What do Mitch Johnson, Brad Hodge, James Faulkner, Brad Hogg, and Andrew McDonald have in common? Apart from the obvious fact that they play some great cricket for Australia, there is something else that connects them. It's the IPL, or the Indian Premiere League, in which they shall play this April.
IPL is the biggest thing to have happened to cricket in recent times. Think NBA, but for cricket - a professional league where Twenty20 cricket matches are played between some nine teams over a six-week period. But, what's interesting to know is that though this is an Indian League, the teams consist of players from around the world, including top Australian cricketers. With an average player salary of $3.8 million, IPL doles out cash in buckets, thus attracting top cricketers from around the world. This makes it the second highest paid sports league in the world, next only to the NBA.
IPL's journey has been surreal. Imagine this. An Indian professional cricket league is started in 2008. The idea, though far from novel, is new to cricket. By the time the third season is started in 2010, IPL's brand value is estimated to be $4.1 billion. Also, there's another big change, and that is cheerleaders. Cricket is glammed up and IPL matches have international cheerleaders pom-pomming their way into the hearts of cricket fans, or so was the idea.
Then, after the giddy excitement of the first two seasons, came the reality check. Amongst accusations of match-fixing and money laundering, IPL's brand value fell to $3.6 billion. Not that this came as a surprise. Where there is money, glamour and game can controversy be far behind? Besides, match-fixing has recently plagued international cricket, so the IPL too got caught in it.
Still, controversies aside, IPL is big. The fifth season begins this April. The latest Australian cricketer apparently set to enter the IPL is none other than Test captain Michael Clarke. Clarke, who made a conscious decision not to play in the past four IPL seasons, is now said to have almost signed on the dotted line. How much he will get paid has still not been revealed. But, going by what the others are going to make, Clarke seems to have struck gold. Here's a look at how much some of the Australian cricketers have gone under the hammer for this season: Mitch Johnson -$300,000; Brad Hodge- $ 475,000; Brad Hogg -$180,000 and James Faulkner -$190,000. Not bad for six weeks of work.
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As a background, what's interesting to know is that in IPL season one the team that won the finals, among much fanfare was headed by Shane Warne. The Australian achieved a Godlike stature in India for a brief period when he coached and led his team to a stunning victory. Apart from Warne, there've been other top Australian cricketers who've played for the IPL. Last season Adam Gilchrist captained his IPL team for a whopping $900,000. Andrew Symonds was not far behind at $850,000.
But for now, before the glitz of the IPL begins, there's the West Indies tour, which starts on Friday. The West Indians are desperate for a win against the Australians. They've not won a single ODI against the Australians since the end of 2006 and will be trying hard for a win. It promises to be an exciting standoff.
Watch this space for more on the Caribbean tour.