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IPL: Has big money made cricket more accountable?
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May 21, 2008

Vijay Mallya sacked Charu Sharma when the team didn't perform and publicly said both Sharma and skipper Rahul Dravid had done a bad job in team selection. Our experts discuss India Inc's role in changing Indian cricket.

Arun Jaitley, President, Delhi & District Cricket Association

'While reputation matters, a player can no longer demand and get payments just on the basis of this. He'll have to deliver a consistent performance as well'

The T-20 part of cricket was a resource that was lying unutilised till now, and now that it has been discovered, everyone is benefitting from it. The cricketers are getting paid a lot more and this is linked to their performance, the host associations are getting paid for the use of the stadia and so the infrastructure is improving -- and the viewers are getting a quality of entertainment that is unparalleled, even if you leave out the song and dance, the cheerleaders and so on.

Never in my life have I seen such a long stretch of continuous entertainment for viewers. So, through IPL, the BCCI's a winner, the players are winners, the state associations are winners, as are the viewers. It is also settled that the new mecca of cricket is India and players from across the world have to come here if they want audiences and money.

The other important thing is that while reputation matters, a player can no longer demand payments just on the basis of this. Performance is what will matter for payment, and we're already beginning to see signs of this.

Since 'perform or perish' is the principle of this game, performance will be immediately identified and this will result in a new generation of cricketers coming up. Look at a Rohit Sharma, or a MS Gony, a Shikhar Dhawan or a S Badrinath -- all of them are players who, in the pre-T-20 era, would have struggled to get noticed after the Ranji phase of their careers. But now, with T-20, they just need a couple of good games to catapult them to the top of the league.

The same applies to the others who are there on the basis of past reputation. A few bad games, and the team can no longer afford to have them around. With this, the traditional 'how could he be left out?' or 'how could he be included?' will no longer occur as it is only performance, and immediately at that, which will determine whether a player is in the team.

In fact, right now the captain or the coach are really the selectors of each team. But soon the audience becomes a very important part of the selection process, and so there will be no possibility of selecting anyone who's not a performer. In the past, there have been several cases of players being favoured over others -- with the IPL format, this will no longer be possible.

There is little doubt that thanks to the T-20 format, the connection between performance and selection has got solidified, and this will increase as we move from one season to another.

(As told to Sunil Jain)

Suveen K Sinha, Editor, Indian Management

'Linking accountability to performance statistics is specious -- Deccan Chargers has the best batting line up and is still competing for the bottom slot'

Among the many dimensions that the IPL has added to cricket, Vijay Mallya's ego is the most intriguing. John Wright, one of the most successful non-native coaches in the brief history of non-native coaches, writes in his book about a guy who "with the biggest diamond ear-studs I'd ever seen wandered into our viewing area as if it was his private box".

That was before Mallya had announced himself on the global stage, which he did with last year's acquisition of premium spirits maker, Whyte & Mackay.

Even more pumped up than usual, Mallya made typically grand claims before the tournament. He summoned cheerleaders from the Washington Redskins, whose photos were splashed all over, often with Mallya in the frame.

After seven defeats in nine games, Mallya sacked Charu Sharma as the chief executive, tried unsuccessfully to make it look like Sharma had quit for personal reasons, and heaped blame on captain Rahul Dravid.

Mallya is a formidable businessman, but his recent actions do not quite anoint him the torchbearer of accountability in cricket. Accountability is a delicate thing in sport, as it is impossible to keep subjectivity and discretion out of an assessment.

That is the reason why a game laced with statistics still engenders endless debates on the best batsman, bowler, all-rounder, and so on. Does Mallya really think he knew the players better than Dravid, who has forgotten more cricket than Mallya would ever learn?

He forgets that the best chosen team can fail. Deccan Chargers, owned by a media company, rustled up the most formidable batting line-up available for a limited-overs game, but has been vying with Bangalore for the bottom spot.

Secondly, knee-jerk reactions and frothing at the mouth on losing the first round do not indicate long-term vision. In any case, if one wants to learn accountability, one can do better than be tutored by Corporate India.

Thousands of small investors have watched in dismay as corporate empires have crumbled due to family feuds or unwise management decisions. The mega public issue of IPL's title sponsor spent considerable time in the starting blocks over fears that the interests of minority shareholders were under threat.

Money cannot change the nature of sport, more so a non-linear one like cricket, in which every delivery has the potential of changing the momentum. The essence of success in every sport is to go against the tide, beyond the boundary, transcend the barrier of man-made rules, and perform the difficult, sometimes impossible, feats.

This requires a spirit that cannot be tied down in powerpoint presentations, number crunching and boardroom discussions. It also goes beyond Nazi regimentation and enables a humble black man to upset the plans of a great dictator.

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