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ICL deserves a thumbs-up from every true cricket connoisseur

The ICL season-2 was an eye opener for anyone with an eye for emerging talent. R Sathish, G Vignesh, Ali Murtaza, Stuart Binny, Imran Nazir , Rana Naved Ul Hasan, Alok Kapali, Shahriar Nafees et al – the list just keeps going on & on as to how these young players have marveled live & TV audiences not to forget pundits in the commentary box, with their superlative performances.

A lot has been said about the unfair ban faced by these professional cricketers & I don’t want to dwell on it further in this mail. However as a true admirer of the game and the magnificent men who play it; it’s an absolute shame that they don’t get recognized!

 

The talent pool and performance prowess at the ICL is far too strong to ignore for the cricket authorities. How on earth can one ignore matches that generate prime time television & 50, 000 packed stadiums?

 

As a sports optimist I would love to see a utopian scenario where sanctity prevails in terms of spirit of sports:

 

1. ICL, IPL & Stanford should be seen as ancillary supportive units to international cricket. Though Stanford & ICL have played to right role within the right parameters & framework, to act as ancillary units; IPL has been a bit of a gobbling giant with serious ramifications of destroying international cricket. The ICC needs to step in to restore order, reconise the ICL so that the monopolistic IPL can be balanced by a recognized ICL.

 

2. Free transfer of players: the IPL is no doubt the barrier breaker for creating a platform & viability for T20 & league cricket. However it suffers from the lacunae in terms of perfection of restricting the Indian talent pool. I guess if a free market exists for player transfers as seen by the soccer model in Europe; both the players & franchisee will see a synergistic benefit.

 

3. Player benefits is primary objective of cricket administrators & not maintenance of  the present pyramid : I was reading an interesting interview with the Ravi Sashtri proclaimed Moses and cricket’s so called renaissance man Lalit Modi, with a leading electronic media company . When quizzed about ICL’s ban ; Mr. Modi justified it by saying that private bodies have to be discouraged to maintain to present structure of world cricket. I fail to comprehend this logic! Should player development & commercial enhancement be the logical objective of the boards or should it be the present stance of maintaining their monopoly on the lucrative world cricket turf? I leave the judgment to you.

 

Finally despite all odds & restrictions the ICL has delivered a transparent & vibrant sports product and justifiably needs the support from all us sports aficionados to emerge as a premier sporting event on our annual calendar.

 

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The unsung champions of Indian cricket

As a one sport nation the easiest way to promote the culture of sports in India is through the game of cricket. Sports aficionados may say cricket & its cricketers are already overpaid and have the best deal in the world. However this is not the true picture. One needs to scratch the surface (read Indian national team and few top Ranji teams like Mumbai) to get the true picture of an average Indian cricketer. A metaphor can be best gauged from the hypothetical situation where the reflection of the health of an IT industry can be evaluated by only the performance of an Infosys or Tata consultancy; while ignoring the rest of the players in the IT sector.

I thought I should highlight the story of two young cricketers who took an unconventional decision to survive in the profession that they so dearly embraced as youngsters.

Raviraj Patil ( RHB, Mumbai Champs ICL ) : the pocket dynamo as fondly rechristened by the Aussie great Dean Jones (while witnessing his courageous innings against some of the best bowlers in the world) ; has emerged as the mainstay of the Mumbai Champs side which boasts of names like Nathan Astle, Brian Lara & Dheeraj Jadhav. Ravi comes from a modest background from the suburbs of Poona and had to make great sacrifices to take up the game of cricket. A heart wrenching story is having to take a decision as to who would board the bus to the main city centre (Him or his father ) as they could afford the fair for only a single ticket. The Father saw the young man’s heavy kit bag and made the sacrifice. This was the plight of Maharashtra’s most promising young batsman who had broken Sachin Tendulkar’s School batting record. He was the captain of the Maharashtra under-17 & under -19 teams. After scoring heavily at the under -19 level Raviraj found himself left in the oblivion with no place in any Ranji side. He even left MAharashtra to try his luck with the Baroda Ranji side but that too did not yield any results. This was despite the fact that promises were made to him after his heavy scoring at the club level. He almost wanted to quit the game in disgust when the ICL happened and the rest as they say is history. The man who found it difficult to pay a Rs20 fair to go for practice today is the proud owner of two flats in the same area he grew up in. All of 5ft 2inch the promising Champs batsman today drives around Poona in his prized possession “A Santro Car”

