The million, nay, billion-dollar question is whether the Indian Premier League (IPL) will hit the jackpot or end up as a costly misadventure. Top business houses and Bollywood heavyweights have shelled out astronomical amounts to buy teams and players. Will our cricket-crazed nation ensure that it meets with just as much of a frenzied success? Sceptics are doubtful.
The success of the league depends on whether the team owners would be able to break even in the not so distant future. It will be interesting to see whether national loyalties can be converted into city-based loyalties. For instance, would the fans of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly or Rahul Dravid support regional teams that do not flaunt their favourite idols? And more importantly, will domestic cricket (Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and so on) end up being sacrificed or compromised at the altar of this new brand of cricket?
Experts say a lot depends on whether the telecast of the matches would be able to keep viewers glued to their television sets. The World Sports Group (WSG) and Sony Entertainment Television (SET), which bought telecast rights of the IPL for about $1 billion for a 10-year deal, would have to contend with other popular primetime TV soaps and programmes, which also target primetime TV viewers.
However, cricket purists are of the view that too many cricket matches (59 Twenty20 matches in 44 days) could see a dip in interest levels of cricket aficionados who may not be as enthusiastic about watching all the matches. And if fans lose interest in watching this on TV, the resultant low TRPs is bound to upset the advertising applecart which in turn will create a damper on all other earnings.
Bangalore Royal Challengers captain Rahul Dravid during a practice session. (PTI Photo)
The ICC calendar is already packed with too many matches and the IPL matches would only add to the burden. This may result in player burnout and fatigue.
The BCCI has estimated to generate an advertising revenue of over Rs600 crore in its first season. In the first year, each of the eight team owners will spend around Rs25 crore on marketing and promotion, which include below-the-line activities, city-based club activations and so on, say sources.
The IPL has been modelled on the lines of European football, such as the leagues in England, Germany and Spain. With international players sharing the same dressing room, there is a distinct possibility that the IPL will end up improving ties between cricketers of different countries. The spectators too will get their money’s worth, watching the big stars compete with each other. It is a win-win situation, both for cricketers as well as their fans.