Indian Premier League 2011 May 27, 2011

The IPL needs independent watchdogs

What makes the IPL v country debate more confusing in the case of Indian players is that both are managed by the same entity: the BCCI

On Thursday morning, Cricket Australia sent out a media advisory: it was an injury update on seven Australian cricketers, in alphabetical order, beginning with Brad Haddin and concluding with Steven Smith. The email wouldn't have been noticed had it not happened amid the tumult of the Gautam Gambhir IPL saga, a Twitter version of which would read: GG aggravates injrd shoulder in IPL, 4-6 wks rest reqd, Windies tour in doubt; GG didn't know injury that serious, KKR hassld, BCCI angry.

Australia's next tour is in August but clearly someone in CA is keeping an eye on its contracted lot. India set off for the West Indies on the night of May 31 and they play their first match on June 4. Their stand-in captain's injury has come as a shock to the BCCI.

Or perhaps it hasn't. Did the BCCI not know how all its players were doing before it selected the team for the one-dayers in the West Indies? Even if there was no post-World Cup check-up, was there no pre-event fitness report citing every cricketer's every niggle? Or did no one read it?

The injury report of Andrew Leipus, Kolkata Knight Riders' physiotherapist, states that Gambhir had taken cortisone injections in his shoulder for the past few years, so it's not as if the shoulder tore itself during the World Cup final. Was no one paying attention? Had the IPL distracted them all?

Through the saga of Gambhir - and, before him, the similar case of Virender Sehwag - the simplest question is this: which of the three parties in this case could have made the most-objective decision? The player, for whom the financial benefit - his contract with Kolkata Knight Riders was worth $2.4 million a season - of playing 64 hours of cricket over six weeks is far too lucrative to ignore? The franchise, whose most expensive auction pick was turning out to be its most valuable one? Or the BCCI, the IPL's owners, whose essential job is to ensure the health and welfare of that entity called "Indian cricket?"

On paper, the BCCI surely should have been the ones on top of the situation. In reality? Never mind. When formulating its framework, the IPL has not only chosen to ignore precedents from other sport, but in the Gambhir case, its own paperwork too.

In football, where the club v country debate is much older and deeper, there is a clear understanding that players must be freed for international duty during major events - even if it is mid-season and for up to a month, as with the biennial African Cup of Nations. For less important events like friendlies, club and national coaches engage in constant discussion about how to use the stars wisely.

In the IPL, every overseas player's contract contains an indemnification clause covering injury: should a franchise or a player fail to disclose an injury that affects a player's participation in national colours, the franchise can financially be penalised by the player's home board. For Indian players this happens to be the BCCI, the owner of the IPL. No one is clear whether it exists or not on the Indian player contracts.

The IPL's enormous economic success has ensured that neither the event nor its contradiction are going to vanish; what the IPL will continue to do is to churn up issues like the one involving Gambhir. Until now, the matter of players compromising national duty for IPL riches have mostly centred around those from other nations, with the varied case studies of Chris Gayle, Jerome Taylor, Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan. With Sehwag and Gambhir, the questions are at India's door. And they will keep coming.

The BCCI's answer in the club v country debate is well-known. It revealed its stand by resting three senior players - MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan - for the limited-overs part of the West Indies tour.

Every IPL v India episode proves why the BCCI actually needs to be overseeing the event, not participating in it. The West Indies saga - the players rested and injured - also indicates why "conflict of interest" is not just a collection of words. Consider this: were the Gambhir matter to be brought to a meeting between a single representative each from the BCCI, the IPL governing council and the franchises, N Srinivasan could possibly sit alone in a room and talk to himself. He is the BCCI secretary and its president-elect, a member of the IPL Governing Council and the owner of Chennai Super Kings.

The BCCI secretary would have known that Dhoni could do with a break after the World Cup but the franchise owner and IPL governor in him would have wanted his Chennai captain up and running. When a solution was found for Dhoni, why should Tendulkar or Zaheer be denied? Were India to tour England ahead of the West Indies would Dhoni, Tendulkar and Zaheer still have been rested? Who was sitting in during the Indian team selection for the limited overs section of the West Indies tour? Chairman of selectors K Srikkanth or Chennai Super Kings brand ambassador K Srikkanth?

In professional sport, most athletes will make careful financial choices and push their bodies as far as they possibly can, which is what Gambhir was doing. It is time to really worry when the players' own governors, its Board, believes it is no big deal if India go to England without their best opening combination of the decade.

