The brothers Hardik and Krunal are now as much a part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) as Messi and Ronaldo are of European football. One is flamboyant and expressive, with jazzy hairstyles to boot, while the other is less of a showman but a superb, utility white-ball cricketer.
The Pandya brothers will take home a little less than Rs 20 crore in the IPL season of 2018. A sum many white collar workers in the country can only dream of earning during a lifetime. Yet, till a few seasons ago, the brothers often had to make do with a shared meal during club matches played in Vadodara. Their father’s car finance business in Surat had been shut down so that the family could shift to Vadodara, for Hardik and Krunal to join the Kiran More Academy.
The brothers often reminisce now of how they would hide their second-hand car from the bank’s executives, not having paid their EMIs for it. Hardik, the younger of the siblings, is now rumoured to being seen driving around in his new car with film star Elli Avram as arm-candy.
IPL has changed lives of thousands of Indians, just like it has for the Pandya brothers. Like it or lump it, it is here to stay. For the new generation of followers of the game, this is cricket; an evening out with the family, the thrills and the spills of the game and a result in less than three hours. IPL is prime time entertainment at its best.
If Duff and Phelps is to be believed, then the IPL as a brand — in its 11th season now — is worth more than US$ 5.3 billion. What’s more, it has been successful in creating an entire eco-system which flourishes on the back of those 50-odd days of circus-like matches played out in the heat of the Indian summer. With the huge popularity it has managed to garner over the last decade, the annual event is also, sadly, a soft target for all sorts of protests – political, social and even personal.
IPL has brought the big bucks into Indian cricket. Businesses connected with the event have thrived, cricketers have made their millions, officials have taken their fair share of the pie and even betting agencies have flourished, albeit surreptitiously.
In a materialistic world, where the rich keep getting richer, IPL is no exception. The Virat Kohlis, the Rohit Sharmas and other stars make heaps of money from the league. But there is another side to this story; heartwarming, rags-to-riches tales of youngsters from small towns making it big in IPL.
A few years ago, a waiter in a Goa restaurant dreamt of becoming a cricket star, like most youngsters in the country do. Born in a small village near Jhunjhunu in Rajasthan, he packed his bags, left Goa, and headed for Delhi’s famous Shastri Club. He lived and trained there, finally making it to the Delhi Ranji team in 2017 and was then picked by Mumbai Indians later in the season.
The former waiter, Kulwant Khejroliya now serves yorkers, bouncers and out-swingers for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL 2018. He was bought for the princely sum of Rs 85 lakh!
Then, there is this 24-year-old who moonlighted as a security guard in the Bandipora district of Jammu and Kashmir, earning Rs 60 a night so that he could play cricket during the day time. Someone who can hit huge sixes, he was picked by the Kings XI Punjab for Rs 20 lakh recently.
For Manzoor Dar, this was a dream-come-true. He has four sisters, three brothers and an ailing mother to look after. “I’ve been trying to get my house repaired but didn’t have the money. I shall now be able to do that,” he told reporters.
Hyderabad’s Mohammad Ghouse used to drive a rickshaw and lived in a small, rented tenement in the Banjara Hills area with his family. His 24-year-old son, fast bowler Siraj Mohammad played Ranji for Hyderabad in 2015-16 and was later selected to the Rest of India squad for the Irani Trophy match.
With the expectation – and a silent prayer — to be picked by some team in IPL in 2017, after a good domestic season, he had set his base price at Rs 20 lakh. Sunrisers Hyderabad however thought he was worth Rs 2.6 crore. “The price-tag was beyond my expectations,” he had said after the auction. Siraj has since then played a few matches for India in T20 internationals.
Rinku Singh’s dilapidated dwelling adjacent to the Aligarh stadium is anything but luxurious. His father distributes gas cylinders and his elder brother drives a rickshaw. In order to help out with the finances, with a large family to feed, Rinku once asked his brother if he could look out for a job for him. A school dropout, he was offered the job of a sweeper!
Rinku decided that he would rather play the sweep shot in cricket than sweep floors. He was selected to the Uttar Pradesh Ranji team and made 692 runs in nine matches in 2016-17. Last year, he was picked by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 10 lakh and this January, Kolkota Knight Riders paid Rs 80 lakh for his batting talent.
Jasprit Bumrah is one cricketer who has made it big using IPL as a platform. After he lost his father early, he was brought up by his mother, who was headmistress in a school. His success with the Mumbai Indians and his performances for Vadodara in the Ranji Trophy earned him a place in the Indian side. Today, he is considered to be one of the best limited-overs bowlers in the world.
Mumbai’s Pravin Tambe too is a cricketer whose waning career was revived by IPL. A hard-to-hit leggie, and discarded by Mumbai’s selectors, he was picked by Rajasthan Royals when he was 42-years-old. He also played for Gujarat Lions in 2016 and for Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2017.
Kamraan Khan, from one of Mumbai’s shanty towns, was a left-arm pace bowler who was quick. Shane Warne, his skipper at Rajasthan Royals used to call him ‘Tornado’. He was however called for chucking and is now said to be working on a farm.
For the very talented, who are ready to work hard, persevere and dream big, IPL can open doors to international cricket. For others, a couple of seasons of IPL can mean financial freedom for life, provided they reinvent themselves and learn to be useful elsewhere.
When Shane Warne was informed of Kamraan Khan’s being ostracised by cricketers and IPL franchises, he reacted by calling it ‘bizarre’. “Hope you are okay buddy,” he tweeted. IPL Chairman, Rajiv Shukla too believes that franchises should be more considerate towards players that they pick.
Which franchise, I wonder, because Kamraan Khan last played for Pune Warriors; a team that no longer exists and one that paid him Rs 10 lakh and asked him not to return?
Cricketers, and cricket officials, need to keep in mind that franchise-based leagues do not promote loyalty. They pay for your talent; they don’t pay pensions!
The author is a caricaturist and sportswriter. A former fast bowler and coach, he is now a sought-after mental toughness trainer.