Archive for April, 2015

India needs a ‘la-kolpak’ kind treaty in the subcontinent for IPL!

They say sports imitates life &politics , therefore arises the thought -the  Indian prime minister Narendra Modi started his much anticipated journey as PM, by inviting the leaders of neighboring  SARC for his swearing in ceremony ! What it did was that it  & showed the world the historic ties of this region and at the same time opportunity to explore the  economic potential of the region as a whole ! What it showed was a statesman like approach to the start of his legacy as a PM. Now in the world of cricket, the BCCI is bestowed this power and influence of being the statesman, ICC notwithstanding!

As a statesman cricket body, the BCCI needs to strategize, innovate and take its iconic brands like the IPL and Ranji trophy to greater heights.   It has to explore the potential for its domestic cricket properties and not rest on its existing laurels at the FTP calendar and ICC events. For a broad dynamic vision for its domestic cricket properties, BCCI needs to identify the current situation (lacunae & potential both), and make the properties more robust.  What ails the Ranji & deodhar trophy and remedies for the same were covered in my last blog. Let us focus on IPL in this write up!

IPL problems and remedial policy action for same :

Most lucrative league, but depleted international pool: Despite being the best and most lucrative league, IPL excludes a significantly large portion of talented & ideal subcontinent players for its IPL from Sri Lanka and Pakistan; owing to either the concerned nations’ international commitment or geo political reasons.

Irrational star Salaries: Numbers of teams have shrunk and star players remuneration has spiraled beyond commercial and cricketing logic. Especially the Indian talent where unlike the international talent pool quality supply is limited!  This astronomical price for a select few, has had a negative effect on remuneration of other domestic talents or their remaining unsold in the auctions!

Treat Pakistani players as professional individuals irrespective of their nationality: Some of the fast bowling talents emerge from Pakistan! Their inclusion will enrich the league, making the fundamental factor of cricket (test between bat & ball) stronger. Don’t evaluate the option of including the Pakistani players on basis of their nation of origin. Determine their inclusion on merit of professional skills. I have always felt if we can import pulses and onion from Pakistan why not its magnificent fast bowling talent for a commercial entity like IPL!  What this would do is also bring about a correction in player prices at the auctions which has skyrocketed beyond cricketing and commercial logic, despite the spending cap.

Problematic condensed duration of the IPL needs to be addressed: The league in its formation has been condensed and tightly packed! Despite the dynamics of IPL being a league it operates as a one off event! If not for the dynamics of the auction and high profile team owners, the IPL in its duration and shrunk format would seem like a version 2.0 of sharjah cricket.

Around the world and even in India a league sport operates on duration of 8 months! It is nothing short of a miracle that IPL registers in the public mind despite having operations for not more than 2 ½ months in an annual year. Imagine where an EPL or La liga would be if it was 2 months in duration!

One solution lies in integrating the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament into the IPL, as a preceding ‘IPL domestic’s’ tournament, to the premiere tournament in its present avatar.

The genesis of the condensed format problem lies in the fact that, LKM & team, could not get an exclusive window from the traditional FTP calendar; which formed the basis on international cricket in pre IPL days!  Therefore they did what was best at that point of time.  But with its present growth and potential IPL, is best suited to increase its duration and rotate its players based on their availability, at the same time not harming the FTP calendar.

Every Indian player must be allowed to exit his IPL team for International duties and return post that; something done with European football and its galaxy of international stars, who also ply their trade for their national teams.  So a kolhi may be available for RCB for 2 months while a Dhoni may be available for CSK for 4 months, while a Irfan Pathan or Robin Utthapa may be available for 6 of the 8 months (ideal duration for the league)!  Like international players are released for International duty, ranji players too would be released for their state commitments. The point is IPL co exists along the international and domestic cricket calendar!

Eventually some players may choose a particular format and may give up on longer formats of the game, but that should be his personal choice without any restrictions or state pressure!

The Rise of the Subcontinent as cricket’s nerve centres & need for a kolpak for the SAARC region:

At the recently concluded world cup, 4 of the 5 SARC teams made it to the quarter finals. This trend is expected to just grow stronger in future editions of world events. Just the population of the 4 sub continent teams and cricket’s dominance as a sport in the region make it a logical inference. India will be to cricket what Europe is for world soccer.  Cricket in its genesis is bilateral, because for most of its existence the most relevant tournament was the Ashes, with the rest making up numbers; till the West Indies came into prominence in the 70s and 80, followed by India’s emergence as a global super power in terms of economic might and fan following.

We stare at an opportunity where as a superpower we need to open our arms to our fellow neighbors who share the passion for the sport along with us.

For a rich diverse talent pool we need to take off the restriction of 4 international players in the playing eleven, for players from the SARC region, who are not bound to national duties. While international players on current national duty from these SAARC nations should be exempted from this treaty, remaining players on fringes of national duty or who are no more in national reckoning should be encouraged to sign this deal! Like Kolpak they would have to give priority to IPL than to national duty, but in case a player wants to refocus on his national team, he should be given the flexibility of excusing himself from the contract.

The above would do the following for IPL ;

  • It will keep talent pool fresh and vibrant for an 8 month duration when Major Indian and international players will be absent owing to international commitments.
  • It will bring in some great fast bowling talent from Pakistan, Afghanistan , Bangladesh & Sri Lanka ; something these nations have been able to tap better than our own vast nation.
  • It will make an 8 month IPL a reality without compromising on talent or quality of play.
  • Expand the identification and belonging of the league to the whole sub continent, as a league of the region and not just India!
  • Will help create brand and product extensions of the IPL, benefitting the larger ecosystem of the sports industry (broadcasters ,domestic players ,coaches, IPL franchisees) ! For Eg The Syed Musthaq Ali tourney can be refurbished as” IPL domestics”, calling for separate broadcast rights! Also new tournaments can be added with separate broadcast rights , that would be lapped up by large number of broadcasters wanting live sports content.

If I Was the BCCI I Would call the Indian version of the deal as “Modi Sarc deal”!  This would do two things, get the Government & political support to the business, a must for our knick of the woods and second align however indirectly India’s biggest global icon on your !

Feedback appreciated and awaited !

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