March 5, 2008

Indian Premier League

Why should the IPL be globally managed?

Mukul Kesavan
Kerry Packer and Tony Greig outside the High Court in London, October 1977
 © The Cricketer International
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Some six years ago I wrote an article speculating about a world in which domestic cricket in India would be organised around commercial franchises and clubs on the football model, not the territorial principle on which the Ranji Trophy is based. With the IPL, this has (sort of) come to pass. I can't lay claim to prescience because I was dreaming of franchised first-class cricket, not a Twenty20 league.

I've no idea whether the IPL will work in the long term or not and I'm as surprised as anyone at the money that's been bid for the players. But it seems like an interesting experiment that might create a following for the game at a sub-national level. I'd like Twenty20 cricket to mutate into a four-innings format, like Test cricket in miniature. It's an idea that Chris Cairns once mentioned in a discussion in a television studio. It's a feasible format because even with each side batting twice, the 80 overs would take less time to bowl than the 100 overs of one-day cricket. The sports channels would love it (more time to flash commercials in) and the limited-overs game would be invested with some of the magic of Test cricket: the thrill of another chance, the prospect of the stirring fight back, the shot at a second-innings redemption.

I can see the reasons why people are anxious about the IPL: the fact that it’ll clog up an already crowded calendar, the fear that wads of easy money might devalue Test cricket and the possible disruption of domestic cricket seasons elsewhere in the world. Also, as a middle-aged fan, I wouldn’t trust Lalit Modi and Sharad Pawar as far as I could throw an elephant when it comes to protecting the long game which, for me, defines cricket.

What I can't understand is the chorus of voices - represented on Cricinfo by Ian Chappell and David Lloyd in discussion with Sanjay Manjrekar - asking that the BCCI ought to cut other cricket boards into the money (or that the ICC ought to collect an IPL cess and distribute it among other boards) and, even more bizarrely, that the IPL ought to be jointly managed by representatives of the cricket world's national boards.

County cricket in England is staffed by professional players from England and the rest of the world. Individual overseas players are paid for their services. I've never read or heard people arguing that the West Indies cricket board ought to be compensated by the ECB for lending it the services of players that the WICB has nurtured and developed. Individual players have historically arrived at contracts and understandings with their county managements that allow them to balance the responsibility of playing for their countries with the need to make as good a living as possible. Coming to Lloyd's point that the IPL would be seriously disruptive, it's worth pointing out that the county season lasts considerably longer than the proposed duration of the IPL, which is meant to last for all of two months.

Lalit Modi arrives for the BCCI's working committee meeting, New Delhi, June 12, 2007
 © AFP
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Chappell and Lloyd press for the IPL to be 'globally' managed because that way it wouldn't be the BCCI going off on a tangent and selfishly disrupting world cricket. This is more than a bit rich coming from Chappell, who was once part of World Series Cricket, a circus dreamt up by a thwarted television magnate with the quite deliberate intention of holding every Test-playing nation to ransom. Given that he and his team-mates were enthusiastic participants for the duration of the WSC adventure, I'm surprised to hear him being sanctimonious about the BCCI not having the best interests of cricket at heart. I don't recall Packer asking the world's cricket boards if he could subsidise them for the trouble they had taken to raise the players he was buying for his pirate league. The BCCI, like the WSC, is run by a businessman who sees cricket as a cash cow. I can't see why it's bad for a properly constituted national board to organise a credibly franchised cricket league when it's okay for a solitary TV moghul to set up a circus wholly owned by one person. Lloyd and Chappell are having some difficulty coming to terms with the fact that this little circus isn't owned the ECB or Cricket Australia. I sympathise; it isn't easy to like or trust the BCCI. But then lots of crusty administrators and journalists didn't like Packer and much good came of WSC. Something similar might happen here.

The worst that could happen is that no one turns up to watch the games, the television ratings don't draw the eyeballs necessary to sustain the league, and the whole thing collapses. Who cares? The franchise owners don't need our sympathy and at least there'd be a bunch of players with their retirements taken care of. At best it could create a commercially viable tier of competitive cricket and, as Chappell suggests, new hybrid formats for the future of the game. I'll tell you what won't happen, though: having supplied the venues, the audiences, the franchise owners and the structure, the BCCI isn't about to hand the IPL over to the United Nations to run. I don't think Chappell advised Packer to share the goodness then; I'm not sure why he's asking the BCCI to do it now.

