knight Riders are one of the few to have made some money (Them and the fake IPL player). All this, despite being the only team to have not qualified for the semi-finals even once. Between Saurav Ganguly’s exclusion in the team, and John Buchanan’s sacking as coach, SRK has tried everything to make it work. In fact, there was even a brief mention of him moving the franchise from Kolkata to Ahmedabad. That didn’t happen; fortunate when you consider that Gujarat is a dry state and as every Knight Riders fan will tell you, frustration comes with being a fan, and alcohol comes with the frustrations.
Entertainment value: 5/10
The cheapest of the franchises at $67 million, the Rajasthan Royals is one of the few IPL franchises that refuses to give into the hype and buy players at asinine prices. Captained by Shane Warne, whose on field tactics are as unpredictable as his off field saucy text messages, the Royals won year one in 2008 despite being written off at first. Since then of course, things haven’t gone on as smoothly and the only thing written about are co-owner Shilpa Shetty’s sarees. The Royals were the second team pulled up by the BCCI for financial misconduct and their contract was also terminated. Not surprisingly, the High Court threw the BCCI’s ruling out. One can’t help but see the irony of it all. Shouldn’t the BCCI—before demanding squeaky clean records from its franchisees—get its own house in order (ahem, Lalit Modi)?
ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE
Entertainment value: 7/10
What does one do when the lure of the oldest single malts and the youngest models at your side starts to fade? If you’re anything like Mr. Mallya, you buy an IPL franchise. Bought in 2008 for $111.6 million, the Royal Challengers made it to the finals of the 2009 edition, but for the most part, their matches have been an excuse for Vijay Mallya to hang out with Katrina Kaif; and for heir-in-waiting Siddharth Mallya to have weekly play-dates with Deepika Padukone.
SAHARA PUNE WARRIORS
Entertainment value: NA
Purchased for $370 million, the Sahara Pune Warriors are one of the latest additions to the money spinning machine that is the IPL. But while the Kochi Tuskers Kerala ran off with the headlines for the wrong reasons, the team from Pune is yet to do anything controversial. One hopes that it’s only a matter of time before that changes.