Yusuf Pathan © Getty Images
Yusuf Pathan © Getty Images


By Shailesh Nigam


He had a dream.  A dream to form a cricket league that not only defined how cricket was played, but also shaped the careers of cricketers and the destiny of Indian cricket. Lalit Modi, the “Moses of Cricket” (as Ravi Shastri christened him), turned his dream into reality with the money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL). Modi is not on the scene anymore, but his vision and his legacy continues. And if we are to go by the recent auctions for the IPL Season 4, this is surely becoming the biggest cricket jamboree in the world.


I was staggered watching the live telecast of the auctions showing 20-somethings bought for mindboggling sums before being tested on the international arena. Sachin Tendulkar, cricket’s money magnet, was born two decades too early! Imagine how much the “God of cricket” would have been worth in two decades had he started his career now!


I was baffled by many things in the auction, but there emerged at least one very clear trend: Be Indian, Buy Indian! With the composition of the IPL teams being at least seven Indian players and at most four foreigners, one thing became very clear – this was the ‘INDIAN’ Premier League and ‘Indians’ were prime real estate. With Gautam Gambhir getting over Rs. 11 crore and the Pathan brothers collectively pocketing around Rs. 18 crore, against purported figures of Tendulkar being retained by Mumbai Indians for just over Rs. 8 crore, the IPL proved that the auction was not just illogical but, to a large extent, ‘dil-logical’.


Other than the megabucks for the Indians, there were three more striking trends that one noticed.


One, the emergence of captaincy-material and all-rounders as the cherry on the cake that everyone wanted even before the cake was baked. Gambhir, Adam Gilchrist, Mahela Jayawardene, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan and Andrew Symonds proved that their four hours of worth on the field in each match was probably more than four hours of average earnings of even their buyers!


Two, questions over availability was a big factor, which meant that even captaincy potential, multiple skills and game-changing ability – as in the case of Chris Gayle – would go unpicked. Pakistanis can’t play in the IPL because of reasons well known, but for the West Indians playing Pakistan at the time of the IPL proved costly.


Three, age does matter, even if the entire nation (okay, okay… state) reveres you! Sourav Ganguly learnt it the very hard way. But there were lessons aplenty in how Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman got a miniscule of their true worth, and how Saurabh Tiwary, Jaidev Unadkat and a certain Dan Christian (somebody tell me, what has he done to deserve so much in such a short time) raked in the moolah!


While all this amazed me, I was left wondering if the teams were playing cricket in the right spirit. And then it struck me – these were hardened businessmen striking deals that made pure business sense, and that were deep-rooted in commerce and finance. The auction was not about cricketing legends or hero worship or pure passion; it was about ruthless business decisions in the overall interest of the team. The three tends mirror that.


Trend 1 – All businesses try and identify leaders and problem-solvers and put their might behind them, as people who will steer the ship.


Trend 2 – While businesses scout talent from business schools and from competition (and increasingly from diverse industry backgrounds), it is not the best who get the deal always (for they either choose to stay loyal to their current organizations, or are content enjoying their current roles, or just aren’t motivated enough to move to say another city), it is those who may be just above average, but ‘available and mobile’ who often get plum postings.


Trend 3 – The ‘age factor’ comes into play after a certain time, howsoever important you may have been to your organization in the past. Arguments (or plain directives) like “We need to be seen as a young organization by our consumers”, “We need some fresh thinking”, or “We’re entering a digital era… the oldies just won’t understand this” are increasing driving youth-focused-decisions, and golden handshakes are more the norm than the exception. All three trends showcase pure, emotionless business decisions to drive an enterprise to greater heights.


So, has cricket become serious business, after all? I would say so; that’s what the auction seemed to suggest, if you ask me. And IPL, the brainchild of a businessman to make cricket a carnival, has finally made commodities of cricketers and made crorepatis out of commoners. Howzzat!!!


(Shailesh Nigam is an advertising & marketing professional who enjoys writing on diverse topics. He writes two blogs: cricketcetera.blogspot.com & shaileshnigam.blogspot.com. He also authors and manages a website, www.ceolessonsfromcricket.com which focuses on lessons that businesses can learn from cricket. He has many published articles in leading dailies and currently working on a book)