Ten years ago, on a pleasant afternoon in 2008, when a five-star hotel in the south of Mumbai played host to an Indian Premier League (IPL) player auction, the first of its kind in any sport across the world, Sotheby's London auction house was yet to make a killing from a fascinating bronze sculpture -a Swiss masterpiece -waiting to go under the hammer. The winning bid for Walking Man I didn't quite proverbially match up to the cheque written (and the noise made) for Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the scale of contemporary European art notwithstanding.
Much later, Richard Madley, the competent London-based auctioneer at IPL for a decade now, would admit -a bit in disbelief and a lot in awe -that sport, much defined like art as an expression of human creative skill, had taken a multi-dimensional leap of faith that astonishing afternoon. Cricket, until then a sport that had been looking to readdress itself in ways that could reassure coming generations of its viability, was given a new life by administrators with twisted hearts and professionals with incredible designs.
Cut to 2017. The IPL will commence its 10th edition today. It will mark the beginning of the culmination of a 10-year blueprint following which the money-spinner will be expected to float on its own for eternity. The outlay could be on a very different, more promising note, going forward.
But for now, the question that the IPL needs to answer is this: Has it lived up to being that innovative extravaganza that it first got recognised as 10 years ago. Not, at least, when their idea of being innovative this year has led the BCCI to have eight inaugural ceremonies. Old school antic, the fraternity says.
`This year, player helmets will have cameras', screamed headlines, beaming at the thought of a novelty. Just as an afterthought, the player accessories alone at the NFL - helmets in particular, patented with Riddell collectibles - happen to be state-of-the art equipment, uniquely designed for players with specific skillsets, dipped in classic designs and constantly innovating.