The BCCI may be celebrating the conclusion of another financially successful IPL season but the time for chest-thumping is over. As other boards juggle FTP plans with the terms of player associations, the BCCI needs to visualise what is the best IPL window for Indian cricket in 2015, when the next World Cup comes around. The event has enough cheerleaders; the IPL now needs detached minders and independent watchdogs to ensure that its own appetite doesn't cannibalise Indian cricket.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rohith on May 29, 2011, 13:35 GMT

    Sharda - Great piece. BCCI needs independent legislative and judicial committees for making and enforcing policies and procedures. In the case of Gambhir, it is obviously evident that he chose to play out the IPL despite the risks (or the inevitable?). All the parties involved in mismanaging Gambhir's injury (even if that means N Srinivasan and Gambhir himself) should be dealt with. The BCCI isn't set up for an unbiased handling of the situation.

  • J Ranjith on May 29, 2011, 11:34 GMT

    Srikkanth can support CSK and still be chief selector of Indian team - He is always an out-spoken person but always frank without any malice. So far, Srikkanth has not promoted his son to Indian team, his son doesn't even get a place in CSK team - Did any of these "right-thinking" people notice that? He has not promoted Badri till now where he could have forced Badri three years back into Indian team instead of Raina or Pujara had he been biased in his selections. His selection policy has also helped India win ODI world cup and attaining no.1 in Test Cricket. What wrong has that guy done? Please let us breathe for a while some pure air and do not contaminate us with this kind of trash.

  • J Ranjith on May 28, 2011, 20:32 GMT

    Procter, Your comment is the only valid point in this page. As long as there are people praising this as an excellent article and amazing piece, these journalists would keep beating up unnecessary sentiments to create void interests which is of no use to the goodness of cricket. This writer is turning this wonderful site slowly into a tabloid.

  • J Ranjith on May 28, 2011, 12:02 GMT

    Nishath,Every article in this column is so much overboard, in case you did not know it.

  • Dummy4 on May 28, 2011, 9:07 GMT

    Sharda, I think you went a bit overboard with this article.

  • Dummy4 on May 28, 2011, 8:50 GMT

    Punching Srinivasan, Srikkanth and CSK seems to be the biggest sport of the season for north-Indian journalists.

    Anyway, nobody (except for a couple of purists) really cares about a tour to the world's last but one ranked team. It would have been grossly unfair if Dhoni was made to sit out the IPL to play some insipid & pointless ODI cricket with Windies.

    India has enough bench strength to play the Windies without its top stars & in tests it is time to find the replacement for Dravid & Laxman and what better time it is to see the likes of Kohli and Badri groomed for the job.

  • Dummy4 on May 28, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    Srikanth did his job to select the best of the available pool.. If we tour a stronger opposition than WI I am sure Dhoni/Srikanth would have planned differently... finally it is the players decision - what happened in Malinga's case when SL CB forced him?

  • al on May 28, 2011, 4:11 GMT

    You've never been on twitter, have you ?

  • Bharat on May 27, 2011, 21:53 GMT

    BCCI is a soft target so Sharda Ugra and her ilk keep on beating them up to create controversies. How is BCCI to be blamed if Gambhir or KKR physio don't report his injury till last IPL match? And Dhoni, Tendulkar and Zahir resting has happened earlier too ie a recent as when India went to Zimbabwe and and played ODIs against NZ before World Cup. Their resting then had nothing to do with IPL. Sehwag and Gambhir had been injured also recently which also has nothing to dow with IPL. West Indies today is not among top cricketing countries and resting top players so younger ones get a chance is a good idea. What we need is independent watchdogs for journalists who try to sensationalise cricketing news by unnecessary beating up BCCI all the time!

  • kanishka on May 27, 2011, 14:48 GMT

    problem is IPL itself, firstly it is so long & strenous,it drains out indian international players & secondly the huge money it offers, much more than international cricket, that is why Indian international players are playing in IPL through injuries like sehwag, gambhir, yuvraj and other like Tendulakar, Dhoni and Zaheer they played whole of IPL and opting out from WI international tour! this is the not the first time IPL is hurting Indian international cricket, IPL2 and IPL3 made India crash out of follow up World T20 in early stages in 2009 and 2010. still no lessons learnt! this is real SHAME for indian cricket. the only remedy for this solution is to make IPL short 2 week competetion rather than 6-7 weeks and they should reduce the money offered in IPL to lower than what Indian international players make. that would help indian international players to choose country over club, unless that happens all real cricket lovers who love international cricket should boycott watching IPL

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