International cricket megastars with large paychecks to match their egos, Bollywood's elite actors, big business magnates, provocatively dressed cheerleaders, the big sports media, huge worldwide audience, deep pocket sponsors all come together to put on spectacular three hour, 2020 games of the two newly formed Indian cricketing leagues.

This is a revolution in the world of cricket, a sleepy, colonial era, gentleman's game that the British brought to their colonies including India and Pakistan. Taking a leaf from the sports leagues in US and Europe, it represents a coming of age for the business of sports in India. According to the New York Times, the Indian billionaires are for the first time staking their prestige on sports teams. The Indian Premier League’s most expensive franchise, at nearly $111.9 million, is the Mumbai Indians, fittingly owned by India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani. The flamboyant liquor baron Vijay Mallya picked up the Bangalore-based Royal Challengers for $111.6 million, and the actor Shah Rukh Khan is backing the Kolkata Knight Riders for $75.09 million.

Forbes magazine reports that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), a nonprofit body controlling the game in the country, has racked up $1 billion to date from selling commercial rights to Indian cricket for the next five years. (One source: Nike paid $45 million to flash its logo on players' apparel and to sell garments to cricket fans.) "It's all about extracting the most value," said Lalit Modi, BCCI's new marketing chief, who hopes to eventually make $1.5 billion from Indian cricket, ten times what BCCI made in the last go-around.

IPL offered contracts to several Pakistani players including Shoaib Malik, Shoaib Akhtar, Muhammad Asif, Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan, Muhammad Yousaf and Inzamam ul Haq.

According to the BBC, the players were offered to the franchisees in an auction process. Australia captain Ponting is among 13 of his compatriots in a pool of international cricketers available to the franchises, which were allowed to spend a maximum of $5m (£2.565m) on eight contracted players.

The winning bids, which were selected electronically in a sealed room, offered Pakistani players as follows: Shoaib Akhtar $425,000, Younis Khan $225,000, Kamran Akmal $150,000 and Umar Gul $150,000. These amounts are several times larger than the current compensation they receive from PCB.

The top 10 auction winning auction bids in February were:

Mahendra Dhoni: $1.5m (Chennai)
Andrew Symonds: $1.35m (Hyderabad)
Sanath Jayasuriya: $975,000 (Mumbai)
Ishant Sharma: $950,000 (Kolkata)
Irfan Pathan: $925,000 (Mohali)
Brett Lee : $900,000 (Mohali)
Jacques Kallis: $900,000 (Bangalore)
RP Singh: $875,000 (Hyderabad)
Harbhajan Singh: $850,000 (Mumbai)
Chris Gayle: $800,000 (Kolkata)

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A 2010 NY Times story on corruption in Indian cricket:

Founded three seasons ago, the Indian Premier League managed to make the sport of cricket sexy. India’s corporate titans bought teams, Bollywood stars infused matches with celebrity glamour and fans from Mumbai to Dubai to New Jersey followed the league on television as its value rose to more than $4 billion.

For many Indians, the league, known as the I.P.L., became a symbol of a newly dynamic and confident India that was expanding its influence in the world. Yet after weeks of allegations of graft and financial malfeasance, the resignation of a government minister and the suspension of the league’s charismatic commissioner, the league has become emblematic of something else: how much the old and often corrupt political and business elite still dominates the country.

“The great pity in India is that creations like the I.P.L. became a victim of their own success,” the editor in chief of the magazine India Today, Aroon Purie, wrote this month. “Where there is money involved, especially large sums, corruption is not far behind.”

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Ramachandra Guha, a historian who has written a book about cricket, said the I.P.L. tailored itself to the aspirations, and alienation, of an Indian middle class disillusioned with the country’s corruption and poverty. But Mr. Guha said the organization of the league — with teams located in India’s most affluent cities as opposed to having one in every state — has effectively mirrored the deep inequality in society.

“It is the India that is doing well economically,” he said. “It shuts itself off from the other 800 million Indians who live in the hinterlands.”

Now, Mr. Modi is gathering documents for his hearing, while government officials have come under scrutiny. A junior minister of foreign affairs, Shashi Tharoor, was forced to resign because of his involvement with a consortium that won a bid for a team in his home state.

Others who seem closely linked to the league have so far stayed in power as the scandal has assumed political overtones. Mr. Pawar heads a regional political party that is part of the coalition government led by the Congress Party. As yet, investigators have not accused him of any wrongdoing.

And the country’s civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, has faced questions on whether he was involved in the bidding process for a new franchise and whether his ministry had showed favoritism to his daughter, a former model who helps coordinate the I.P.L.’s travel. In late April, the state-owned airline, Air India, canceled a scheduled flight, delaying passengers, so that Mr. Patel’s daughter and several I.P.L. players could use it as a paid charter.

Dhiraj Nayyar, a senior editor at The Financial Express, said the cricket scandal was best understood in the context of India’s economic evolution. When India’s stock exchange took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s, scandals erupted over market manipulation until regulatory structures were strengthened. Today, the same absence of transparency and regulation exists in cricket.

“The I.P.L. is a curious creature that combines the best and worst of Indian capitalism — fabulous enterprise and outcomes on the one side, riddled with cronyism, patronage and power politics on the other,” Mr. Nayyar wrote recently. “In many ways the I.P.L. is a confirmation of what India really is: an emerging economy.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/11/world/asia/11cricket.html?_r=0

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