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August 27, 2007

Politics

ICL: A welcome corporate headache

Kamran Abbasi
Kapil Dev interacts with the Indian Cricket League's recruits , Mumbai, August 20, 2007
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Is a monopoly a good thing? In our world dominated by free market economics the world of cricket manages to enjoy the fruits of commerce while imposing its monopolies. The only official events are those sanctioned by the ICC where only official sponsors are allowed to market their wares and competitors are pursued with the zeal of a witch hunt. The national cricket boards enjoy their own monopolies, forcing players to promote the official sponsors and participate in sanctioned events. Clearly there has to be some control of any sport but has cricket become too restrictive?

The Indian Cricket League offers the first real challenge to the official cricket structure since Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. Compared with Packer's intergalactic venture, the ICL has begun with a minor constellation of international stars most of whom are Pakistani. WSC was fiercely resisted too but it helped international cricket develop quickly and improved the pay of top cricketers.

ICL will require more big stars if it is to have the same impact, and this is where the Indian and Pakistani cricket boards are applying thumbscrews. Players are being bullied to stick to official tournaments and events because the boards fear that a rival Asian league will undermine their power and reduce their revenues.

Players should be entitled to play in whatever league they wish, be it their official domestic cricket, county cricket, or the upstart ICL. Instead we have threats of bans and penalties.

This talk of bans is posturing. When Pakistan's cricket board realised it needed its Packer rebels they were brought back with desperate haste. The same self-serving approach will surely apply to reinstating Mohammad Yousuf for Test cricket and possibly even Inzamam and Abdul Razzaq, depending on results?

In the meantime, players have the right to play in the league they find most attractive without ruling themselves out of international selection. The response of the boards is one of fear, and if they were providing players and fans with a premier service the ICL would not be a threat. Their monopolistic positions have made the Asian cricket boards lazy and complacent. That's why I'm grateful that the ICL is causing a corporate headache. I don't see how it's bothering anybody else?

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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Keywords: Politics

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Posted by WASIM SAQIB on (September 5, 2007, 2:24 GMT)

Javed A Khan:

I dont know what has led you to believe that ICL is going to release its players whenever they are called for National assignments,this has been the key bone of contention all along between ICl and the rival boards, and why would ICL shell millions to a player and release him for a busy season with his home country,this problem has been highlighted by several journalists in the media perhaps you missed those articles. Please remember I don't have any ego problem I only write what I believe.

Posted by Muhammad Asif on (September 4, 2007, 15:40 GMT)

We should not be bothered whether cricket is played under one umbrella (ICC) or multiple umbrellas (ICC, ICL,...). The only thing that matters is quality of cricket, if ICL fails to provide quality cricket it will disappear from the scene as it wasn't there. I would again reitrate my words that its market-oriented world, if ICC fails to provide what people want to see, someone else (like ICL) would appear on the scene to grab the attantion of the people. What I think is that its good for cricket to be played under different umbrellas intead of one umbrella. Multiple umbrellas are good for the game, players & spectators. The only thing that I would like to see is the revival of criket in red & white in limited overs form of cricket. I hope in near future some new umbrella will offer this as well.

Posted by khansahab(A.A.Khan) on (September 3, 2007, 11:18 GMT)

Javed Bhai,

The Asian bloc is a significant revenue generating mechanism for the ICC. You mentioned about The Ashes creating interest amongst fans and still surviving in the face of the more dynamic and exciting ODI’s. When Pakistan, India or Sri Lanka play Tests in the subcontinent, only a handful spectators come to watch the matches. The Ashes is a traditional event that is unique in the eyes of Britons and the Aussies. You cannot compare The Ashes with other Test series. The fact is that for most Pakistanis, Indians, Sri Lankans, West Indians etc Test matches are not appealing prospects anymore. It is only diehard cricket fans like me who want to keep alive the true spirit of cricket. What is the true spirit of cricket? It is the concept that it is a game played with skill and patience where there are equal opportunities for batsmen and bowlers to score against the other. ODI’s in my opinion are already too heavily centred around the batsmen, especially with the advent of rules such as Powerplay.

