India news April 9, 2012

Star TV deal shows 'strength of Indian cricket' - Srinivasan

ESPNcricinfo staff

N Srinivasan, the BCCI president, has said that terminating the board's broadcast rights contract with Nimbus Communications last year was the right decision in hindsight and that the new deal with Star TV proves the "underlying strength of Indian cricket."

"At a time when some felt the popularity of cricket was going down in the country because of some overseas setbacks, the deal [with Star TV] proved the opposite," Srinivasan told the Hindu. "It is a big feather in BCCI's cap. Now we have two strong broadcasters, one for Indian cricket and the other for IPL. The BCCI is in an assured position."

Star, owned by Rupert Murdoch, won the rights to broadcast Indian cricket for 2012-2018 last week. The deal, which also includes internet and mobile rights, was valued at Rs 3851 crores (approximately $750 million) and covers 96 matches. Multi-Screen Media (Sony) currently owns the rights to the IPL, for which it paid $1.6 billion for nine years starting in 2009.

Television ratings for the IPL slumped last year as the tournament began just six days after India's victorious World Cup campaign ended but Srinivasan expects the league to bounce back and have a successful season. He also denied the tournament led to player fatigue, saying the cricketers are professionals and that most of them do not play all three formats of the game in any case.

When asked whether the significance of Test cricket had been undermined because players make more money from the IPL than they do playing Tests, Srinivasan said that wasn't a valid argument. "The value of a player in the IPL is linked to his performances for the national team. I firmly believe a cricketer's first priority is to play for his country. And unless a player goes through the domestic grind, he will not be able to sustain his performances in the IPL."

On the plus side, Srinivasan said, the IPL has led to the discovery of new talent and helped the development of Indian cricket by giving young players the opportunity to rub shoulders with established international players on a big stage.

One of the constant criticisms of the domestic game in India has been the state of the pitches, which invariably favour batsmen and typically result in an overwhelming number of high-scoring draws in the four-day format. However, Srinivasan said the BCCI is committed to preparing competitive pitches for domestic cricket as that is "at the very heart of India's evolution as a cricketing nation. We will be holding a workshop for curators on this topic. This is one of the important agendas this year."

India struggled on their two most recent away tours to England and Australia, losing eight consecutive away Tests and their No.1 Test ranking. In addition, the team's poor form led to reports of a rift between some of the senior players on the tour of Australia but Srinivasan said there was no truth to them, calling the stories "unfounded" and "not fair to the side".

"Almost the same bunch of batsmen had done exceeding well on the previous tours of England and Australia. It's just that now we are going through a transition phase. We will face the transition. We have a younger generation of players who will step up. We are setting up more specialist academies at the ground level, will focus more on 'A' tours.

"There is no reason why we cannot be the No. 1 Test team again. As I said, the team is bound to falter a little during the transition phase."

Edited by Tariq Engineer