It has been a long time coming but the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is finally here… well, almost.
Ever since it was first propositioned, during Dr Nasim Ashraf’s tenure as PCB chairman in 2007-2008 – note that the Indian Premier League (IPL) had its first season in 2008 – the Pakistani cricket fan has been anxiously waiting for his own version of the star-studded, cheerleader-crammed, boundaries-brimmed T20 feast.
This delay of seven years has resulted in Pakistan being the last Test playing nation to jump on the Franchise-T20-League bandwagon even though suggested otherwise. England also does not have a franchise based tournament but given the structure of domestic cricket there, the NatWest T20 Blast almost qualifies.
IPL might not be the oldest but is clearly the grand-daddy of all T20 leagues. It is also the frontrunner by a long mile when it comes to all things financial. The Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) is currently second in terms of number of people following the tournament, whereas the Big Bash League (BBL) does the best job of getting bums on the seats in the ground. NatWest T20 Blast, Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and Ram Slam T20 Challenge form a supposedly second tier of the leagues; and while New Zealand’s Georgie Pie Super Smash has been an important platform for its stars, it doesn’t get enough coverage outside the country. Sri Lanka scrapped its Sri Lankan Premier League (SLPL) after one season as it wasn’t financially viable.
Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi have been given the added role of being brand ambassadors for the PSL and their teams.
The announcement of PSL teams being sold for $93m – welcoming news – led the cynic in me to dwell on how it compared with the likes of IPL and BPL.
Let’s delve into that a bit further;
Team Price Tags
Just to warm up the conversation a little bit, Pune Warriors in 2010 was sold for a staggering $370 million. But a fairer comparison would be to see how much the first IPL teams went for when the league started in 2008. The total money generated by IPL during its first team auction was $723.5 million which equates to an average of $90.45 million per team as opposed to PSL’s $18.6 million. It is worth noting here that the franchise rights for the PSL teams are for 10 years whereas the IPL teams were sold outright. Nevertheless, the IPL teams went for five times as much as the PSL teams – make of it what you may.
First team auction for Bangladesh Premier League fetched $6.49 million (average team price $1.08 million) and that for Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) roped in $30.15 million (average team price $4.3 million for seven year rights).
So overall, PSL didn’t do all that bad on that account.
The second metric worth comparing is the prize money – PSL has announced that it will offer up to $1 million in prize money. IPL in its first season offered a total prize money of $3 million, of which the winning team took away about $1.2 million. This was a significant improvement over the initial reports of prize money of $0.7 million for the winner – more or less in line with what the PSL is offering. The IPL prize money might have been increased after the better-than-expected response to the team auction. The current prize money for IPL stands at $6 million with the winners roping in a cool $2.2 million.
BPL in its third season offered $1.5 million in total with the winner netting in $0.7 million. The Caribbean Premier League (CPL) also offers prize money around the $1 million mark. The offering of the Big Bash League was previously lower, but it significantly increased the prize money this year to $0.89 million in total with the winners taking home just under half a million.
Here again, PSL seems to be at par with most of the other leagues. Good news.
What is in it for the players?
It is a widely held belief that the biggest beneficiaries of these franchise based T20 leagues are the players. These leagues have given the best T20 players from across the world an opportunity to earn decent livelihoods or insane amounts of money, depending on which school of thought you belong to, as journeyman players with no strings attached. The primary target for a league should be to attract the best players in the world because that, in theory, shall lead to a high viewership.
PSL decided to hold a draft instead of a player auction, which according to some was a sign of low confidence in the franchises. The official statement was that the Pakistan Cricket Board didn’t want to risk the balance of teams in the tournament and was concerned about the financial viability for all stakeholders. Fair concern!
The top players in the tournament; Platinum Category will earn $140,000 with five icon players earning an undisclosed extra amount for being the face of their respective teams.
IPL, again, is a clear front runner here with Yuvraj Singh bagging $2.67 million for the 2015 season and $2.33 million for the 2014 season. Even in the first season, MS Dhoni managed to bag a $1.5 million deal.
These days, you can expect the top 20 to 25 players in IPL to earn in excess of $1 million. As it stands today, BPL is the second most lucrative franchise for top players; Afridi managed to clinch for himself a $700,000 deal at the inaugural BPL while Gayle was the second most expensive at over half a million dollars.
Chris Gayle, though, was the most expensive at both the BBL and SLPL’s first season with price tags of $250,000 and $100,000 respectively.
PSL lags significantly behind the two major leagues in this regard and is just about at par with the others. I hope that we will see an improvement in the player salaries in the seasons to come, and that shall help PSL attract even more international stars.
Conclusion of sorts
If PSL were happening in Pakistan, you would expect it to slot right under IPL in the T20 league pantheon but the PCB faces a huge challenge, financially and logistically, of organising the league in the UAE. Attracting crowds in a non-cricketing country will see PSL struggle in terms of generating ticket revenue while on the other hand, the logistical costs are also going to be higher.
A bunch of T20 cricket’s stars will be on show in Dubai and Sharjah at the PSL in February.
Given those constraints, what we have seen so far is impressive and promising. In most financial metrics, while PSL may be unable to hold its own against the IPL, and understandably so, the offerings are comparable to the remaining leagues and that is a good start for the young league. Let us hope PSL signals the start of good times for Pakistan cricket.
PS: PSL easily has the best team logos of all leagues and relatively more imaginative team names (thanks to Lahore Qalandars and Peshawar Zalmi); and I don’t care if anyone thinks that is a subjective assessment – a team in the IPL is called Rising Pune Supergiants for crying out loud!