Why do you think Twenty20 is being introduced as an international competition? It is a litmus test for the ICC to organise the future of Twenty20. Tests are generating less revenue for cricket boards and organisers and hence, Twenty20 is being introduced to flourish the revenue stream. Muhammad AsAf, blogger on Pakspin, had stated that certain “intellectuals” are not aware of the popularity of 20-over contests at grass roots level. I am well aware of 20 over games, even 15 over games and 10 over games. You can examine a procedure or mechanism and tweak it around to create a more exciting product. But the fact remains that Twenty20, being played at official level on the international platform, is a curse to the true spirit of cricket.

What about the ramifications of Twenty20 as regards Pakistani cricket? Look at the majority of our players- their background, their behaviour. In the ultra-competitive nature of international cricket today, do you think they will be able to mentally adapt between Tests, ODI’s and Twenty20? There are players like Malik, Butt, Imran Nazir, Misbah, Arafat etc. who with or without merit, for the moment, are long term prospects as far as ODI’s and Twenty20 is concerned at least. You seem to assume that the different forms of international cricket will feature different players. Yes, there are certain players like Yasir Arafat who at present seem only to suit Twenty20, but then there are also players like Butt, Nazir, Misbah who are likely to be selected for all forms of cricket.

I agree Test cricket will not die in the near future. But the revenue generating prowess of Twenty20 means that at some point in the future, Test cricket will indeed disappear. I know that Twenty20 is what the masses want because they can see sixes being hit every other ball. But is that what cricket is meant to be? I can compare this situation with how the masses in Pakistan want Indian films to be shown on cinemas as soon as they are released. But that is something which is not in Pakistan’s best long-term interests for various reasons, so it is not to be encouraged.

Posted by JAVED A. KHAN, MONTREAL, CANADA on (September 2, 2007, 15:44 GMT)

Wasim Saqib

Its a fact which we all know that, the ICL has very clearly announced that the players would be relieved for national duties when called for. So, where did you get this news that the ICL will not relieve the players? By defending your earlier statement that, a ban is a must for those who joined the league appears that you do not wish to be flexible or change your views, but thats your choice and your prerogative.

The difference between the Kerry Packer team and the ICL is, the former bought all the top players from all the important test playing nations, crème de la crème of that era, and not just the retirees or national team discards. So, there is no comparison between the two. Even though the news of Damien Martyn, Andrew Hall or any such player joining the league will not make much difference 'coz it will still not create a long term sustainable interest among the fans, viewers, spectators. UNLESS, more and more parallel organizations emerge in every country to create a real dynamic competition in cricket, just like we see in the European soccer league or South American soccer leagues, where we see so many private clubs who buy-out these players and play for European Cup or S.A. Cup. If that happens it will give a real shocker to the ICC, BCCI and the PCB and likes.

However, if the ICC really wants to promote the game of cricket they should not worry about losing their monopoly, 'coz this is bound to happen sooner or later. They (ICC) should be coordinating with these leagues just like FIFA does with these clubs and with the IOC. The rumour that twenty20 cricket would be introduced into the Olympic Games, if it is true, would be a very good thing for the promotion of cricket in other countries and it will revolutionize the game. Most people say that twenty20 is ruining the game of cricket, I think that is old traditional way of thinking. Twenty20 is a different version of the game, designed for a wider audience and it is a fact that it is a revenue generating machine. When the ODI cricket was introduced similar sentiments were aired that it will kill the test matches and ruin the game of cricket. But, that didn't happen.

As long as there is good competition among the test playing nations like it happens during the Ashes series, test cricket will not die, neither the 50 overs format. And, twenty20 cricket is definitely a new era in the history of cricket. It will only add another dimension to the game. There will definitely be different set of players for each format of the game in every country specialized in each form of game. So, we need to accept the change and live with it.

Posted by WASIM SAQIB on (August 31, 2007, 16:52 GMT)

OMAR ADMANI:

If somebody breaks the rules of employment then the organization where he is employed at has every right not to hire them in future. ICL is a rival business and if some players while in contract with PCB and reaping all the benefits try to join ICL and get extra money at the risk that they will not be relieved for their national assignment, I think is completely wrong and such players should be banned. yes if the ICL agrees to relieve the players when they are called up for their national assignments then I think the respective boards should allow them to play in ICL .I also don’t agree with you that ICL will have some higher standards and the players will be able to improve their abilities by joining it if you look at the Indian players who have joined ICL are completely unknown even for their domestic audience. ICL is not even close to what Packer series was in terms of facilities and the Players it recruited.

