Archive for May, 2009

ICL is the answer to IPLs annual calendar growth

If you are a fan of free markets and open economy along with a true die hard sports spirit; you would want the ICL & IPL to co exist. If the BCCI recognizes ICL as a second division league then that means you get more out of the T20 format of the game. All the players (just retired and domestic talents) will have better earning potential and Lalit Modi will get what he wants- a larger window for the T20 league concept. All that the Moses of cricket needs to do is be magnanimous and recognize ICL as the second division. It may cause him a few initial hiccups. ICL as second division means that the top two teams from ICL will replace the bottom two in the IPL in the next years’ IPL. This may not go down well with the existing IPL franchisees, who in the present format are cushioned. Performance plays no role in the success or the brand equity of the team. This has also been the IPL’s biggest critic that cricket and performance are taking a backseat on its platform.

BCCI could monetize the game further by garnering broadcast fees for both IPL and ICL. Zee would broadcast the ICL and BCCI can get a cut out of it. Maybe a few IPL franchisees may resist such a move, but they can be shown the door and new ones roped in. Like every other business industry some parties will object to safeguard their vested interests ,but like a government .BCCI needs to concentrate on the larger picture and see the benefit of the proposed move.

Players will get to earn more and BCCI and Lalit can increase their revenue streams by only stamping approval with the pending ICL case. If approved all nine ICL teams will get ready sponsors – at the present rates ICL makes an attractive investment proposition for prospective franchisees, provided the approval is got. The amount that BCCI can get for nine teams in a second division is best left to your judgment. So, why the BCCI should look at the ICL approval route for growth of league T20 cricket? The answer lies in the following two facts; first the only way the IPL can grow with the present international calendar and window restrictions is by making ICL its second division & secondly tap of the impressive resource pool at the disposal of the ICL.

The IPL and BCCI can increase their revenue by the following way:

They can have 9 ready made teams, some with international flavor like the Lahore Badshahs & Dhaka Warriors to earn franchisee fees.
Charge Zee & ICL as broadcaster and league operators a license amount in return of recognition.
More player transfer fees as larger talent pool will result in more selling and buying where a transaction fee can be charged by the IPL board. (Rumors have it that ICL talents like R Sathish, Vignesh, Rayudu & Abhishek Jhunjhunwala are being offered over 1.5 crore deals from IPL franchisees- a percentage of same can be taken by IPL/BCCI if ICL is recognized and player transfer take place like they do in the European soccer circuit)

Finally the above makes sense for a simple reason. The talent pool in the world and especially India is so big that the IPL today faces an embarrassment of riches. Players of the likes of Collingwood, McGrath, Nitini, Vettori are warming benches. It shows that as a global tournament IPL is too small to accommodate the talent pool. Secondly if the IPL adds two more teams in its franchisee list it means at least another 14 matches to the present calendar which may not be possible. It already has a problem with accommodating its present month and half tournament so how will it accommodate more teams and more matches.

So if you are a T20 fan and want the league concept to grow further then the easiest way to achieve this would be to get the ICL as a second division league.

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Spare a thought for the lesser mortals of the game

So the league cricket system is precariously placed with the ICL players receiving the amnesty offer from the all mighty BCCI. IPL commissioner Lalit Modi has gone on record saying that it will be good for the game as he gets more players to choose from. Not a bad thing ! It will help a few top quality players in the ICL like R Sathish (easily the best young talent in the country), Ali Murtaza, Vignesh, Stuart Binny et al. The usual suspects like Ambati Rayudu, Deep Dasgupta, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala , Badani & Mongia too will get IPL offers along with the likes of Rohan Gavaskar . However my concern is about players like Abu Nechim, IS Reddy et al, along with around 70 odd domestic players who are neither a certainty with their state Ranji teams or on the IPL radar. Some would say it is a fair call ; the top performers will get their due while the rest will have to settle for a life back in obscurity of league cricket on barren grounds. This would be a sad situation if sport is only judged on basis of the survival of the fittest- the spirit of sport means that even underdogs should get the opportunity and that is what differentiates sport from business. ICL transformed player remunerations and made it possible for a decently talented young cricketer to play at the domestic level to earn a decent livelihood. IPL & ICL made it possible for a young man to take up the game even if he did not have it in him to make it to the competitive Indian national team. I believe if there is a player exodus from ICL to IPL , a lot of domestic talents in the IPL too will face the heat now. IF some of the top ICL performers are to replace them in the IPL teams , it is certain they will not get renewed contracts from their team owners. This is a point that Lalit Modi and BCCI have to introspect upon as custodians of the game. An ideal stance for them is to buy a majority stake from Essel Sports in the ICL or licensee out domestic players to formulate the ICL as a second division league to the IPL. It also takes forward the T20 format of the game and allows more broadcast revenue & earning potential for the BCCI. As the present ICL & IPL calendars are separate from each other it makes it ideal for both leagues to continue as second and first divisions respectively. What the above policy would do is to encompass a larger talent pool to earn the perks and lucrative packages offered by the T20 league format of the game.

By now you would have realized that I have a special affinity for the ICL and you may ask me the question why? For the simple reason that the gritty Baroda wicket keeper batsman Kiran More & the great Kapil Dev managed to produce a serious cricket tournament despite all the difficulties faced by them. The ICL could have easily gone the Hong King Sixes way as a recreational tournament, but these two gentlemen at the helm of ICL cricket managed to produce a serious and high quality cricket product. The contribution of Michael Bevan, Steve Rixon, Moin Khan & Daryl Cullinan should not go in vain and am sure that their cricket acumen would be tapped by other cricket bodies if ICL takes a sabbatical from the game. The ICL has done its job in identifying and developing young talent like VIgnesh, Binny, Murtaza & Khaleel. The two red hot players for me however would be R Sathish & Ambati Rayudu. These two have it in them to make it to the big league and I am sure they will prove to be ambassadors of ICL’s cause- if they get to perform in the IPL and larger platforms. Having followed cricket as a true patron for over two decades, I am sure these two young players will prove to the world that ICL too has quality acts in its talent pool and will probably bring justice and vilification to the concept of ICL not in the court of law or TV ratings but purely with their cricketing talent.
But along with these talented players a thought should be spared to the likes of Abbas Ali, Reetinder Sodhi , Rakesh Patel and Thiru Kumaran- may be age is not on their side to make it to the Indian team , but they still have a few years of cricket left in them. They may not be a Warne or a Mcgrath but they sure are quality cricketers who will enhance domestic Indian Cricket. Of course ICL would not be needed if IPL could add another 8 teams on their list –but that doesn’t seem to be a realistic possibility. So why not find the best solution in taking league cricket forward by recognizing the ICL as a second division to the Indian Premiere League. If Lait Modi & his BCCI colleagues are true connoisseurs of the game then they will do a big favor for averagely talented domestic talents to get their due from the riches of T20 league cricket; by allowing or recognizing ICL as a second division T20 league. At the risk of sounding repetitive I would again like to state that one IPL is too small to encompass the entire talent pool of domestic Indian talent and either the IPL has to accommodate more domestic talents or outsource some domestic portions to private sports management firms like the ICL.

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