Tuesday, April 20, 2010
The IPL unravels
King Pyrrhus, after defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC, is supposed to have said, "If we are victorious in one more battle, we shall be utterly ruined". Lalit Modi is now tasting the bitter fruit of his Pyrrhic victory over Shashi Tharoor. It may be that he had no choice but to fight. Having failed to stage manage the supposedly open auction process, he took aim at the winning Kochi team's weakest link, the relationship between Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar, in order to make good his alleged promise to the Adani group which had failed to gain a franchise.
By revealing the names of the Kochi group's partners and their stakes, he created a demand for more openness about IPL finances in general. That kind of scrutiny is the last thing any of the franchisees want, and the Board of Control for Cricket in India is equally reluctant to face it. I recall, when Sharad Pawar became head of the BCCI, he promised to put an end to Jagmohan Dalmiya's legacy by bringing transparency to the Board's functioning. He spoke, if I remember right, of hiring McKinsey to create a vision of the future of Indian cricket, and to place that report online. The BCCI, one of the richest sports bodies in the world, has a barely working website to this day. The McKinsey report, if it was commissioned and prepared, has been quietly buried.
A month ago I wrote of the beginning of the end of the IPL, and readers said it was a premature judgment. That it might have been, but the point was that if huge amounts of money was being paid for franchises, with no possible way for the investors to turn a profit, we were entering really dangerous territory. I recommended that existing investors should exit immediately, because they would never get such high valuations again, and I believe I will be proven right.
Hypnotised by the Tharoor - Modi battle, the media underplayed the bombs that went off in Bangalore just before one of the matches. It was obviously a massive security lapse, but I don't see any investigation of who was to blame. Nobody died, so we think of it as a minor incident. But what if a small explosive went off during a game? I've been to enough such events to know that there's a stampede waiting to happen at one of them. There's absolutely no system in place for an orderly evacuation, and any panic will doubtless cost dozens of lives. So now they've moved the semis to the 'home ground' of the Deccan Chargers, who weren't allowed to play in Hyderabad because, let me see, Lalit Modi decided bombs might go off there.
This IPL started with the Pakistani player fiasco (so much for open bidding), moved to the Kochi franchise scandal, and developed into a security disaster. And yet, every day, commentators laud Modi for running the IPL smoothly. Only in India.