Javed A Khan: Its true that the boards let the players join county cricket and domestic corporations and the players get paid by both organizations but there is one key difference that county cricket and the domestic organizations are obligated to relieve the players for their National assignments whereas ICL is not willing to do that at least that's what the major concern is so far also the players have to take permission from the board before they join any county cricket. I have no problem if the players make extra money but somehow I believe that money should not be the only consideration when a player decides whether he has to play for his country or ICL. I also strongly believe that the Pakistani players who joined the ICL, joined it as a protest for not getting selected given that scenario should we assume from now onwards all the players who are not selected are free to join ICL. I agree with you on one main issue that PCB should increase the salaries of the players under its contract so that in future no rogue league could tempt them.

Posted by JAVED A. KHAN, MONTREAL, CANADA on (August 30, 2007, 18:23 GMT)

As opposed to this blog which at times moves at snail's speed, there is so much very fast happening these days in the cricketing world especially in Pakistan and surprises most people with unexpected results. The general rule of Pakistan politics and cricket is, everything which is legal, illegal, possible, impossible, expected, unexpected, true, lies, moral, immoral, right and wrong must float in the same sea of chaos and they may choose or pickup whichever and whatever suits them according to the situation.

Just when I have said earlier that the PCB are not going to change their stance in removing the bans imposed on a few retired and about to retire players, they surprised me by announcing that the PCB will offer Mohammad Yousuf with greater financial rewards and pursue him to come back? And, that is because his loss to the team is bigger than the rest of the rebels who joined the ICL. This was kinda expected that they might do something unexpected but, this is not the right way to tackle this problem. If it was a policy matter to ban them, then the rules must be applicable on all the players and not just Mohammad Yousuf. But, what is right and what is wrong doesn't matter to the egoistic and opportunist administrators of the PCB.

This decision if taken has two major flaws and the PCB is confirming that: One, they were calling these players as opportunist and materialistic, but they aren't any different now by luring Mohammad Yousuf with more financial rewards and pursuing him to come back, as he is important and worthy for the team and not bothering about the rest who joined because they are not so important and worthy. Two, the PCB is least bothered about the feelings of those players who declined the ICL offer just to remain patriotic and proud to play for the country. Wouldn't there be some kinda friction between them and Yousuf when he comes back with a better pay package or bonus whatever? So, there isn't just a corporate jungle but a bureaucratic jungle too.

The players who have attended the camp and about to leave for Kenya and SA, will they be expecting Mohammad Yousuf to join them later? Then, at whose expense? What if Yousuf doesn't perform well in the first few matches and if he is not included by the skipper and the coach in the next matches, then what will be Yousuf's reaction? Mohammad Yousuf has not signed the central contract which expires by the end of this year. So, will he be guaranteed a place in the team for the next contract? All these and many more questions remains to be answered.

Posted by Anil Rao on (August 30, 2007, 7:15 GMT)

I agree with the author.

I want more cricket than just BCCI’s team playing and minting money without any accountability. ICL is a good idea to fill this gap and i hope it will become like county cricket or NBA. ICL will have six city teams this season with a mix of local and foreign players! these are quick 20-20 games and fun to watch.

Have anyone heard of ESPN-STAR sports Indian hockey leauge,it was going on for 3-4 years now(I am not sure it still exists or not), with Pakistani and other foreign players playing for different city teams .ICL will be more big and popular affair.

I am sure once ICL starts playing cricket more and more Indian, Pak, SL and foreign players will join .Let BCCI compete with ICL and start a new league. Competition is good for the game, fans and in all this madness we will get some good talent coming out...off course rich talents. Like Kapil dev said let the players perform well and make a lot of money!! who has problem with that!!

Posted by Omer Admani on (August 30, 2007, 0:55 GMT)

Wasim Saqib, But no corporation could make it a law that a certain person can't work for them in future because he worked for X,Y, or Z corporation. That treads along discrimination. I think it is perfectly reasonable that players have the choice now. If ICL works, the potential repercussions could be over local players-- as the case might be in future-- playing for ICL and gaining invaluable experience. It could also lead us, spectators, to make invaluable judgements as to who is worth playing in our cricket team. It could also mean a playing atmosphere where PCB starts paying a bit more and our structure of cricket as a whole gets more professional. Almost all of us agree thatAshraf messed Pakistan cricket up-- ranked 2 and 3 in tests and ODI before his arrival-- and this means that the doctor has to get his act together as well. Maybe he should do all of us a favor and simply go back to America.

