Recession hits IPL, teams turn stingy

With less than three months to go for the second season of the IPL, the only hype is around David Warner and the next auction on February 6 in Goa.

updated: January 23, 2009 17:25 IST
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New Delhi:

The sequel to a blockbuster is always a hard act but in the case of the Indian Premier League, it could be a major problem courtesy the global recessionary conditions. With less than three months to go for the second season of the IPL, the only hype is around David Warner and the next auction on February 6 in Goa. Perhaps everybody is in the mood for some cost-cutting.

In the inaugural edition, all franchises had some film stars as their brand ambassadors. But the second season could may be all about cricket.

While some stars like Katrina Kaif are set to retain their job, others are facing the pink slip because entertainment is the easiest place to begin cost-cutting. So there will be no daredevil acts from Akshay Kumar or 'superhero' Hrithik Roshan to share the stage with Sachin Tendulkar.

"I think we are going to be more realistic and practical. We will do whatever is essential to generate interest and excitement. Entertainment is a package of IPL and I do not know whether you can do away with the roads, at the same time we have to be realistic with expenses we incur. Ultimately cricket is a powerful product and it sells. But it has to be spiced up," Amrit Mathur, COO, Delhi Daredevils said.

Even the cheerleaders, who only cost a fraction of the big Bollywood stars, could be dispensed.

According to reports, the franchisees are planning to offer TV channels the chance to use the stadium to promote their own shows making it a no-cost-to-us situation. So while some franchisees say "we don't need the entertainment anyway because the cricket is so good", the fact is that the cost-cutting is becoming a big factor.

All eight IPL teams were already hit before the recession because the rupee has devalued from 40 at the time of the last player auction to about 48 to the dollar now which means an outflow of 20 percent more on the player salaries. For instance, MS Dhoni wages will go from approximately Rs 6 crore to Rs 7.2 crore a year.

The IPL transfer window that closed on Thursday saw seven transfers and one trade. The teams adopted a cost-effective measure of player-swapping. Delhi Daredevils got Ashish Nehra for releasing Shikhar Dhawan to Mumbai Indians, while Mumbai Indians got Zaheer Khan for releasing Robin Uthappa for Bangalore Royal Challengers for no additional cost.

The next auction of the IPL on February 6 could provide a further indication of how stingy each team will be this season. With England stars released to play, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff are likely to be the most expensive players but their availability of 3 weeks for this season may dent their selling price.

After spending about 5 million dollars each on acquiring players, the teams are now looking for what they call utility players. So while Delhi Daredevils signed up David Warner for 87.5 Lakh rupees even before he played for Australia, Rajasthan Royals are looking to sign on Raiphi Vincent Gomez of Kerala, a batsman who hasn't even played Ranji cricket, for Rs 20 Lakh. Kolkata Knightriders have opted for Shatrunjay Gaikwad at a reported price tag of 20 Lakh rupees.

KKR, however, don't seem to be cutting back too much on entertainment since their owner Shah Rukh Khan provides it anyway. King Khan is all set to launch Knights and Angels, a reality show to pick cheerleaders for his team. And guess what, Sourav Ganguly will be one of the judges!

"Fortunately we do not have to pay Shah Rukh Khan to appear at the stadium, so that is a major plus for us. I think a lot of what was done last year was out of his goodwill. The goodwill is still there so needless to say that the non-cricket part will be taken care of by SRK," said Joy Bhattacharya, Team Director of Kolkata Knightriders.

That may not be the view of each of the teams, especially with reports that some were considering IPO's or off loading some of their stake to raise money. But so far nobody seems to have hit on the panic button.

The quality of cricket may only get better in Season II with teams opting for utility players. Most of the big players were signed on for three years and will turn up for their respective teams. So the viewers still have lots to look forward to even if the teams have to keep a very close eye on their balance sheets.