March 2, 2008

The privileged and the damned

The IPL is making the BCCI pots of money. But what are the rest of the cricket-playing countries getting out of it?

Will Indian audiences root for Brett Lee to dismiss Tendulkar in an IPL game? © AFP

Now that the money has been spent and the hype has diminished to a dull roar, it's time for a few observations and questions about the IPL concept.

The most obvious question: why didn't the ICC strike a deal in return for sanctioning the IPL contests? Is this further proof that the ICC is an offshoot of the BCCI? The IPL concept is an enormous boost to Indian cricket, but what about Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and the West Indies? They all need major assistance to boost a game whose progress is being hampered by political unrest in the case of the first two, and financial problems for the latter pair. There should have been a levy imposed on IPL to compensate other countries for the players they developed who then signed for a franchise. This should have been a priority in the negotiations between the ICC and the BCCI.

In the case of New Zealand, a country where the depth of cricket talent is about as much as that of an above-ground pool, their playing strength is being further evaporated by defections to the rebel Indian Cricket League competition. New Zealand cricket is religiously banning players who sign with the ICL, in accordance with directions from the ICC, and yet it is apparently getting no financial compensation for backing the IPL.

Did the IPL franchise owners seek advice on players' personality and work habits before signing them to lucrative contracts? The skill of the players is there for all to see, but the intangibles are something only a shrewd cricket person can judge. If that advice hasn't been sought then some of the owners are going to get burned: lazy or mentally weak players will become a huge financial burden.

Will the Indian public barrack for Brett Lee to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar? The new-generation Indian cricket fan will, according to former captain and now commentator Ravi Shastri. If that is the case they are more magnanimous than their Australian counterparts, who will have difficulty cheering Ishant Sharma on to knock over Adam Gilchrist.

That leads me to the decision Australia's Channel 10 made to splurge about $15 million for the rights to five years coverage of IPL. Will this turn out to be a coup or a cock-up? Australia is a delineated society when it comes to sport. There are very distinct cricket and football seasons and the IPL will be encroaching on the winter game. Australians will stay up late to watch an Ashes series in the middle of winter but the IPL tournament will be a serious test of whether the country has fully embraced the idea of being part of a global sporting village.

Twenty20 is currently flavour of the month but what about the future? For cricket to thrive on a global basis the longer versions of the game need to survive in order for young players to hone a wide range of skills

Players taunting and abusing each other has been big news during the current Australia-India series. With the IPL featuring players from both countries - along with those those from other major nations - will an unwanted disease spread even faster? The IPL's organisers would do the game a huge favour if they stamped out a cancer that the ICC has either been unable or unwilling to eradicate. The IPL could start by getting the captains to publicly state they'll put an end to all unnecessary on-field chatter.

The award for the smartest move so far goes to the Jaipur franchise for appointing Shane Warne captain/coach. This has the potential to be an ongoing involvement and Jaipur is smart to tap into Warne's vast knowledge and highly active cricket brain. If his talents are used wisely, it will be a huge boost for young cricketers in the region.

Twenty20 is currently flavour of the month but what about the future? For cricket to thrive on a global basis the longer versions of the game need to survive in order for young players to hone a wide range of skills. However, Test cricket is struggling in many countries and even the 50-over game is considered a tired format in some regions. In addition, the star players are now in such demand that there's a danger they'll eventually be drained of all their enthusiasm and flair.

The ideal programme for the future could well consist of Test matches played purely between the major cricket countries, and those sides plus the appropriate developing nations then competing in hybrid 30-over tournaments. With strong administration, thoughtful scheduling and reasonable financial arrangements in place, cricket could flourish worldwide with that format.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • BapiDas on March 2, 2008, 18:39 GMT

    An extremely valid and relevant point. Which way does the game of cricket benefit from the IPL? The huge amount of money that would change hands will end up where? Yes, the participating players will financially benefit. The franchises will hopefully make money to justify their huge initial investments. BCCI coffers will most certainly be overflowing. But what about the infra structure? Will the grounds, ground staff, facilities stand to benefit?

  • Xcrictic on March 2, 2008, 16:39 GMT

    i really wonder why people(especially not those of India) are hating IPL. After all its a cricket´s version of something like FA cup of football.

    If an audience can enjoy Ronaldo or someone else kicking a fantastic goal against a local goal-keeper why not people can enjoy some Brett Lee or Bond striking a beautiful LBW or bowled out some Tendulkar or Dhoni in those matches.

    Grow up you guys. Its all about the game and only matters to those only who enjoy the game but not for those who just want to critisize.