Abu Nechim (Fast Bowler, Royal Bengal Tigers): Abu comes from the remote part of Assam. One of the few rare fast bowling talents of the country, Abu has performed creditably for India at the under-19 world cup having single handedly destroying the English batting in the crucial semi final. The just concluded ICL season saw the “slinger –Tiger “(rechristened due to his classical side arm action) clock over 140kmps at the young age of 20yrs.)

A story full of struggle has seen Abu reach practice facilities by hanging off public transport systems as he could not afford the fair. The only relief was when the conductor would have his back to him. This gave Abu the opportunity to grab a seat. His prodigal talent would have seen him as a automatic selection at the hugely successful IPL & when queried by a local scribe if there was a hypothetical chance of his playing in the IPL, pat came the reply from the erosive pace man “ Only if the ICL is recognized and there is a merger between the leagues, still given a preference I would continue to play for my ICL team “ .

The above two stories are not about any tom, dick or Harry ; it is the story of two of domestic Indian cricket’s promising talents; this shows that till the ICL came about domestic Indian cricket was not in its best shape. It kick started the IPL where the stories of Dhinda, Ghony & Asnodkar were reflections of the rise of Patil & Nechim at the ICL.

The relevance of ICL is best exemplified by the fact that Ghoni got a chance in the Punjab Ranji side only after Luv Ablish (Chandigarh Lions ICL) shifted alliance to ICL. Therefore if Luv had not made the move IPL would have not seen a Ghoni. Probably Dhinda would have also been sidelined if Abu was available for selection for the Kolkata Knightriders.

This proves the point that ICL has a role to play in domestic Indian cricket & up-liftment of its domestic cricketers. The IPL despite its success is finding it difficult to accommodate all the domestic Indian players & will need the ICL to pass on the benefits of T20 cricket to all its domestic cricketers.

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Will IPL help India emerge as a sporting nation or an entertainment hub?

When the BCCI announced the much hyped IPL, most pundits applauded the effort as a revolutionary concept which would change the way we consume sports in this country. The media too went overboard requesting the proclaimed Moses of cricket (Commissioner or father of the IPL!) to take his cricketing foresight to other sporting disciplines; probably also consider a cabinet position as sports minister.

The IPL had an opportunity to change the country into a sport loving country and they had the right ammunition & resources in terms of mega bucks, high profile franchisees & star players from across the globe.

Most importantly they were gifted with the humongous brand equity of a national passion called cricket.

However in my humble capacity as a reader of the sport; the brains behind the IPL made the catastrophic blunder of positioning the league as the next big reality show, mother of all entertainment and in turn downgrading the core value of cricket and its perception amongst its patrons.

I call this a catastrophic blunder because cricket was at cross roads and had the opportunity of converting the mass base of cricket consumers into true sports lovers who value the true essence of sportsmanship & core values of cricket.

Unfortunately the IPL authorities and its broadcasting partner (notorious for dumbing cricket earlier) have taken the easier route, the mass base of cricket fans have been fed on the “tamasha” aspect of cricket instead of converting them into core sports lovers & more importantly alienating the heavy consumer ( serious cricket fan) of the sport.

My worst fears for the future IPL ventures are:

  1.  We will have more frictions between high profile egocentric franchisees, with little prior experience of running a sporting product & the core cricketing fraternity.
  2. Player discontentment fueled by the unwanted intrusion in form of the new ruthless corporate policies.
  3. Putting cricket and its core value on the backburner by creating hype around the strictly ancillary aspects like the entertainment hoopla.

 What a waste of opportunity to take India forward as a true sporting nation !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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