And it is good publicity for cricket after all.

Posted by Sami Syed from TORONTO on (August 29, 2007, 19:52 GMT)

Eamiran, Syed Durrani, J. Khan, AA Khan,

Although this is a discussion board and not really the place for personal attacks, what you all fail to realize is that all of you have brought up some important points through your posts. (Jokes aside...)

Firstly, AA Khan brings up a good point about REGIONALISM... which definitely exists. There is no denying it. Punjabis will say no there is no such thing and Karachites will say that they have not only suffered in Cricket but in all aspects whether its political, financial, societal, development and CRICKET. The second point you bring up about Asim Kamal is one of reckoning as well. I do agree because I have seen Asim Kamal play in pressure situations and he has consistently and calmly scored. He has excellent technique and more over has an advantage since I recall that he is a Left Hander. I would even include Yasir Hameed in the list who hasn't been included either. I would even go as far to say that if Inzamam doesn not come back to test then a likely replacement should be Kamal and if Yousuf doesn't come back then Yasir Hameed should be groomed as his replacement. You'll notice that Yousuf's stylish and graceful style can be seen in Hameeds batting. Furthermore, these two players shouldn't be picked and dropped like cherries rather should be groomed and persisted with. And then the Pakistani team can reap the dividends.

And AA Khan your suggestion about Selective BANS really does contradict your stance on other issues. What you are suggesting there is that the bad players should be Banned but the good ones should not be. That's like the Rich keeping the rich richer and the poor poorer... I think you have mis-implied perhaps what you meant.

Eamiran - One cannot be too quick to judge, how can you really say Asim Kamal won't be good if has not been given the chance. Secondly, I agree with you that Inzamam is one of the greats in cricket.

Syed Durrani - you really need to find better time and be a little more constructive then going back in archives to look for specific people's archives. Perhaps your comments should be innovative rather than based on previous threads.

Lastly, Mr. J. KHAN - I read most of your posts and they are good. I think you share new ideas and new thoughts. You are one of the few people here who thinks "outside of the box". So keep it up, you always bring a different perspective. Your posts however sometime are long and can be dragging. Although your points are usually thought-provoking.

As for me: I as a Pakistani am actually happy that finally the players are watching out for their own interest. Usually, Pakistanis put their country before themselves which is great, however if the board (PCB) is taking advantage of your patriotic character then perhaps they deserve a slap on the face like the one Yousuf,Razzaq and Inzamam have given. Although, Yousuf, Razzaq and Inzamam will be missed they should look for their best interest because the PCB has ended many young careers for other players before. Never do they give a graceful exit for its greats and they do take their players for granted. As far as Imran Farhat is concerned he is "too cocky" to be a team player anyway. For him it really seems that he is about money rather than what Razzaq and YOusuf are fighting for, which is "RESPECT"!

Posted by EAMIRAN on (August 29, 2007, 19:03 GMT)

A.A.Khan

I question your lack of logic and emotionally based reasoning.

Inzi averages 50 in tests v/s Asim kamal who averages 37. No comparision. While Asim has played some good knocks he has yet to score a century in 20 outings. Getting out in the 90's may (or may not -too early to tell) be a sign of not being able to absorb intense pressure.

As far as Inzi's average record against quality bowling attacks I would point out that that is not entirely true. He has scored heavily against a West Indies attack that still had Ambrose and Walsh as their opening bowlers. These two were top performers. By your logic Miandad would also not be considered a great since his average drops down to 29 or thereabouts against the great Windies side of his era. This against a career average of 52 or 53; however no one would diminish Miandad's role just because of this one blemish. As far as antics and behaviour are concerned, I point out Miandad again.

Admittedly Inzi's ground fielding when chasing the ball is weak, however his slip fielding, a position he usually stations himself, is safer than most.

Your "creative" judgement, which is just another form of ad-hocism, is no different to the way the PCB operates today. Ad-hocism is not in the interest of the public.

Finally, you remind me of those capricious fans who think that Pakistan should win each and every game, regardless of how good, bad, or indifferent the team really is. The fact is, you cannot win games consistently with 3 batsmen i.e; Inzi, Yousuf and Younis, no matter how good your bowlers may be.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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