Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The big cricket debate

Have been following the Indian Cricket League vs BCCI scrap story for a while now. Quite closely, what with the series of shows that we have done ever since the ‘Rebel League’ was launched. And it certainly is a most fascinating story, the way it has panned out so far.

But what’s interesting is where the story has reached now:

- Around 50 domestic cricketers have defected to the ICL
- A number of cricketers past and present from other countries have also joined the party
- Kapil Dev and a number of other former cricketers have joined the ICL in administrative capacities
- The BCCI has announced no ban on the defectors, but have announced that these cricketers will not be eligible for any BCCI benefits
- The BCCI has also, though not in as many words, said that defectors will face a life ban from the BCCI
- The ICL has decided to go ahead anyway

But what does all this add up to?

- Kapil (and others like More, Patil, Prasanna, Sandhu, Chauhan, et al) are clear winners in the story – they will be part of the ICL, make a lot of money, work full-time, and be looked upon as martyrs for having been sacked from the BCCI
- The domestic tournaments – Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy, etc – will suffer for the moment, with a number of leading cricketers missing from the set-up
- The cricketers who have joined the ICL will make a fair amount of money, which no one will grudge

But the biggest point is something else altogether…the ICL will not succeed. Obviously.

- For years now, we have bemoaned the lack of spectator interest in domestic cricket tournaments. Now, does the ICL realistically expect people like Dinesh Mongia, Nilesh Kulkarni, Deep Dasgupta, Ambati Rayudu and others to start attracting the crowds?
- Does the ICL realistically expect the Indian cricket-watching public to throng the grounds only because Brian Lara is there?
- Or does the ICL expect people like Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf to attract the crowds? Inzamam! In a Twenty20 format! Comic relief, maybe. And what about Yousuf?
- Or is the ICL banking on Nicky Boje and Lance Klusener? Klusener at his peak might have been a draw, but now? And Boje, a spinner who doesn’t even get picked in the South African team, where Graeme Smith is currently the number one spinner!

What will the ICL be selling itself with then? I haven’t found an answer to that. And pushing the answer further towards the negative end is the fact that the ICL is unlikely to get a single big stadium from the BCCI or a single umpire of any repute.

Kapil, yesterday, was at our studios, and I did a very ‘successful’ show with him, where he actually said that the BCCI is ‘ruthless’, is doing ‘dadagiri’ and that he would go on a ‘hunger strike’ if good performers in the ICL are ignored by the BCCI. I agree with everything he said. But where are these youngsters whose performances should be monitored by the BCCI? Rayudu? Jhunjhunwala? Who else? Nilesh Kulkarni?

I could go on and on here, and not move a muscle from the original understanding behind the creation of the ICL – a big statement made by Zee in anger after having lost the TV deal. But the story is interesting. Except that there’s not a single party that stands to gain (except in that they will make a few dents in the opposition).

Mihir Bose writes on the story here.

And Siddharth Monga writes a well-argued piece here.