IPL, Cricket and Corporate Efficiency
Charu Sharma was fired by owner Vijay Mallya as the CEO of the ridiculously named Bangalore Royal Challengers franchise in the Indian Premier League. Yet, the most bizarre part of this story, if you actually think about it, is that Charu Sharma was hired as "CEO" in the first place! The ever reliable Wikipedia encyclopedia describes Mr. Sharma as "an Indian cricket commentator, cricket administrator and quizzer". I suspect that the "cricket administrator" bit comes from Sharma's stint at the Bangalore Royal Challengers.
Charu Sharma has been a fixture during Cricket broadcasts (when the players take a break), goading inarticulate experts (former players) with provocative suggestions and liberal references to shame, spines (lack of) and guts, unless of course he has Miss Noodle Straps for company. This was the case during most of the 2003 World Cup, and with his looks and her brains, they proceeded to reinvent the old English game with all the imagination of a Bollywood B-movie script writer (Ok .. maybe B movie scriptwriters don't deserve this comparison).
Among Mr. Sharma's salient efforts as CEO of the Royal Challengers is this comment about cheerleaders:
The whole controversy is irrelevant. Frankly speaking, it is a trivial issue and doesn't deserve the attention it is getting. All those creating such a big ruckus are looking for publicity and the least we can do is not to allow them to get away with it"the least we can do is not to allow them to get away with it" - if you can make sense of that statement, then you deserve to be in the Civil Service. I suspect (in all humility), that Mr. Sharma started off trying to point out that the whole issue with cheerleading was much ado about nothing. The latter portion of his quote suggests that inaction would be a bad idea. Now, this in itself, if one chose to be pedantic is not implausible. Of course, cheer leaders perform public service and have nothing to do with publicity. And Mr. Sharma making public comments about the so called "detractors" gives them less publicity, not more. So, Mr. Sharma in effect suggested that people who were uncomfortable with the fact that he had hired cheerleaders for publicity purposes in a public arena, were in fact, merely seeking publicity (my aunts don't think its a good idea, and they want no publicity).
It gets funnier. When the grand divorce finally happened, the Bangalore franchise tried to put a kind spin on Mr. Sharma's departure, suggesting he left on his own. It would have meant lesser publicity for all concerned. But what does Mr. Sharma do? He comes out in righteous anger to correct his former employer, and explains precisely what happened - "I was summarily dismissed". Publicity anyone?
While many commentators, like Sharda Ugra, have discussed this episode, nobody has actually questioned why the glib tongued Mr. Sharma was hired as CEO in the first place. For years and years now, the BCCI has been consistently pilloried for being "unprofessional" and "amateurish" (these are some of the less offensive terms), because it is run by elected officials who are not necessarily joined at the hip with Cricket. Ms. Ugra observes :
"The free market hawks will interpret the Sharma sacking as the advent of a new ruthlessness and accountability that cricket lacked"The more interesting and more consequential question i believe is whether Shah Rukh Khan or Priety Zinta or Mukesh Ambani or Vijay Mallya or anybody else is any more qualified than Mr. Pawar to be at the helm of Cricket. At least Mr. Pawar is accountable to Cricket community in India by way of elections and a board. The same free market hawks that Ms. Ugra refers to have long decried the influence of the likes of Mr. Pawar on the BCCI. But this is business now. So what if the owner knows little or nothing about cricket, as Mr. Mallya himself admits, albeit as a way of explaining why he had to throw his CEO under the bus. It's useful to note here that the public pronouncements from all parties in the wake of firing put even Mr. Lele's worst efforts to shame.
So, at the end of the day, Mr. Sharma getting sacked as CEO of the Bangalore Royal Challengers, is about as ridiculous as him getting hired as CEO of the Bangalore Royal Challengers. Which in turn is about as ridiculous as Mr. Vijay Mallya owning a Cricket team, and then making hiring and firing decisions while explaining that he knows nothing about cricket.
Any publicity is good publicity for Charu Sharma, Mr. Mallya and for the IPL. The whole thing is a show anyways. Just like the WWE.