Cricket in the time of slowdown

The IPL auction shows that owners of these franchises do not have liquidity problems in running their businesses. Sacking people in the name of dwindling businesses and markets is just an excuse

Sanjay Kapoor, New Delhi, Hardnews

Last weekend, India was witness to perhaps the most perverse and schizophrenic exhibition of casino capitalism- largely responsible for the nightmarish economic slowdown that the world has been witness to since the September 2008. Indian Premier League (IPL) and its team owners glamorously got down to buying cricketers in an open auction, a task that may have provided relief from all the horror stories about job losses and collapsing companies, but it was down right mis-placed and wrong. It seemed as if the exercise had been undertaken by the Czars of cricket to prove to its legion of sponsors that this game is immune from "recession". IPL boss, Lalit Modi, hammered by police probe in his native Jaipur for benefiting from cronyism during the earlier Bharatiya Janata Party regime brazenly stated that cricket was not weighed down by the ups and down of economy. Football, Tennis and many other sports, surely, cannot make such a tall claim.

The auction of cricketers was breathtaking in many ways. English cricketers like Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Peterson commanded a whopping amount of $1.5 million. This was higher than the best paid Indian cricketer- in this case MS Dhoni. Other cricketers like the latest South African sensation, Duminy, also got close to a million. In these extremely hard times, the cricketers were overwhelmed by the price they commanded. English cricketers were so elated after this auction that they could not concentrate in their match against West Indies and were skittled out for a lowly 51 runs. Surely, when dollars are dancing in front of player's eyes then surely it is difficult to spot a speeding ball.

Hardnews does not grudge the good fortunes of the cricketers or the attempt of the game administrators to spread a feeling of goodness in times of gloom and despair. If cricket brings a revival of the economy then let the game begin in floodlights or in broad day light. There should be nothing to hide. The owners of the team should make it clear from where they will generate all these fancy funds to pay-off the glittering stars of the cricketing world. They should also own up whether they are buying these cricketers at the expense of thousands of workers that they have thrown out from their companies. And more importantly, there should be a big disclaimer by the owners that they have paid off all their dues to the government and they are not pleading for a bailout or help from the government. The cruel irony of this auction bazaar that was joyously telecast by 24/7 channels is that some of those who swear by good times, like the liquor king, Vijay Mallya, have not really squared their accounts with many government agencies that they deal with. His airline, Kingfisher, till last heard had not paid its dues to the Airport Authority. Modi, as elucidated above, has major problems with his state government. There are others who are little better.

The auction shows that these worthies do not have liquidity problems in running their businesses. Sacking people in the name of dwindling businesses and markets is just an excuse. The government would be doing a great service to the cricket loving masses if it ensures that the owners of the game are also adequately regulated.