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IPL cash-cow delivers even amid pandemic times

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The robust appeal of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was once again highlighted this year after the world’s richest Twenty20 league escaped the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic with only a few minor scratches.

The Indian cricket board’s (BCCI) league, which has an estimated brand value of $6.8 billion, drew record television and digital viewership and at least one of its franchises even grew its revenue despite the league being first postponed and then shifted to the United Arab Emirates following the coronavirus surge in India.

Cancelling the whole tournament would have left a $536 million hole in the pocket for the world’s richest cricket board, which rarely shares financial numbers about the league.

Mumbai Indians claimed a record fifth IPL title in Tuesday’s final, but it was a victory for Brand IPL too.

“It’s been a great success given the current scenario globally,” BCCI treasurer Arun Singh Dhumal said.

“Everybody had their fingers crossed whether we’d be able to pull it off.”

Starved of live cricket action for nearly nine months, the world’s second most populous nation sat glued to television sets, lapping up every bit of action from the UAE.

Board secretary Jay Shah, quoting TV monitoring agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), said that a record 200 million fans had watched the Sept. 19 opener between Mumbai and Chennai Super Kings in Abu Dhabi.

In terms of viewership, the IPL even outperformed some of the pay-per-view matches of the Premier League in Britain.

BARC tweeted before the playoffs that the league had clocked seven billion viewing minutes, up 28% from last year, after the first 41 matches.

“With people generally staying indoors due to the pandemic and with lack of other entertainment options due to COVID-19, viewership numbers have been staggeringly high,” Santosh N, external advisor to financial consultancy firm Duff and Phelps, said.

BCCI’s Dhumal called it the “most successful IPL ever” in terms of viewership and explained what he thought it meant for cricket’s eco-system.

EXIT VIVO, ENTER DREAM11

None of that looked vaguely possible in March when the 13th edition of the league was first postponed because of the pandemic.

A new window sprang open rather unexpectedly when this year’s Twenty20 World Cup was postponed but the league lost title sponsor Vivo, who opted out amid a growing backlash against Chinese companies in India.

Fantasy gaming company Dream11 came on board, paying 50% less for the privilege, but other sponsors also kept pouring money in.

The BCCI even landed, for the first time, a title sponsor exclusively for the Women’s T20 Challenge, traditionally a sideshow to the men’s competition.

Players were paid in full and among the franchises, runners-up Delhi Capitals said they had increased their 2019 revenues.

“This season, we’ve managed to secure associations with 18 partners, same as last year,” chief executive Dhiraj Malhotra said.

“However, we’ve also been able to procure higher individual values for deals as compared to last season so that has increased our revenues.

Things would only get better from here for the league, he said.

Duff and Phelps’ Santosh said the league has found the right mix of glamour and quality, and the availability of free live content on over-the-top (OTT) platforms also helped. “There might have been a minor impact in sponsorship revenues for franchisees this year as the sponsors were not sure of IPL’s success,” he said.

“However, with the massive success IPL has seen this year, we can expect sponsorship to be back to pre-COVID levels for next season.”

REUTERS

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LIONEL MESSI TAKES HOME HIS SEVENTH BALLON D’OR

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Popular Argentine striker Lionel Messi on Monday (local time) won the 2021 Ballon d’Or, adding the seventh golden ball to his account. The 34-year-old, who is also the star player of Paris St-Germain football club, has won Ballon d’Or in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and 2021. The official Twitter account of Ballon d’Or #ballondor tweeted, “HERE IS THE WINNER! SEVEN BALLON D’OR FOR LIONEL MESSI! #ballondor.”

Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski ranked second and Chelsea’s Jorginho stood third as runners up to the Ballon d’Or. “Congratulations Leo Messi and @alexiaputellas winners of the #BallonDor2021, congratulations also to all nominated players! I won Striker of the Year Award and no player can win an individual award without strongest team and loyal fans behind him. Thank you for your support,” tweeted Lewandowski.

Gianluigi Donnarumma of PSG also took home the Yashin Trophy for goalkeeper of the year, and Pedri Gonzalez of Barcelona won the Kopa Trophy for the best young player. Alexia Putellas of Barcelona won the women’s Ballon d’Or. The Ballon d’Or ceremony crowned mainstream footballers at the Theatre du Chatelet, in Paris.

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ABID ALI, SHAFIQUE GUIDE PAKISTAN TO EIGHT WICKET WIN

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Abid Ali and Abdullah Shafique went on to play knocks of 91 and 73 respectively as Pakistan defeated Bangladesh by eight wickets in the first Test here at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium on Tuesday.

With this win, Pakistan has gained a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.

Heading into Day 5 of the Test, the visitors needed just 93 more runs for the win and the opening batters made light work of the chase. Resuming Day 5 at 109/0, overnight batters Ali and Shafique started from where they left off and the duo kept Bangladesh bowlers at bay. However, the 151-run opening stand finally came to an end in the 43rd over as Mehidy Hasan dismissed Shafique (73).

Abid Ali (91) failed to reach the three-figure mark and Pakistan lost its second wicket, still, 31 runs away from the target. In the end, it was Azhar Ali (24*) and skipper Babar Azam (13*) who took Pakistan over the line by nine wickets in the first session on Day 5.

Brief Scores: Bangladesh 330 and 157; Pakistan 286 and 203/2 (Abid Ali 91, Abdullah Shafique 73; Mehidy Hasan 1-59).

