Indian Premier League May 29, 2008

IPL eyes global network of leagues

James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, has confirmed interest in staging an IPL-style competition the following season © Getty Images

The Indian Premier League, which will wrap up its inaugural season on June 1, is just the first step of a "grand vision" that will eventually lead to the birth of a network of similar franchise-based models across the major cricket-playing nations culminating in the annual Champions League that will rival its football counterpart in terms of quality, money and glamour, a top IPL official has said.

England is working on developing their Twenty20 model; South Africa is convinced by the success of IPL and is already reviewing their current franchise format; Cricket Australia may launch their IPL version as soon as next year; and even Pakistan is thinking seriously about starting their edition of IPL.

"This is the grand vision," IS Bindra, an influential member of the IPL governing council, told Cricinfo. "The vision is to move cricket to the next level, and get each league in each country to resemble the English Premier League with an exciting mix of international and national players. And then you have the grand Champions League, like the UEFA model which has taken football to such heights."

The immediate task is to start the Champions League as planned from this year. Officials of the BCCI-backed IPL are understood to be meeting a team from Cricket Australia in Mumbai on May 30 to explore whether the event, involving the top two domestic Twenty20 teams from five countries, can be held in England between September 28, when the ICC Champions Trophy in Pakistan ends, and October 9, when India's home Test series against Australia starts.

"The problem is the four-day practice match on October 2-5. We will try to work out a solution with Cricket Australia because the IPL franchises who will be part of the Champions League will want to have their best players available," Bindra said.

Bindra, who recently returned from a trip to Melbourne where he briefed the directors of Cricket Australia on the mechanics of organising a franchise-based league there, said one of his focus areas after taking over as the principal advisor to ICC in July would be to "ensure that cricket moves to the next level in world sport" in this direction.

The concept, Bindra said, is backed by senior officials of the major cricket boards. Giles Clarke, chairman of the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), "has expressed interest in the model" after being briefed by Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman, last month; James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, has confirmed interest in staging an IPL-style competition the following season; and Nasim Ashraf, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), is "very keen to launch a similar tournament there" after having deputed two representatives to participate in the planning stages of the IPL last year and "learn from the process".

In fact, Cricket Australia had invited Bindra last month to brief its board of directors on the concept at a resort near Melbourne on May 7-12. "There was a formal brainstorming session and an informal briefing, and the concept generated a lot of interest among the audience which included former cricketers like Allan Border and Mark Taylor. What I had suggested was a franchise model similar to IPL. But there might have to be some local adjustments.

"For instance, when we discussed the IPL within the BCCI, the question was whether the teams should be owned by the local state associations or private franchises. Some of us strongly suggested the franchise model because only then can you acquire top players for the teams and make the competition truly global. But the BCCI is a non-profit body and has to look after the state associations, too. So a compromise was arrived at, and we have IPL teams owned by franchises and run in collaboration with state associations. But Australia would have lesser problems since they have a corporate model of governance and have much fewer associations -- six, I believe, compared to 30 in India," Bindra said.

Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo in Bangalore