Sanjay Manjrekar: Hello and welcome to the Cricinfo Round Table.
"We are trying to change the world order," is how Lalit Modi, the brains behind the BCCI-backed IPL views the league's impact on world cricket. The excitement of Twenty20 cricket, club-style cricket, a Champions League-style tournament and $5million in prize money - the IPL seems well on the road to being a surefire success. But is it really so? Or is it a case of hype with no substance? Is the IPL a well-thought-out, structured concept or something that was conceived in haste as a knee-jerk reaction to the rebel ICL?
To analyse the new talking point in world cricket, the IPL, I have with me Ian Chappell and David Lloyd.
Well, first of all I want to know what your initial reaction was when you heard about the IPL.
Ian Chappell: The first thing that struck me was that I couldn't believe that the ICC didn't do a deal with the IPL to get some funds to filter off into countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka who have got political problems, and countries like New Zealand and the West Indies who have got financial problems. I would have thought that there should have been something done to recompense these countries for the players that their system has developed who are now signing up for huge sums of money with the franchises of the IPL. I just can't believe that some sort of deal wasn't done.
David Lloyd: My first thoughts were that this is exciting and different and we need to keep moving forward. But there are lots of ifs and buts and I just wonder whether it [the IPL] has been thought through properly. I'm in New Zealand at the moment and I can tell you that the whole country is reeling with the news that it is going to lose so many players and so many experienced players. I don't think New Zealand is a country that can lose all that expertise and experience.
I think there are a lot of questions that need to be asked. I think it is exciting. I like the Twenty20 element about it - it's a good format and it is over and done with in a short space of time. But it seems at this stage that it is going to be very disruptive to the rest of cricket.
SM: Ian, you have brought out a point that nobody has brought out before, where you thought that the other members of the ICC could have benefited from the Indian cricket economy. But do you think that India is trying to show the world what it can do with the product, i.e. cricket, and were never going to work with the ICC or share the glory with them on such matters?
IC: I am not really sure what they are trying to prove. They don't have to prove that they are the economic powerhouse of cricket - everybody knows that. But it's not much good if eventually you have just a handful of countries to play against. Australia and England are financially okay and India is obviously well off, but the rest of the major nations are in serious strife. If you are going to have this thing, it should be benefiting all cricket.
Initially, I thought it was knee-jerk reaction [to the ICL] but talking to a few people I realised that it was obviously on the drawing board for quite some time. To me it would have been the perfect time for cricket to sit down and work out where it is going in the future and how the three types of cricket that are played at the international level are going to go forward and work together. It seems to me that there has been no planning done in that regard. It's just been, "Right, here's another competition. It's exciting, it's bringing lot of publicity to cricket and a lot of money to some parts of cricket," but there is no thought being given to where it is all going to go in the future. The way it is placed at the moment, I think something in the game of cricket has to give because you can't just have your star players playing this amount of cricket without having some plan for the future.
DL: The governing body has to be seen as governing and you can't have one member state just going off at a complete tangent because it disrupts everything else. It may be early days and we may find out the whys and wherefores of the IPL and where it fits into the global scheme of things. But it will isolate the vulnerable countries, and Ian has spotlighted the vulnerable countries - West Indies and New Zealand. All of us in cricket are watching this space: what are you going to do in India to compensate the rest of the game and to legislate the rest of the game to ensure that it is ongoing?
SM: When the ICL came into being it just galvanised everybody. I think the concept of the IPL was in the mind of Modi, but the ICL was what got it going. I think the BCCI is excited with the current scenario in India; the economy is strong, and perhaps, when you think of it, this concept would work best in a growing economy. I think the ICC perhaps felt that there was nothing much that they could do. They couldn't stop the BCCI from having a tournament in their own country and felt that there was only so much that they could control the intent of the BCCI.
IC: The best thing that could happen out of all of this, and that includes the ICL as well as the IPL, is if things get to the point where the ICC is deemed useless - which, basically, I think they have been for quite sometime, right from the time I have been playing - and they come up and devise a new way of running cricket, because as David said, it [the IPL] has got to be governed globally if it is going to succeed. If all they are worried about is India, then it's fine, but you have got to have decent teams if you are looking to go forward and strengthen the game, and for that I think it needs to be governed globally.
|The IPL seems to be a money-making operation. I would urge and implore everybody concerned to get some stringent plans in place, like an Anti-Corruption Unit, for instance, because I think it is tailor-made for corruption, the whole lot of it David Lloyd|
I think there are some very good ideas in the ICL. Allen Stanford in the West Indies has got some good ideas there. I would have thought it was the perfect time to get the international players' association, the ICC, the IPL, the ICL, Stanford, all of them together, sit them down and work out where this whole damn thing is going to go in the future.
