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Thanks to a splendid, if slightly damp, World T20, the shortest format has reasserted its superiority, popularity and all-round loveliness this week, but on Thursday I read worrying news on the IPL pages of ESPNcricinfo. A cloud of financial gloom, laden with dangerous implication, is looming over this year's bling and biffing extravaganza, and threatens to drench our favourite annual cricket parade in a monsoon of money misery.
Or to put it another way: five IPL teams can't find a sponsor.
This is a slightly embarrassing. The owners of these particular cricket collectives are used to a world in which a crowd of desperate CEOs gather outside their hotel and follow them from meeting to meeting, screaming, pulling their hair out and generally carrying on like One Direction fans, in the hope that one day, if they hand over enough gold coins, it just may be their company logo on Ashok Dinda's trousers, just below his left knee.
A man who is attempting to raise money to fund his gambling trip to Las Vegas by taking part in a sponsored carbon-dioxide exhalation might well struggle to find a sponsor. A super, intergalactic cricket franchise should not have to deal with this problem. Like Marie Antoinette waking up on the morning after the French Revolution to discover there was no one to make her breakfast soufflé, some of these owners might be a little bewildered.
So we IPL fans owe it to them to step in and help out when times are tough. It is, after all, in our own interests. What if the whole IPL collapses for want of sponsors and an entire seven weeks of cricket are wiped out at a stroke? What then? Are we supposed to watch the County Championship?
No, we can't let that happen. I've pulled in a few favours and I am delighted to announce that I have solved this year's shirt-front sponsor shortfall. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the new look 2014 franchises:
First of all, I am delighted to reveal that north-east Hampshire's third-most popular breakfast radio show, Good Morning Basingstoke has agreed to sponsor Sunrisers Hyderabad. As part of the deal, the franchise will change its name to Sunrisers Basingstoke, and before calling heads or tails at the toss, the captain, Shikhar Dhawan, will update the crowd on the traffic congestion situation around Junction 6 of the M3.
Rajasthan Royals proved quite a hard sell, but I managed to find an adhesive logistics company who were interested. They had been named as Official Glue Purveyors to the 2012 London Olympics but suffered a spell of bad publicity when the glue holding up the Olympic logo gave way and one of the rings fell on the Ugandan delegation. The company is hoping that an association with an IPL franchise will help restore their reputation as an ethical brand, so this year, Rajasthan's players will wear shirts bearing the name "Easy-Fix Solutions" and the company's logo, a sticky palm.
And finally, the owner of Dunwinning Town FC, the least successful association football club in England, has stepped in to help the Delhi Daredevils. Brian Bankrupt has watched his team lose their last 197 matches in a row and at the time of writing, they are bottom of the Scunthorpe and District Remedial Division (South), but he was moved by the plight of the Daredevils.
"I watched the Daredevils last year and I don't mind telling you, I had a lump in my throat. It was a reminder that no matter how much of a loser you think you are, there are always other bigger losers out there. I've asked the lads to have a whip round and we'll be sending the proceeds to Delhi. It'll be a good feeling, knowing that we've helped a team less fortunate than ourselves, and to see the name Dunwinning proudly displayed on those blue and red shirts."
But we can't rest on our laurels. Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore are also in need of sponsors, and I think all of us who dread an IPL-free spring should do our bit and chip in. So if you've got money to burn and you'd like to see your name on Parthiv Patel's nipple, please get in touch. Even if you can only manage a few pennies, that's better than nothing (although several million dollars would be better, if you can spare it).
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73