The Indian Premier League has already claimed its first high-profile casualty. Vijay Mallya, owner of the Royal Challengers Bangalore team, has sacked Charu Sharma, CEO of the franchise, following the poor performance of the team in the first half of the tournament.In an interview to a television channel, Mallya minced no words while expressing his displeasure at the “wrong advice” he received from Sharma and team captain Rahul Dravid while buying players for this team. Then, there have been reports that Reliance Industries, which owns the Mumbai Indians franchise, is “unhappy” with captain Sachin Tendulkar’s prolonged injury-induced absence from the field. Both parties were quick to deny these rumours, but the very fact they are floating around points to the paradigm change that has already taken place in the cricket world.
Hiring and firing, and raps on the knuckles, have long been part and parcel of the corporate world. But it must be a new experience for Indian cricketers, who enjoy godlike status in the country, and even leading cricket commentators, like Charu Sharma, who has quite a fan following of his own. But they had better get used to it.
The world over, professional sport is a dog-eat-dog business. Here, performance on the field has a direct bearing on the bottom line. And team owners, who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars, are unlikely to suffer “sporting” losers who cannot deliver results. Some high profile names are already on the chopping block, and doubtless, as the format progresses, many more famous heads will find themselves there.
It will take some time for both owners and players to come to terms with the hard realities of professional sports. IPL is the first attempt at formally marrying sports and business in India; so, one can understand the impatience of the owners for results and the astonishment of the players at what they must surely believe is cavalier behaviour. Both sides will have to learn to live by a new set of rules.