Johannesburg: Commissioner Lalit Modi claimed after Sunday’s final that the Indian Premier League had become a global phenomenon.
The claim might have been a touch extravagant, but there could be no doubt that the second version of cricket’s richest tournament, moved at short notice from India to South Africa, contributed to a change in world cricket’s landscape.
Despite the IPL insisting the International Cricket Council official tours programme took precedence, there were alarming signs for the game’s administrators that their hold on top players was weakening.
A graphic illustration was the late departure of West Indian captain Chris Gayle from the IPL. He opted to play an extra game for the struggling Kolkata Knight Riders and joined his Caribbean team-mates only two days before the first Test against England.
Gayle offended traditionalists when he said he wouldn’t be sad to give up both the captaincy and Test cricket as he underlined an uncomfortable reality for administrators around the world.
While Gayle reluctantly led the West Indies to two crushing Test defeats, recently retired international players like Australians Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist were able to play the full IPL programme.
The West Indies were playing in England only because Sri Lanka withdrew to enable their star players such as Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga to play in the IPL.
England stars Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, both signed for $1.55 million a season, could play only a handful of IPL games - but Flintoff added to a recent history of injuries and was unable to play for his country.
While England did not stop Flintoff from playing in the IPL, Australia took a tougher line with contracted players Nathan Bracken, Shane Watson and James Hopes.
All suffered injuries and were prevented from joining the league because Australia wanted to make sure they were fit to play for their country.
With the money on offer from the IPL, however, insisting on such loyalty may become increasingly difficult.
Modi’s vision of creating a tournament to rival the big European football leagues was advanced by staging the five-week, 59-match tournament across South Africa.
The concept of the world’s best players linking up to franchises for the highest bidders made a change from the traditional diet of international cricket and South African crowds flocked to see the games.
The extravagance of the IPL promotion, fuelled by a television deal worth more than a billion dollars over 10 years, confirmed India as the financial powerhouse of world cricket.
South Africa and Australia entrenched their position in the big-money league as founder members of the Champions League.
The first edition will be played in India between 8-13 October after being postponed last year because of a terror attack on Mumbai.
Three teams from India, two from Australia, South Africa and England and the champions of New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka will play for $6 million in prize money.