When Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh went under the hammer for Rs 16 crore at the auctions of the Indian Premier League's season 8, he broke his own record and became the most expensive buy in the history of the tournament. A fact that is not so well known is that he also commanded 20 times more than Subrata Pal, the most expensive domestic football player in Indian Super League 2014.
In India, cricket has always been treated as a religion. Just take a walk around almost any neighbourhood and you will find a bunch of kids playing "gully cricket" in the lanes. However, the story of Indian cricket is not only about popularity and success. It is also about the hefty sums of money channelled into the game.
Last year, the Indian Super League was introduced as a lucrative cash-rich domestic football tournament on an IPL-like format with eight franchises owned by corporates representing different regions.
However, this year when IPL -8 auctions were held, the muscle power of BCCI - Indian cricket's governing body - was a clear indication of cricket's clout and unmatched fan following in the country.
Even though Yuvraj Singh was not part of the Cricket World Cup squad battling it out in Australia-New Zealand, he still managed to grab the headlines when he was sold at Rs 16 crore. During the ISL's draft selection, which was held last year, the highest salaried Indian football player was Indian shot-stopper Subrata Pal, who earned a mere Rs 80 lakh. The salary gap is even more telling when you compare the earnings of Pal, one of the most recognised faces in Indian football, with that of K.C. Cariappa, who was bought by IPL's Kolkata Knight Riders for Rs 2.4 crore . And this is a cricketer who is yet to compete at the senior level.
The numbers, when you compare IPL with ISL, speak volumes.
5 most expensive Indian players in IPL 2015
Yuvraj Singh Rs 16 crore
Dinesh Karthik Rs 10.5 crore
Zaheer Khan Rs 4 crore
Amith Mishra Rs 3.5 crore
Murli Vijay Rs 3 crore
Data: ESPN Cricinfo
5 most expensive Indian players in ISL 2014
Subrata Pal Rs 80 lakh
Syed Rahim Nabi Rs 80 lakh
Gouramangi Singh Rs 80 lakh
Sanju Pradhan Rs 70 lakh
Nirmal Chetri Rs 70 lakh
Data: Indian Express
In terms of weekly salaries, IPL cricketers earn more than Indian football players in ISL, even though IPL is a six-week affair while ISL is a 10-week long tournament. When the salaries are broken down into weekly wages (estimated figures, excluding endorsements and bonuses), this is how things stand.
Weekly wages of cricket players in IPL 2015
Yuvraj Singh Rs 260 lakh
Dinesh Karthik Rs 175 lakh
Zaheer Khan Rs 66 lakh
Amit Mishra Rs 58 lakh
Murli Vijay Rs 50 lakh
Weekly wages of football players in ISL 2014
Subrata Pal Rs 8 lakh
Syed Rahim Nabi Rs 8 lakh
Gouramangi Singh Rs 8 lakh
Sanju Pradhan Rs 7 lakh
Nirmal Chetri Rs 7 lakh
BCCI is the richest and most influential in the sport, capitalising on India's craze for cricket through multi-million dollar sponsorship deals and broadcasting rights. Indian football, on the other hand, is its impecunious cousin. The country lacks even basic infrastructure for football to grow and prosper. There are only six international stadiums fulfilling the current FIFA norms.
In 2010, the All India Football Federation, the country's football governing body, struck a Rs 700 crore deal for 15 years with IMG-Reliance to overhaul the country's football infrastructure. While this was a major boost to Indian football, its goal to reach the status that cricket enjoys remains a distant dream.