Of limited overs and interest

Of limited overs and interest

IPL - cricket and commerce, an inside story
Alam Srinivas and TR Vivek
Roli Books, 2009,
pp 200, Rs 195

Any which way you look at it, the Indian Premier League has dramatically altered the landscape of international cricket. The heady cocktail of a three-hour shoot-out involving the best international stars setting aside national loyalties in a desperate bid to justify inflated price tags has fired the imagination of the cricketing world in India and beyond.

Viewed from that perspective, the IPL is a commodity open to exploration and exploitation. IPL – Cricket & Commerce, an inside story is the first concerted effort to chronicle the origin of the world’s most hyped domestic cricket tournament, even if the ‘inside story’ boast must perforce be taken with a pinch of salt.

Co-authors Alam Srinivas and TR Vivek have their roots in business journalism and therefore are in prime position to analyse the ‘commerce’ part of the IPL. The ‘cricket’ bit, however, has been remarkably undersold which is, to put it mildly, a little disappointing because for all its commercial trappings, the IPL could not have become the overwhelming success it is today if cricket was but a sideshow.

From the IPL’s conception to its implementation, with the bids to buy teams and the more gripping auctions to purchase players discussed extensively, it’s a book that takes you through the entire gamut, though to call it ‘unputdownable’ will be stretching things a little too far.

Repeated references to team owners ‘laughing nervously’ as action at the player auction heated up evoke tedium, as does extensive mention of major league baseball and the Oakland A’s whose studied strategy, we are informed, was the basis around which Rajasthan Royals went about assembling their team.

The A’s, the book maintains, adopted a statistical approach, resisting the temptation to go for big names and relying solely on numbers in a bid to identify personnel best suited to make them a winning outfit. The Royals adopted a like approach, the book insists; the authors have interpreted – not entirely without basis -- that contrary to popular perception, the team wasn’t built around Shane Warne but that Warne himself was somewhat of an accident. Interesting. But a treatise on baseball? Sorry guys, if you are catering to an Indian audience and the book is meant to be about cricket, then about cricket it should be, right?!

The socio-economic implications of young, relative unknowns such as Sarvesh Kumar and Palani Amarnath raking in the moolah has been dealt with in some detail, with Srinivas and Vivek encouraging them to speak not only of their IPL experiences but also of how their lives have changed for the better since they have broken into the big-bucks league.

At the same time, sweeping generalisations on the basis of the odd comment here or there do the authors little credit. The conclusion that Australian stars like Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds are ‘better’ human beings than India’s established order is particularly surprising because by their own admission, the writers had little access to either group and arrived at what is at best ‘arm-chair’ judgement.

Factually too, there are embarrassing errors galore, none more so than Andhra Cricket Association secretary V Chamundeswaranath being referred to as Chamundi Sinha. This, at a time when the man in question is in the news for all the wrong reasons! An honest effort not short on either commitment or application. But ‘inside story’? Not quite!