Friday, February 22, 2008

IPL: Money for something

This article in CricInfo by Dileep Premachandran discusses whether cricketers deserve their astronomical salaries.

Doesn't the answer to the question - "Do they deserve such high salaries?" - depend on whether we, as spectators, are willing to watch the games on TV and sit through the commercials and whether we are willing to pay for the tickets, merchandise etc. If we are willing to pump in the money, then why should they not be paid so well?

But on the other hand, Dileep brings up one other very interesting point: Are we paying certain cricketers too much, too soon?
The sort of money thrown at young players in the IPL - is Tiwary really worth twice as much as Michael Hussey, even if Hussey only plays half the season? - should also make us wary
I agree with Dileep that some players are paid more than their talent-display thus far. But I don't see why franchises would not invest so much on MS Dhoni. He is talented, powerful, dedicated and aggressive. If the gripe is about the pure $ amount, then at this point I would reserve my judgment and see how the whole series pans out.

Alongside, Dileep also suggests a cautionary lesson to be learnt from NFL on rewarding unseen talent:
American Football offers the greatest cautionary tale of too much, too soon. A few years ago, Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons was the most exciting quarterbacking talent around, the future of the league, and in possession of a contract worth $130 million over 10 years. These days he languishes in a penitentiary in Kansas, after a federal investigation exposed his involvement with Bad Newz Kennels, a pit-bull fighting and gambling syndicate. No one should expect young sportsmen to be role models, but you also don't want them to end up like Vick
This comparison between Michael Vick and Tiwary seemed a little baseless to me. Micheal Vick had played 4 full seasons before he was offered the then league high $130 million. Where as, Tiwary has so far played 1 ODI and 6 20Twenty matches. The main problem I have with the above argument is, what could Atlanta Falcons have done differently with Michael Vick when they decided to pay him so much?

Dileep is also skeptical about the ability of players not playing for their home franchises to create "fanatical" fan following. Why don't we look at NFL for example tales?: Peyton Manning was born in New Orleans (home team: Saints) and played college football at Tennessee (home team: Titans) and plays professional football for Indianapolis Colts. He is probably one of the most revered quarterbacks in the league's history and his fan following doesn't just stop with Indy. Tom Brady, born in San Mateo, CA was a "fanatical" fan of the 49ers and he now plays for New England Patriots - he now commands the most loyal fan base in the league[1]. So, I, as a Chennai franchise fan, will root for anybody wearing the SuperKings T-Shirt and plays cricket. I don't care if he's from Ranchi or Jupiter.

All that said, it took me years to adjust to franchises and leagues after having supported "countries" in cricket and football. And I think IPL is a healthy first attempt to promote the game of cricket amongst youth and general public worldwide. Like someone pointed out, this is the first season and it is difficult to pull crowds without big stars and big bucks. But whether the whole affair is worth the time and money invested (money mainly), is yet to be seen.

[1] Of course, agreed that Rohit Sharma is no Peyton Manning and Robin Uthappa is no Tom Brady. But at least Brady, when drafted, was a no-name player.

PS: I'm a loyal reader of Dileep's articles and, of course, occasionally dare to disagree with his expert opinion. Overall, I consider him to be one of the best critics and Sports journalists.

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