Sunday, April 26, 2009

Flintoff and Pietersen: White Elephants of the IPL

Back in February, when Flintoff and Pietersen were bid for the highest amounts in the 2nd IPL Auction by Chennai Super Kings and Vijay Mallya’s Bangalore Royal Challengers respectively, they were touted as the highest paid cricketers’ in the World and England basked in the so called “glory” of it all.

Actually there was no truth in the statement that Flintoff and Pietersen were the highest paid cricketer- Dhoni has reportedly earned more from endorsement deals (unbelievable but true, he has overtaken Sachin Tendulkar) and loads of the Indian players are way ahead of their English counterparts.

If ever the sums earned by every Indian player through endorsement deal come out, their “salary” would dwarf the sums of money Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff and Kevin Pieteresen earn through their central contracts and all their commercial deals.

And no one was kidding that the amount of money on offer to a player was a true test of their ability. To put it into perspective- Mashrafe Mortaza, Bangladeshi bowler who bats decently, was auctioned for $600,000 while Shane Warne, captain of the Rajasthan Royals- the title holders from IPL 2008, had been roped in by the Royals for less than half that amount in the 1st IPL Auction.

Anyway, English media went on a flattery spree writing article after article heaping praise upon their most celebrated heroes.

However, come April and come the IPL, the media were left running helter-skelter. Flintoff and Pietersen had become the perfect cases of the White Elephant.

At the end of 4 games, one abandoned, Flintoff had the notorious record for most expensive figures for a bowler in the IPL- 50 runs off 4 overs for no wickets, potentially a match losing spell. Prior to that, in the first match he had been hit for 3 sixes in one over by a 25 yr old Indian Abishek Nayar who hadn’t represented India in international cricket.

If that wasn’t enough, Flintoff had more suffering in store as the IPL progressed. Towards the end of the 3rd game for the Chennai Super Kings, which they went onto lose from a position of great advantage, choking a la South Africa (aptly so in South African soil) Flintoff complained of a niggle and ended up requiring surgery, thus ending his stint with the IPL.

Pietersen’s stint wasn’t anything to write a song about too. Having been dismissed for 2 ducks, Pietersen, playing his 5th innings of the IPL, got off to a decent start and looked good for a strong match-winning innings when just before the strategic time-out, he went for the switch-hit against Vettori, one of the best bowlers of the shorter version of cricket, whom he had spanked for a boundary the previous ball, and was bowled, stumps splattered.
With that loss, Pietersen has had a miserable IPL, worse than Flintoff since Pietersen is the captain of the Bangalore Royal Challengers, who have been abysmal with the bat so far, and their fortunes haven’t changed from the last IPL.

England have to rue the decision of allowing Flintoff to play in the IPL, and not being strong likee Australia over Lee, whom they saved cunningly for the Ashes by picking him for the ODI side, but not allowing him to play, citing injury concerns.

Lalit Modi had his reasons to make the 2 teams pay so much for the two White Elephants- the marketability of IPL in other countries was the issue here.

Collingwood and Shah haven’t played a single game in the IPL, but the English media has blown out of proportion the contributions of Flintoff and Pietersen and even went onto call the Bangalore Royal Challengers Vs Chennai Super Kings match as a clash of the titans- between Fred and KP, their version of Achilles Vs. Hector.

But did it really matter to the Chennai and Bangalore fans? They just wanted to see their favorite stars in action and no one was kidding that the ultimate battle was KP Vs. Fred.

Anyway, Modi had his wish- the IPL has been well covered in England, will continue to do so, following Bopara’s scintillating 85. And Fred won’t get even half of the promised $1.5 million since he has played just 4 IPL matches. The situation is the same with KP. The only reason he would be playing the 6 Bangalore Royal Challengers match is because he is the captain and because it will be his last game afore he jumps back onto the plane to England, so Vijay Mallya would want to extract as much juice as he can from KP and nothing to do with performances.

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