SM: I think that would have been just perfect but perhaps there are too many people there who want individual glory and that's why we don't see that happening. Let's just talk about the concept of the IPL. It is based on regional lines, but players can play for another state. Now I have followed Indian cricket very closely and I have seen that the following for Indian cricket is quite strange. Sometimes I challenge this concept, this statement that people make, "Cricket is a religion in India." I would amend that to, "International cricket, when India is playing another country, that is a religion in India." Because, apart from that, when you look at domestic or club cricket, there is no following at all. You will have a Ranji trophy final between Mumbai and Delhi and there will be only 500 people in the Wankhede Stadium watching it.
Do you think that just because it is IPL, it will change the fans' approach to these matches?
DL: It's so new Sanjay that we don't really know where it is going.
DL: I can say from a distance that it seems to be a money-making operation. I would urge and implore everybody concerned to get some stringent plans in place, like an Anti-Corruption Unit, for instance, because I think it is tailormade for corruption, the whole lot of it. I think an Anti-Doping system also needs to be put in place.
I like the excitement of it, but there is a danger that it is just going to be a resting place for old players. They will be paid a lot of money - and good luck to them, I have no problem with that whatsoever, it's a question of supply and demand. But we have got to tread very carefully. When you talk to Ian and myself, you are talking to older players who have seen the game evolve - and the game must continue to evolve. But at the same time the game cannot survive if we have branches going off at a tangent and saying, "Well, sod you, we are doing our own things." I hope the BCCI have got all these plans in place for minimal disruption everywhere else.
Coming to your comment about nobody watching cricket, that's something that happens worldwide. Nobody watches domestic cricket in England, and Ian can correct me if I am wrong, but I don't think anybody watches domestic cricket in Australia. But everybody watches international cricket, and if you are going to be devoid of international cricketers then the public will tell you.
SM: Ian, a prize pool of $5 million has been announced, with the winner getting $2 million, which is twice what Australia earned for their unbeaten defence of the 2007 World Cup. This again shows the glaring difference between what the ICC does and what the BCCI does. Do you think this will further divide the world group of administrators?
IC: In general, I am much more interested in the players than I am in the administrators. I think the biggest problem is that it's going to head down the path that David was talking about. If players see that they can get that sort of prize money for playing five or six weeks of Twenty20 cricket in India, particularly the older ones, then they are going to be thinking, "I have had a good time of it in international cricket, I'll just head off and do this because there is this great discrepancy in the prize money." I think that's where it [the discrepancy in prize money] is more likely to have an effect.
There could be a good side to some of this as well as a downside. We are finding in Australia that we are going down the path of England in that you are getting a lot of senior players who are hanging around as they can keep getting a contract. The people who are making their debuts in the Australian side are around 28, 29, 30 years of age, but we aren't getting the young players anymore, either in the Australian side or in the first-class sides. The selectors aren't performing the culling process, so maybe this [the IPL] will. That's okay for a country like Australia because we have a reasonable depth in cricket, but David has just spoken about New Zealand and they have got the depth of an above-ground swimming pool in cricket talent there. They just can't afford to be losing people. So I see this discrepancy in prize money being a greater problem for players' thinking rather than the administrators' thinking.
SM: Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma who are two young Indian talents, just about 20 years old, have been auctioned for huge sums of money. What do we do with these players when they start seeing this kind of money at this tender age, David? How do we protect them?
DL: Well, you would think they will be managed properly if they have good families and they are sensible about things. I have no problem with players earning money - good luck to them, and I am quite envious about it. My only concern - and it will be the concern of many people - is that the IPL should fit in with the rest of the cricket and not disrupt it. We're going to keep talking and coming back to the same thing: it's very new, it's very exciting and it's good on the players. But it has to fit in with the governing body, and like Ian said, it may need a different style of governing body to ensure that the game of cricket goes forward. The IPL can be very much a part of it [taking cricket forward] but we need to know that. We need assurances from the BCCI that this is what they are thinking of and that it is part of the global scheme of things. I'm not too bothered about the young lads - good luck to them.