Mukul Kesavan is a writer based in New Delhi

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Posted by Mark Peck on (March 20, 2008, 11:26 GMT)

Whilst we must be awefully careful to protect Test cricket and the World game we must also see the benefits of the new IPL. It will bring new blood and interest into the game. New fans will be brought into cricket because of the excitement of the Twenty20. All the ICC and all the boards need to do is to have the power to control their players and enhance the interest at Test level to keep players and spectators interested. This will keep Test cricket alive. Together the IPL and Test cricket can work matrimonally. I do believe however that some of the cash generated from the IPL should go back into grass roots and the subsequent boards. The IPL would be better for all if it targeted newly retired players. These players are who fans want to see and the players will be able to make some good money to end their careers.

Posted by Rahul on (March 14, 2008, 7:14 GMT)

spot on!

Posted by mahesh on (March 12, 2008, 13:33 GMT)

Bravo Mukul!..Unlike many others, you do not mind supporting the incumbent.

While talking about money spoiling the game, I just cannot understand why no one raised their voice when BCCI awarded One Crore to Yuvraj for hitting six sixers in a T20 game! And why is it that the Indian team should be given 10 crores for winning in Australia?! Were they sent expecting a total disaster or is it that these players are not paid well already?!

Let's take IPL as an experiment. The money involved is not BCCI's. It is being contributed by so may corporates. If the corporates think it is worth it, then what is the harm? It is all good to think about the divinity and purity of the game from an India or Australia. But for prople in England and West Indies Cricket boards, existence is becoming tough. Thts is how this 20-20 game came about. Therefore, for encouraging cricket, may be such revolutions(or blunders) like IPL is of utmost importance.

Posted by Mohsin Chaudhry on (March 12, 2008, 11:06 GMT)

Mate you've read it all wrong. Big money has its dangers. This could seriously upset the cricketing world. Its not the IPL specifically that needs to be globally managed; that can be independent but what we need to do is have all parties sit down and manage all world cricket under one administrator.

Posted by raj on (March 11, 2008, 6:37 GMT)

in www.google.com, type "overgrown mutant potato" and click on "I'm feeling lucky" button. See which cricker's name turns up.

Posted by Anjo on (March 10, 2008, 11:41 GMT)

Chappell and LLoyd have gotten it wrong if they think globally managing the IPL is going to restrict disruption of world cricket. I don't think the BCCI has gotten it right if they think they will manage the league, I can't see them controlling it much longer, they've bitten off more than they can chew by running to corporate India in their haste to crush the ICL. One way or another, either corporates will take over the BCCI or they'll simply form their own board. World cricket is going to be shaken up and its not going to matter whether one or all boards try managing the league, the game has now been privatized to a new level and allegiances to national boards have already been tested. Maybe the BCCI realized this when Zee started the ICL and Modi and gang have taken the easy way out. Speaking of rich, to me the quote of the Ind-Aus series came from the aussie lady who coaxed Hayden (obnoxious weed interview); about the indian team: "Why don't they just shut up and play cricket?"

Posted by s3ns3 on (March 10, 2008, 3:49 GMT)

But then not even discarded English players have shown any inclination to participate in IPL. This just goes on to show what control ECB has over their players. If only Australia follow this by having control over all their players, no one would follow IPL and TV ratings would dip. There is just no charisma for other country players to pull in TV viewers. IPL would do well to keep CA happy. CA would already be pissed off because of their money-hungry players!

Posted by S3ns3 on (March 10, 2008, 3:38 GMT)

No followup on Ponting and 1950s and Sachin not walking? Sanjay Manjrekar rightly called him the sitting elephant in the room (or media room)!

Posted by arun on (March 9, 2008, 15:42 GMT)

ajit, shouldn't be surprising. there are a lot of cricketers who prefer football to cricket (their own game). I can think of Ambrose, viv richards, botham etc.

Posted by Philip John Joseph on (March 9, 2008, 12:15 GMT)

Rohit:

I would point out that India is NOT philosophically wedded to a belief in market forces in any way shape or form. Communism, whether Maoist or Marxist, definitely holds sway philosophically and/or psychologically. In practice, it is very hard to impose communist ideology on the economy at large because it simply doesn't work. Therefore India has essentially been forced to adopt policies that it's people emphatically reject. The only significant ostensibly free-market political party in India is the Bharatiya Janata Party representing the Shatriyas and their commercial interests. While I would support the BJP's economic policies, their policies of communal hatred are so outrageous as to render them completely useless in any kind of service to the nation beyond their representation in parliament of the Shatriyas. The vast majority of Indians have a vested interest in quotas and other communist/socialist practices. The free-market in India is despised, despite it's efficiency.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mukul Kesavan
Mukul Kesavan teaches social history for a living and writes fiction when he can - he is the author of a novel, Looking Through Glass. He's keen on the game but in a non-playing way. With a top score of 14 in neighbourhood cricket and a lively distaste for fast bowling, his credentials for writing about the game are founded on a spectatorial axiom: distance brings perspective. Kesavan's book of cricket - Men in Whitewas published in 2007.

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