  • PppSss on March 2, 2008, 16:03 GMT

    Some valid points Mr. Chappell. The ICL, as I see it, is a reflection of the NBA and NFL in the USA. While the talent pool is fantastic, the level of play very high, the stakes are purely and solely money. There is nothing else involved. Forget training young players - they better get it at school, their local communities or college,,,so that they can sell themselves to the highest bidder. Yes, who will recognize the schools or colleges in the cricket equivalent. Where will they get their monies? This will work only if all avenues involved in feeding talent to the ICL are duly enticed to keep it coming and duly compensated. But what about the countries that cannot spend that kind of money to promote college and locals. Very soon they will never be represented and the ICL will be solely a pool of Indians, Australians and the English. All other nations are in severe financial straits...SA, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Pakistan etc. Where will the talent come after this crop?

  • E.Kaushik on March 2, 2008, 14:18 GMT

    I completely agree with the concerns that Ian Chappel has mentioned here. Apart from the obvious ones that have already been mentioned, here are a few more: On one side the paying public, cricketers all complain of excessive cricket and they have added to the annual itinerary. Public in India don't identify with city-based teams and the best example is the Challenger series where India's top 30-odd players play each other in front of empty crowds. How many people in India are even aware of Sachin playing a domestic T20 tournament? After the novelty dies down, why would someone from Ahmedabad be interested to watch a Jaipur V Mohali game, especially since the IPL is trying to create a city-based loyalty? Conditions in the stadia across the country are still pathetic for the paying public. Why would someone spend a fortune to watch what is essentially not even an India game? Hope the BCCI has done it's homework before jumping onto the T20 bandwagon!

  • Chris.Rulz07 on March 2, 2008, 14:16 GMT

    I live in Aus and i don't see channel 10 giving up AFL matches over IPL matches. Channel Nine who is currently broadcasting the CB series should broadcast as they hav no AFL matches. I'm a fan of both sports so i'm happy either way.

  • s3ns3 on March 2, 2008, 14:11 GMT

    I very much like your commentary, particularly trivial things which count a lot in the bigger picture. This is a bit off-topic though. What prompted me to signup and comment upon was the way in which you repeated to Harsha Bhogle's snide questioning over queen during Feb 24th match between India and Australia, "I don't know, I'm a republican." This should go down as a classic. Wonderful! I wonder what it takes for non-experts to go on air (not knowing who is a republican but hailing from a republic country). A big smile, may be!

  • espn36993994 on March 2, 2008, 14:10 GMT

    I wonder, before IPL , how many times has Ian Chappel considered and spoken out about the inequality within individual boards. How often has he rasied concern about the poor standing of boards from the third world countries like Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe etc. Or does his concern only start when Australia , New Zealand and England get effected. Boards in cricket have always been autonomous entities and have been left to fend for themsleves. Not having a complete understanding of the economics of County cricket in England, I wonder how it contributes to different boards . My guess will be not much. Regardless of the boards, which are made up of political autocrats all over the world, I think IPL is great for the game of cricket and specially the players. It is giving them an opportunity to make money, based on their talent and not nationality. No wonder you do not find any players complaining about IPL. It is only boards and ex-players. One is tempted to ask if it is a case of Sour grapes.

  • desi2c on March 2, 2008, 12:18 GMT

    Mr Chappell!.. for so many years it has been heard india has population of billion but yet cannot produce 11 cricketers of good quality now india are doing this... what seems to be the problem... county cricket has been going for years have they tried to compensate other nations! no i dont think so... atleast IPL and ICL (not sanctioned) is giving future for cricket from all countries..

  • virufan1 on March 2, 2008, 11:33 GMT

    Folks, I am no fan of IPL officials. Hayden's words apply well -- to the power-drunk IPL boss. Nevertheless:

    Point #1: If IPL pays money to boards, it is like a tax. Much of it is likely to come from players' pockets. No space to explain how, but it follows from basic economic models. So my question to you is do you want to take IPL money from players to pay boards? If so, ask players to share the moolah with their boards!

    Point #2. How come you and others say this about IPL but have never said much about a similar system in vogue for decades -- county cricket? If IPL should pay boards, why should Somerset not pay West Indies for playing the best, Viv Richards? Sure, you and I can find differences between IPL and counties, but in the end it is foreign players in a domestic tournament. It was sold as a privilege, an honor, skill building, to send cricketers to counties. IPL is no different. Sorry folks, sauce for goose = sauce for gander.

  • captainjamieuk on March 2, 2008, 11:03 GMT

    The IPL is a direct (and possibly panicked and last minute, unless there is evidence to the contrary) response to the ICL. That governing bodies are banning ICL players from even domestic cricket shows how much the ICC and they are in the pocket of the BCCI. Tim May's recent comments are spot on. Why is the ICL a threat to cricket yet the IPL isn't? No-one has convinced me that the ICL is a threat. I hope those players who have been banned take legal action in the same way the Packer players did 30 years ago.

    You say with "strong administration" and "thoughtful scheduling". We both know those are areas in which the ICC are extremely weak. Money is the driving factor here. The players are commodities. Nothing more, nothing less.

    As ever, salient points which will probably go unanswered.

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