There are strong rumours coming out of England at the moment, Sanjay, that one of the England players has already signed up [with the IPL] and that the big kingpin, the massive one, has turned down an enormous amount of money to play in the IPL - I'm talking about Andrew Flintoff here. Think about the money that is being given to any of the others and you can five-times it, and that is what Flintoff was supposedly offered.
IC: Just to add a point there.
SM: Yes, sure.
IC: I've spoken to Ravi Shastri, who obviously has some inside knowledge on these things and he says the academy [the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore] - just getting back to your point about this large money coming to the younger players and how they handle it - in India will be working on advising these blokes not just about how to cope with the money but also how to best invest the money and those sort of things. I think that's a really important thing and it must be done, otherwise some of these young blokes are just going to go off on the wrong track.
DL: In soccer, in the United Kingdom, the players are earning absolute fortunes. But they are well-taken care of by their professional association and 99 per cent of them are looked after brilliantly. There is always that one per cent that is a bit silly and they do some daft things, but they have got a great gearing for younger players with vast amounts of money. So they [the IPL] can take a leaf out of that book through the players association.
SM: Well, Ian, one of the things we saw in the auction was the curious price tags that were put on players. People like Cameron White and David Hussey got huge sums of money and Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting did not go for much. Ishant Sharma got paid much more than a Chaminda Vaas. What does that tell you?
IC: Well, I guess it is to do with market forces, that is one thing. But I would be interested to find out if the franchise owners have had some pretty decent cricketing advice on these players. I mean, anybody can look out on the cricket field and see if someone has talent, but there are some other things that you need to know. If somebody asked me about a young cricketer, "How do you think he will go?", I would say, "Look he has got the ability. I just need to know what is in his head and what is in his heart." Once I know those two things then I can give you a reasonable answer on how I think he might go.
If these franchise owners haven't got people who know about the game of cricket advising them on what is in the head and what is in the heart of some of these players, then they are going to get burned financially because they are going to be paying a lot of money. And if you are paying a lot of money to somebody who is lazy or weak-minded, then you are going to get burned.
SM: There was something that I learned about the auction that happened in Mumbai - that every franchise had an upper limit as to how much they could spend to get players. What happened in the early excitement was that they got the big names and spent a lot of money and then suddenly they realised that they weren't left with enough money. This meant that although some very good names were being announced, they could not be bought because there wasn't enough money in the purse. Then they started looking at their playing XIs and at their combinations. There was also a case towards the end of the auction where companies realised that suddenly they had a lot of cash left and that was when the names of players announced later started fetching huge sums of money.
Another thing that I learned was that every franchise had a very good cricketer guiding them through the process. I know Rahul Dravid was there for Bangalore, guiding them through their selection of players while buying players. So that was something that was very interesting.
Well, there is another thing that I want to bring up here. I want to ask Ian this: Kerry Packer made such a big impact on world cricket [with World Series Cricket]. Do you see any parallels with the IPL?
IC: I suppose the fact that it is going to bring more money to the players is one parallel.
SM: Do you see commercial reasons for both initiatives?
IC: Well, I think the ICL probably had more in common with World Series Cricket because they both came about as a result of a television magnate who was very annoyed at the treatment he was getting from a cricket board over television rights and decided to go off on his own path. I didn't see many other similarities between ICL and WSC but that was a major one, which I don't see with IPL.
SM: I have two final questions for you and the first one is to David. You get the feeling when you hear certain murmurs coming from around the world. Is there a general feeling of discontent among the cricketing members and the rest of the cricketing world about the Indian cricket board? Is the BCCI being viewed as somebody who is trying to dictate affairs, stamping their authority on matters that are sometimes not even connected with them? Do you think there is a general feeling that the BCCI is trying to be a like boss that is quite happy to flex its muscles?
DL: In a word, yes. That's what people around the world, the people I speak to, particularly the England contingent, think. But I suppose that we are holding our breath. It [IPL] is still very much in its infancy and I'm sure with all these things there is a lot more dialogue to come, a lot more explanation as to where it fits. We will keep coming back to where it fits globally. It can be very exciting. I've got loads of questions to ask: Who is going to watch it? Is it just a commercial deal for India? Is it just going to be on Indian television? I notice that in the UK the big player, Sky Sports, has not bid for it - and they don't get many things wrong. So if you want to watch it in England, you will have to search very hard to find it. Where is it going to be watched? If it's global, well I'm afraid that it isn't global.
