ICL cancels World Series in March
The ICL has hit recession mode with a series of moves that reflect the current economic realities. The World Series Twenty20 tournament, scheduled for March, now stands cancelled, and payments to players have been put on hold until the management completes a stringent performance review that could lead to downgrading of payments and even sackings.
Himanshu Mody, the business head of the ICL, said the non-availability of Pakistan players - Lahore Badshahs are the ICL's biggest draw - was the other major reason for the cancellation of the March tournament, which will be replaced by one involving Indian players. The October edition of the World Series is on schedule as of now.
"Several other initiatives have also been lined up, including a talent-spotting programme in schools across India," Mody told Cricinfo.
That apart, the ICL is also trying to plug some glaring holes from the last season and has terminated the contracts of Chris Cairns and Dinesh Mongia, who were asked to leave midway through the last season. The official line is that the two have been sacked because of non-performance.
Significantly, the ICL is undertaking a major review of its existing contracts and it is understood that the performances of 18 out of 85 Indian players and 15-16 from a pool of 70 foreign players are under the scanner. Players who fail to perform will either be released or asked to sign up again for a lesser fee.
Three prominent Indian players, two from Australia, and one from Pakistan have confirmed to Cricinfo that their payments have been delayed and said no timeframe has been specified so far. While the players claimed that payments for 2-3 months are to be paid, ICL officials said that dues up to December have been cleared.
The ICL pays its Indian players every month and foreign recruits in quarterly installments and Jason Gillespie, one of the ICL's foreign recruits, told Cricinfo that "the ICL management told us that they were sorting through their finances."
"The global credit crisis is affecting everyone, not just sporting organisations," Gillespie said. "I'm not too concerned. I'm confident everyone will be paid. These are just difficult economic times. Everyone is struggling." Mody said the ICL is "looking into the issue and grievances, if any, will be resolved".
Asked about the World Series, Mody admitted that that global economic downturn has come as a dampener. Apparently, "ad spends" have dipped so low that a leading TV advertiser who had spent up to Rs 15 crore last year on advertisements has a budget of Rs 50 lakh this year. "The economics of our model is event-based," Mody said. "This means that if we hold the event, we would be affected by the current climate. But we are fine as of now."
Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo