raat main sahi se read karoon ga
It was almost 30 years ago that an Australian gentleman called Kerry Packer established a break-away tournament that introduced shorter games and enticed the very best in the game. On that occasion, the experiment ended in rapprochement. But most of its innovations – coloured clothing, floodlit evening matches, white balls, punishing schedules, lucrative merchandising – have remained. But the media tycoon's job to change the face of cricket remained incomplete in his lifetime.
But this year the Twenty20 revolution brought in by the breakaway Indian Cricket League and lifted to dizzying heights by the official Indian Premier League seem to be completing what Mr. Packer started.
With an infusion of bling, Bollywood and go-go boots, the IPL is trying to spin off India’s colonial inheritance into a money-making symbol of a brash, emerging nation.
The IPL has enlivened a traditional game with laser shows, movie stars and cheerleaders.Whether the IPL will ultimately succeed in cultivating a loyal fan base at home, challenging cricket’s world order and globalising the game of the former British Empire remains to be seen. Already, it has upturned many conventions of an erstwhile gentleman’s game, drawn corporate sponsorships from multinational firms selling everything from cellphones to real estate and, with salaries comparable to the English Premier League of soccer, lured some of the top names in international cricket, including players from India’s traditional rivals, like Australia and even Pakistan.
Cricket is only part of the spectacle. The 10 matches played so far have featured laser shows and stilt walkers, American-style cheerleaders and plenty of Bollywood stars blowing kisses from the stands.
It is a coming of age for both the business of sports in India and for Indian billionaires, - who for the first time are staking their prestige on sports teams. The 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 Vijay Mallya picked up the Bangalore-based Royal Challengers for $111.6 million. Mallya seemed pleased with the players he had bought and was heard saying, "I'm very happy with the team we've got, we have the best bowling attack in the IPL." Actor Shah Rukh Khan is backing the Kolkata Knight Riders for $75.09 million.
The IPL was started by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, cricket’s governing body in India, just as a rival effort, the Indian Cricket League, floated a similar international league last year.
Will the IPL make money for the tycoons who have staked their wealth and prestige on the line? Certainly, each team will make money — television rights were sold to Sony’s Indian arm for $1.026 billion — but the real profits will pour in if teams perform well and attract more corporate sponsorships.
The IPL has made a great start. It is playing to packed stadiums and soaring TV ratings, pulling in more fans than in the rest of the cricket world combined and, most critically, a cool billion dollars in television and other media rights have set the standard.
So rapid is the game's growth that Texan billionaire Sir Allen Stanford is ready to pour in as much as $1 billion of his own money to set up a rival to the IPL.
With cricket, the IPL is also changing the lives of the cricketers. The league paid its top players more for six weeks' work (up to $1.5 million) than some players make in a career. Cricket certainly has moved up to the next level.
Cheerleaders Create a Stir in India
The IPL has invited its share of controversies. In what is still a largely conservative country, cheergirls from different corners of the world like USA, Russia and Australia became a hot topic.
Cheerleaders, including the squad belonging to the NFL’s Washington Redskins, whom Bangalore team's owner Vijay Mallya imported for the opening match in mid-April, have been greeted by a mixture of enthusiasm and lewd comments from the stands, and indignation from politicians who have found them obscene and in contravention of Indian tradition.
Local police were on the lookout in a recent Sunday match to see if obscenity laws were being violated. But by then the cheerleaders for the Deccan Chargers, who had worn tartan miniskirts, fishnet stockings and halter tops, were covered in short-sleeve T-shirts and black tights. On the steamy coast of the Arabian Sea, the cheerleaders, who had come from Australia, were drenched in sweat.
Later in the week, the Delhi Daredevils took their cheerleaders away altogether.
"It's been horrendous," Tabitha, a cheerleader from Uzbekistan, told the Hindustan Times. "
"Wherever we go we do expect people to pass lewd, snide remarks but I'm shocked by the nature and magnitude of the comments people pass here."
The IPL has caught the imagination of India, a nation of 1.1 billion and the world's biggest cricket audience. TV rights sold for more than $900 million and players for eight teams, many imported from abroad, were auctioned for millions.
In contrast to the cliched cricket image of genteel spectators sipping tea while politely applauding their team, now scantily-clad dancers gyrate to Bollywood or Western-style dance music blaring out from loudspeakers in stadia.
Even well-known cheerleaders from the Washington Redskins flew to India to perform for the Bangalore Royal Challengers. Photos of the dancers graced the front pages of most newspapers.
"What the cheerleaders are doing during cricket matches is ten times more vulgar than what used to happen in dance bars of Mumbai," Nitin Gadkari, leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Maharashtra, home to the Mumbai Indians.
"If we could ban dance bars, how can we allow such vulgar dance in a cricket field. I am getting huge complaints and cheerleaders must be banned immediately from entering a cricket field," Gadkari said.
Some Indians said critics were hypocritical in a nation well known for its sensual Bollywood musicals.
"Our stars wear skimpy dresses in movies but nobody seems to protest. Why these double standards?" said Mohan, a marketing executive from Bangalore.
Highest Paid Players
India's one-day captain Mahendra Dhoni and Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds topped the bidding as teams spent big ahead of the inaugural Twenty20 Indian Premier League (IPL).
Chennai splashed out $1.5 million for Dhoni while Hyderabad paid $1.35m for Symonds at a glitzy auction to determine who plays where in the IPL tournament.
Dhoni was snapped up by Chennai in the first round of the sale.
Retired Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne was the first player to go under the hammer in a five-star Mumbai hotel conference room filled with cricketers, celebrities and tycoons, fetching $450,000 from Jaipur. India's multitude private television channels flashed developments by the minute sending the cricket-crazy country into a frenzy.
* Indian paceman Ishant Sharma was bought by Kolkata for $950,000 and his partner Rudra Pratap Singh fetched $875,000 and was bought by Hyderabad.
Warne's compatriot fast bowler Brett Lee was snapped up by Mohali for $900,000 while Australia captain Ricky Ponting was bought by Kolkata for $400,000.
The Mumbai franchise, which has Sachin Tendulkar as the designated city player and is owned by India's richest company Reliance Industries, paid $975,000 for Sri Lankan Sanath Jayasuriya and $850,000 for India spinner Harbhajan Singh.
With the designated city players to get 15 per cent more than the highest paid player in their teams, Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly of Kolkata, Rahul Dravid of Bangalore and Yuvraj Singh of Mohali also cross the $1 million mark per annum earnings.
The eight franchise teams of the IPL -- Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Mohali and Mumbai -- had a budget of up to $5 million each to purchase contracted players. The maximum number of overseas signings was capped at eight per team.
Some of the country's biggest companies, including UB Group, have bought franchises. Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta have bought into the Kolkata and Mohali franchises, adding further glamour to the league.
Zinta's Mohali bought India pacer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth was bought by Mohali for $625,000. Mohali also bought India all-rounder Irfan Pathan for $925,000.
Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist went to Hyderabad for $700,000. Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan went to Chennai for $600,000.The players were bid in sets of 12 according to their annual base price, multiple-skills and expected availability for the inaugural year.
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