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Buttler feels like he has ‘nothing to lose’ Down Under

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England wicketkeeper-batter Jos Buttler has said that he feels like he has nothing to lose in the upcoming Ashes. The five-match Ashes will begin on December 8 at the Gabba. Australia recently named Pat Cummins and Steve Smith as their new Test captain and vice-captain. “I feel like I have nothing to lose, to be honest. It’s sort of been disjointed, that year just gone. Some good form and some bad form and in the year before as well. It’s the first time I’m experiencing an Ashes series in Australia so I’m fully determined to enjoy all the challenges that throws up. I’m excited to experience it, the good the bad, and I’m sure the highs and lows along the way,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Buttler as saying.

“As a player at the minute, I’m trying to bring a fearless approach and to truly try and embrace the opportunity. I know when I get to somewhere near my best that’s going to be pretty good,” he added. Buttler has some experience of playing in Australia but it is all in the white-ball formats. He averages 38.71 from 18 ODIs Down Under.

“Familiarity with some conditions is something I can dip into and hopefully not be surprised by. But I think the challenge always as a player is to adapt to any conditions that are in front of you and adapt quickly. The practice, when you can practice, is incredibly important for that and your first five, 10 balls are vital as a player to understanding the conditions and playing accordingly,” said Buttler. “But certainly I will try to dip into that experience and I’m in my early 30s now so played quite a bit of cricket and hopefully know what to expect,” he added.

Talking about the Covid-19 Omicron variant, Buttler said: “It’s a hypothetical situation at the minute. Until we get told that something’s changed there’s no decision to make and it just adds to the unknown. So it’s things I don’t really need to worry about at the moment. If something like that happens I have to get the information and we can work through it and see how that looks.”

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If I get a chance to coach Axar, I can help him to become a world class spinner

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Ravichandran Ashwin has revealed that he feared his career would not survive the chaos unleashed by the Covid-19 pandemic last year.  It is good that Ashwin is still performing well. In the Kanpur Test too, he has shown his importance by taking six wickets.

Well R. Ashwin can play cricket for at least three to four more years. I am sure the coach of the team, Rahul Dravid, keeps motivating him. This player has great talent. By the way, it is also a fact that this player had to sit out during the Test series in England and was not even included in first two important matches of the T20 World Cup, but despite all this, he did not give up and whenever he got the opportunity, he performed well. In fact, it is the result of India’s little defensive thinking on foreign soil that he has to sit out and Ravindra Jadeja has been given priority over him. I don’t think anyone should be disappointed with such things.

By the way, the biggest judge of any bowler is hidden inside him. When R Ashwin feels that he is not giving his best, then he will not take time to clear the space for someone else. He is currently showing his utility for the team. Apart from his excellent bowling, his batting in the lower order also proves to be very useful for the team.

At the same time, Axar Patel has got record-breaking success in Test cricket. That is, getting five wickets five times in four Tests is a huge success. Some of his deliveries have been really good which shows the hidden talent in him. Although it is also true that till now he has got opportunities to play in India only. I haven’t seen him bowling in adverse conditions or playing on a pitch favouring seem bowling. Being a left-arm spinner, I love watching him bowl. It would be a different experience to watch him bowl on pitches where spinners don’t have anything special to do and only then can an opinion be formed about him.

Of course, if I get a chance to teach or coach this player the tricks of his left arm bowling, I can be of great help to him in making him a world class spinner.

The author has played 35 Tests and 59 ODIs for Team India as a left arm spinner.

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WAS A BIG RELIEF: RACHIN RAVINDRA AFTER FIRST TEST

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New Zealand all-rounder Rachin Ravindra said he felt “big relief” when the Kiwis managed to survive by the barest of margins on the last day of the first Test against India. New Zealand’s Rachin and Ajaz Patel put up a gritty performance to ensure that the visitors walked away with a draw at Green Park, Kanpur on Monday. Team India had taken eight wickets on Day 5 of the first Test but some late drama and stout-hearted performance from New Zealand’s tail ensured a draw.

“It was a pretty incredible moment I think, taking in the crowd and how loud they were and all the fielders around the bat. It’s the kind of stuff you dream about as a kid. You watch test matches like that and that’s where your heroes and your idols are made,” said Rachin. “It’s the stuff of dreams being able to take in the crowd. I know my process, I have done my training and I backed myself to do this. It was like a big relief, I was thinking ball after ball, ball after ball, ‘how many overs to go’ and obviously a big relief,” he added.

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South Africa expects series with India to go ahead as planned

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South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has released a statement, saying it expects the bilateral cricket series between India and South Africa to go ahead in December-January.

The statement comes following concerns that the tour might have to be called off due to the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. India is slated to visit South Africa in December-January. The side will play three Tests, three ODIs and four T20Is.

“South Africa will take all precautions necessary to ensure the health and safety of the Indian teams. ‘A’ full Bio-secure environment will be established around both the South African and Indian ‘A’ Teams as well as the two National Teams,” said the official statement.“India’s decision to show solidarity by choosing to continue with the tour of the Indian ‘A’ Team stands in contrast with a number of countries who have decided to close their borders and to restrict travel from Southern African after South Africa announced the detection of the new Omicron variant,” it added.

The statement further said: “The South African Government has expressed its appreciation to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for allowing the tour to continue and for not letting travel restrictions negatively impact on international sports.”

India A is also currently in South Africa fulfilling their commitment of playing three 4-day games.

“The South African Government wishes to welcome the Indian ‘A’ Cricket Team that is currently in South Africa to play three unofficial test matches against the South African ‘A’ Team,” read the statement.

The Omicron variant a new variant of the coronavirus, was first reported in Botswana on November 11, 2021, and appeared on November 14 in South Africa.

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