On the day of the bids, another IPL post
February 20, 2008
Shakester wrote in response to an earlier post ‘The League’s Ripples‘:
The future you talk of is still a while away. Its not unthinkable, and probably likely; but it will be a few years before a league of this sort can start killing the long standing draw of nation v nation encounters. By then- assuming such a sea-change does take place- the market forces would have evened out the relevant acquisition costs.
Instead of leaving a response in the comments, I’d write it out as a post. Here goes:
I don’t think the IPL will kill national encounters as much as relegate them to slightly inferior status. But I’m being conservative. And I think it will happen within half a decade. Look, I’m not ‘in’ with either broadcasters or cricket folk, so this is entirely my assumption based on the following facts: lalit modi has been known to be obsessed with the western model of sports, ie. short, heavy on action, based on franchises. He’s purely money-minded, and I think he has a reasonable degree of clout. He’s also one of those wheeler-dealer types like Harish Thawani of Nimbus, who move to where the money is.
Twenty20 has more money than anything cricket has seen before. That’s why Lalit modi is backing this. Ad rates are one thing: high-profile India-Pakistan one-dayers sell ten-second spots for around 2.5 lakhs. A normal Twenty20 game would command as much, if not more, for the sole reason that there’s less ad clutter and many more people are tuned in. During the India-Pakistan Twenty20 final, I think a few spots went for 7 lakhs. It’s absolutely insane.
bare bear with me, for I’m going somewhere with this.
Knowing this, and knowing that Test cricket is barely watched by anybody, I believe that IPL will probably include one-dayers too. As far as Tests go, one theory is that because Tests are sacrosanct, nobody touches this format. But I’m being conservative. Taken to an extreme – by the time the existing round of national television contracts run out in 2012-2014 – the idea of mixed teams could be applied to Test cricket too, if there is enough money in it. We ignore the SuperTest because it was haphazardly created, with more emphasis on star power than any attempt to calculate the effectiveness of a bunch of players put together. Had the world XI team put up a good performance, we would have seen a prototype of teams to come. In three-four-five years, when we’re suitably used to the idea of mixed teams, we’ll probably ask: hey, why not do the same in Tests?
It’s because of this that I think Sony and WSG – who bid a billion dollars for the rights together and have a walkout option after five years – have a brilliant deal. I can’t see IPL hosting a Zimbabwe-Bangladesh game. There will be fewer useless fixtures.
As a result, the valuation of other television contracts will fall because the most-watched event is elsewhere. That’ll be the ‘evening out’ you mentioned. I’ll bet that at ESPN-Star they’re asking themselves: if Sony promised a billion for ten years of IPL, and we promised a billion for all world cups, including the under-19 and women’s world cups, what the hell did we pay for?
But the market hasn’t yet exercised the force it’s capable of. Not in the ICC league, and not in IPL. If market forces were allowed to operate unencumbered, Zee would have had the rights to the last two World Cups as well as the contract that Nimbus currently has with the BCCI. The IPL doesn’t need the bidding cap currently imposed on teams, as well as the ‘iconic’ status imposed on Tendulkar, Dravid, and others, which means these players can’t be bid for.
But other than this, I think the IPL is a godsend for cricket lovers. Frankly, one-dayers are getting boring, and surprisingly Test cricket is on the up. But who has time for Tests? In that way, T20 is brilliant. It has big hitting which crowds love, but there’s also so much skill at work by the bowlers. And I can totally see talent being developed by companies that hold their employees accountable. But the bit where I actually see cricket evolving is in the field of statistics and how we measure a player’s worth. So far we haven’t had an incentive to really look at the value a player provides to the team. This should hopefully change. I’ll be very surprised if, after a couple of years, franchises attempt to fill their team with players who have great averages, but little to offer besides that.
So Shakester, perhaps I’m over-enthusiastic, but I think the day when cricket gives in almost completely to the market is at hand. There are just too many tantalizing opportunities to not go down this path.
Ps. Perhaps I meandered a bit.