Cricket is poised for a revolution like never before as the lucrative Indian Premier League takes shape, but there are fears it could change what was once a leisurely afternoon sport for ever.
It is not about nations playing traditional Test cricket, the soul of the game for more than a century, or even one-day internationals or World Cups. The IPL is essentially an Indian Twenty20 domestic competition between eight city teams owned by corporate giants and movie stars who have hired the world's best cricketers at mind-boggling prices.
It is the nearest thing to Fantasy Cricket and cricketers are rubbing their eyes -- and wallets -- in disbelief at the huge paypackets offered to them to take part in the inaugural 44-day, 59-match extravaganza starting across cricket-mad India from April 18.
In a sport where only a handful of top stars net more than a million dollars a year in fees and endorsements for their respective countries, the IPL has showered riches like never before.
In an unprecedented auction of players in Mumbai last week, bids ranged from a whopping 1.5 million dollars for India's Twenty20 captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni to the lowest of 100,000 dollars for Sri Lankan youngster Chamara Silva.
Young batsman Manoj Tewari, who has played a solitary one-dayer for India, was picked up by Delhi for 675,000 dollars even as world-beating Australian captain Ricky Ponting went for a surprisingly low 400,000 dollars to Kolkata.
"The market is determining the players' price. That is how a free economy market flows," said Inderjit Bindra, a former Indian cricket board president and an influential member of the IPL's governing council.
Pundits regard the IPL as a revolution that will change the way cricket is played and governed, similar to Australian tycoon Kerry Packer's rebel World Series Cricket 33 years ago.
Packer, denied TV rights to Australian cricket, bought the world's best players in 1975 for a private series, introducing colour clothing and day-night matches for maximum television exposure.
The players were banned from official cricket before a compromise with the Australian Cricket Board three years later saw Packer's Channel Nine win the home rights for all Tests and one-day internationals.
There is no threat of a ban on IPL players because it is run by the official Indian body and has the blessings of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and boards around the world.
"The IPL will make the Packer years look like a storm in a teacup," said noted cricket writer Peter Roebuck. "Now, for a second time, authority totters under assault from players aware of their market value."
With dollars jingling in their pockets, cricketers will put aside fears of burnout from the already overcrowded international schedule to strut their stuff in the unbearable heat of the Indian summer.
But Ponting fears the IPL could lure cricketers away from the traditional Test and one-day games.
"With the amount of money being freely paid... there is a real danger that some guys will find the IPL more attractive than playing for their countries," Ponting wrote in The Australian newspaper.
"And if there are potential stars of Test or one-day cricket who might have any sort of thoughts like that, I think it is really dangerous for the game."
A consortium of Singapore-based World Sports Group and India's Sony Television Network paid 1.026 billion dollars for media rights of the IPL over the next 10 years.
The amount matches what Pan-Asian ESPN-Star Sports bid last year to win the rights for all ICC events till 2015, which includes two World Cups, three Champions Trophy events and the first two world Twenty20 tournaments.
IPL chairman Lalit Modi is confident franchise owners, who include top Indian businessmen Mukesh Ambani and Vijay Mallya and movie stars Shahrukh Khan and Preity Zinta, will get handsome returns for their combined investments of around 800 million dollars.
"When you go out to set up a business, it takes you a few years to plan the same," said Modi. "The franchisees have bought a team, which is an asset for life. If they build it correctly, the sky's the limit."
But critics remain sceptical.
"If the IPL is about money first, it will fail," wrote Simon Barnes in The Times. "We watch sport for the passion, for the real thing, for the love.
"Whoring simply doesn't make the Earth move."