x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Big business of the IPL reason for India's dull show in England Tests

With the money and glitz surrounding the short formats of the game, the players are being accused of ignoring the less lucrative Tests.

Sponsors are lining for Twenty20 events and players of successful Indian Premier League teams, such as the two-times champions, Chennai Super Kings, and ignoring the less lucrative format of Tests.
Sponsors are lining for Twenty20 events and players of successful Indian Premier League teams, such as the two-times champions, Chennai Super Kings, and ignoring the less lucrative format of Tests.

The Indian cricket team's humiliating defeats in two Test matches against England has turned the spotlight on the business of the sport which enjoys a cult-like status in the nation.

The team — the reigning 50-over world champions — blamed their lacklustre performance on injury and fatigue after an action-packed year of back-to-back tournaments starting with the World Cup in March.

Their 196-run defeat at Lord's in London last week was followed by a 319-run loss at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, on Monday, to go 2-0 down in the four Test series.

But the team members have come under scathing criticism at home, for what many say, is their blind pursuit of cash rewards rather than runs.

Critics say honouring private contractual commitments with high-paying tournaments, such as the Indian Premier League (IPL), has taken precedence over Test match cricket, which is commercially less lucrative.

A "jaded, ill-prepared, disjointed side with most players showing no stomach or will for a fight," the Indian Express said about the team in an editorial this week.

It was one of several critical media outbursts, denouncing the growing commercialisation of the game.

In India, cricket is a national obsession - and a money magnet. It lures hoards of sponsors and advertisers who invest billions in cricket events every year.

Players are worshipped and they often take part in television shows and feature in glitzy advertisements. But in recent years, the IPL has emerged as the biggest source of revenue for many cricketers.

The IPL - valued at US$3.67 billion (Dh13.5bn) by the UK consultancy Brand Finance - is considered the golden goose of its owners, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). It was valued at $2.01bn in its opening season in 2008.

But the IPL - one of the world's fastest-growing brands - is less sport, and more business. The BCCI promotes it as "cricketainment" - a cross between cricket and entertainment. High-flying socialites, Bollywood celebrities and business tycoons own most of the teams, adding to the league's glamour quotient.

The advertising inventory of Multi Screen Media, the company that operates Set Max - the official broadcaster of the IPL - was completely sold out even before the tournament began in April. Rohit Gupta, the president for network sales, said that 10-second advertisement spots were sold for 650,000 rupees (Dh53,860) each.

It reserved a limited number of unsold ad spots for the nail-biting qualifying matches in the end, which went for 1.5 million rupees per 10 seconds.

The broadcaster reportedly earned a windfall revenue of 10bn rupees from advertising.

Beyond the IPL, the game is the biggest driver of revenues for India's television industry, accounting for 85 per cent of the total television sports advertising spending - about 13bn rupees annually.

From the India-England cricket series - which involves four Tests, five one-day matches, and one Twenty20 match - the official broadcaster, ESPN-Star Sports, expects to earn a revenue of 2bn rupees.

It is selling a 10-second ad slot for 75,000 rupees for Test matches and 300,000 rupees for one-day matches. "The calendar year 2011 is poised to be the biggest in the history of ESPN-Star Sports in India," Rathindra Basu, a senior offical at the channel said at the beginning of the year.

They reportedly earned 8bn ruppes from the cricket World Cup earlier this year.

Players are gravitating towards avenues of the game that offer the biggest bucks, observers say.

"India has got to the top, but because of the amount of one-day and IPL cricket it is playing, Test match cricket has taken a backstage," said Nasser Hussain, the former England captain, echoing the sentiment of millions of cricket fans in India.

sports@thenational.ae