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In the light of Allen Stanford's massive investment in the game, we look at XI other wealthy men who have sprayed around their cash
April 24, 2008
Cricket's original revolutionary, and still, to this day, the best. In 1977, as the proprietor of Channel Nine, Packer knew what he wanted - the TV rights to Australian Test cricket - and knew that he wasn't going to be given them by the stuffy board, whose cosy relationship with ABC had endured for years. Packer enraged the board with his abrupt bargaining style, not least when he denounced them as "harlots" in one of his earlier meetings, and asked, "What's your price?" Sensing he needed another tactic, he went after the players instead. Tony Greig in England and Ian Chappell in Australia helped him recruit the cream of the world game, who took part in a World Series of floodlit contests in coloured clothing, and after a three-year war Packer emasculated both the English and Australian boards with a landmark victory at the High Court. The game would never be the same again.
When the franchises for the IPL went up for grabs earlier this year, it was a chance for the great and good of India's business and entertainment industries to claim a slice of a sport that is big business and entertainment, all rolled into one. One man who was not going to pass up such an opportunity was the liquor tycoon Mallya, India's answer to Richard Branson. The owner of United Breweries and Kingfisher Airlines, Mallya also has stakes in Formula One, as co-owner of the Force India team, and horse racing. He forked out US$111.6 million for the Bangalore Royal Challengers, whose big-name players include Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis.
Shah Rukh Khan
The Kolkata franchise was won by the king of Bollywood himself, Shah Rukh Khan, whose presence in the stands during the opening match in Bangalore last week was the only thing that could distract from Brendon McCullum's spotlight-stealing 158. His partisan support didn't impress everyone, however. "The cricket uses the celebs to feel good about itself; the celebs use the cricket to stay in the headlines," wrote Cricinfo's diarist, Lawrence Booth. "It is a symbiosis of a particularly cynical kind." Khan has starred in more than 60 films in a 16-year career, but to judge by the name he gave to his franchise, he'd have been happiest had his career stalled in the mid-80s as a leather-clad himbo ruled by a talking car. He even registered "Knight Riders" with and without a K to ensure he got what he wanted.
The owner of a bar-cum-nightclub in Maidstone with interests in property and a beach resort in Antigua, Folb started Lashings in 1979 and from there it grew into the most high-profile and star-studded pub side in the world. Described by the Observer as "a tireless fixer, the kind of guy who'll help you start your car, flog you a watch and introduce you to Garry Sobers all in the same breath", Folb has used his side - which has boasted players ranging from Viv Richards to Brian Lara to Sachin Tendulkar - to promote the game and raise large sums for clubs and charity.
Nicknamed "The Loon" by Botham (high praise indeed), English matched Hudson for chutzpah and extravagance - among his claims to fame, he discovered the Bee Gees and starred in the classic WW2 film, A Bridge Too Far - but outranks him by a country mile in terms of endurance. To date he has raised more than £9 million for charity through the antics of his celebrity side, Bunbury CC, which counts Bill Wyman and Eric Clapton among its regular stars, and for two decades English has also organised the English Schools Cricket Association Under-15 tournament. "The difference between cricketers and other sportsmen is that they are approachable," said English, who proved the point by accompanying Andrew Flintoff on his stag weekend in Prague in 2005.
Sir Paul Getty
Like Stanford, an American, like Stanford, a billionaire, like Stanford, a born-again cricket fanatic. Getty was a reclusive after a series of personal tragedies when Mick Jagger, a friend since the 1960s, visited him, insisted on switching the TV over to the cricket, and explained what was going on. Getty got the bug. He donated large sums to Lord's to help rebuilding, to counties and clubs to help their finances, constructed one of the most sublime private clubs in the grounds of his country estate, and bought Wisden. "Men like Brian Johnston and Denis Compton became friends, and he took delight in the game's history, traditions and etiquette, which were at one with the concept of Englishness that he embraced," Wisden noted. "Cricket repaid him a little by giving him a sense of his own self-worth as a man, not just as a benefactor."
Maharajah of Vizianagram
A man who not only used his immense wealth to patronise the game but to fuel his rather self-delusional ambition to play it at the highest level. He built a ground inside his palace and paid for the top cricketers to play there, but his bitter rival, the Maharaja of Patiala, matched money with ability. In 1932 Vizzy bankrolled the Indian tour of England and that gained him a place as vice-captain but he withdrew. Four years later his investment paid off and he was named captain for the second England trip. It was disastrous. His ego knew no bounds and he sent home Lala Amarnath on disciplinary grounds and fell out with many other players. He did make 600 runs in the summer, but often he presented opposing captains with lavish gifts and in return was fed a diet of long hops and full-tosses. In the three Tests, against less generous opponents, he made 33 runs at 8.25. Lambasted on his return home, he withdrew from the game before returning as a commentator, earning a reputation for pomposity and dullness.
In December 1997, Adam Hollioake led England on a one-day odyssey in Sharjah, while Mick Jagger led the Rolling Stones on their Bridges to Babylon world tour. There wasn't an obvious connection between the two, only that Jagger, a huge cricket fan, wanted to be able to watch the series in his trailer, and was dismayed to discover that he could not get the TV coverage. Instead, he set up his own internet company, Jagged Internetworks, teamed up with Cricinfo, and bought the online rights to the series, which involved live audio commentary and slideshow-style footage of one frame every five seconds. Primitive maybe, but it was just the start of something rather huge.
Maharajah of Patiala
A leading political figure immediately after World War One, Patiala was a passionate cricketer who led India to England in 1911 and, bankrolling a series of trial matches, would have led India on their first official tour in 1932 had it not been for ill health. He stamped an indelible mark by donating the Ranji Trophy in 1933 and funded the game so munificently that many foreign players visited - some stayed - and in 1936 he underwrote the costs of the first Australia tour. He was also the driving force behind the formation of the Indian board and the Cricket Club of India. He oversaw construction of the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay despite failing health, expressing a desire that it would become "the Lord's of India". A private suite overlooking the ground was reserved for his private use and is still open today.
Ninth Earl of Winchilsea
George Finch was another wealthy man with a passion for cricket unmatched by ability. He played a considerable number of major games but contributed little, being described by one colleague as "a liability in the field". In 1786, along with another rich member of his White Conduit Club (WCC), he indemnified Thomas Lord to find and establish a ground and Lord's opened the following year. To this end, he was one of the founders of the MCC, as the WCC became known on moving to Marylebone.
Plays of the Day from second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in Port Elizabeth
Plays of the Day from the third ODI between India and West Indies, in Kanpur