SM: We are talking about the IPL because it is the big news now, but it is just 44 days in a calendar year. Who knows how long it is going to last? Five to ten years later, if it doesn't work, we'll look back at it and say that there was this attempt made by the BCCI that didn't quite work. But right now there is just too much of a focus on it.
Ian, lets talk about the old grievance that everybody has about players getting overworked: too much cricket, demands on players bodies and minds. Now we've added 44 days of cricket with 59 matches with the blessings of ICC. How do you view that?
IC: The players cannot ever again put that argument forward about being overworked because, certainly as far as the Australian players are concerned, every time there was an opportunity to play county cricket, they have grabbed it. They haven't been backward in grabbing this IPL opportunity and so they can no longer use that [playing too much cricket] as an excuse.
|The players cannot ever again put that argument forward about being overworked because, certainly as far as the Australian players are concerned, every time there was an opportunity to play county cricket, they have grabbed it. They haven't been backward in grabbing this IPL opportunity and so they can no longer use that [playing too much cricket] as an excuseIan Chappell|
To just go back to your previous question to David, I don't think for a moment that people think that the BCCI are trying [to run the ICC]. If you ask most of the Australians, particularly after this recent series, they will say that they [BCCI] definitely run the ICC. They get the ICC to just do their bidding. A lot of Australian people, certainly, will be a lot happier with the IPL format or the idea of it if they didn't feel that it was being run by a body that, certainly on one occasion or maybe more, has threatened to take their team home from Australia when they felt that things didn't go their way. The BCCI has dreamt up this format of IPL, which as David said is very exciting, but if they wanted to be inclusive then they could have done a hell of a lot of good for world cricket. Perception is very important in this matter. The fact that they threatened to go home when things weren't going their way in the series between India and Australia, has damaged their credibility enormously. With what has gone on this summer with the Australians, if you ask the bulk of Australians, they will say that the ICC is a complete waste of time, it is run by the BCCI and they [the Australian public] don't have the BCCI up very high either as far as credibility is concerned.
SM: It is a fact in today's world that anybody who has the money generally has the authority and power. Perhaps the world is just a little disgruntled in the way that the BCCI exercises its power. That is perhaps where there is a slight grudge.
IC: Absolutely no doubt about that. I think if the BCCI used this power wisely they could do wonderful things for the game of cricket - they could get it going in a very good direction and have it very strong globally. I certainly don't have the feeling that the BCCI is using the power wisely and that they have, at heart, the best interests of the game of cricket.
SM: Can I quickly add that the BCCI will have a different face or a different approach with every different administration that comes into power. So perhaps a more accurate description of this BCCI would be that the administration that is currently in power has this approach, and who knows, when the administration changes, the BCCI could also change its approach to the game and the way it flexes its muscles.
David, ten or 15 years from now, do you see the IPL as a firmly established cricket tournament that changed the face of world cricket or do you see it as a huge gamble with more forces working against it than for it?
DL: I think it is going to go on and it will get bigger than what it is now. I think that is what they are aiming for. What I was trying to say was what my old dad used to say to me: "Just look in the mirror and ask yourself, 'Have I done the right thing?'" That is what the BCCI must ask themselves: have they done the right thing? Not for the BCCI, but for the game of cricket.
IC: Well, what we may find down the track, and what I would like to see happen, is that we have Tests being played purely between the major nations - because I'm not sure it's viable with most of the other countries - and all the cricket nations are involved in a limited-overs tournament that I suspect could be a hybrid job: It may be a 30-over game, falling in the middle between the 50-over game and the 20-over game. That's where I think we might finish up. As I said, that's my wish rather than thinking it will happen. I just think that something's got to give and that's where I'd like to see it finish.
SM: Well, my final thoughts are that Lalit Modi has some very interesting concepts and this is another one that has got the attention of the world. Good luck to him. I just hope that something good comes out of this for world cricket, not only for Indian cricket. That, I think, is everyone's wish.
Thank you David and Ian for joining us on the Cricinfo Round Table.
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