Tuesday, 21 August 2007

ICL v/s BCCI

Some random thoughts on ICL for whatever they are worth:

ICL yesterday unveiled 45 odd Indian cricketers and announced the names of some Pakistani and South African cricketers. Of all the names mentioned, Mohammed Yousuf of Pakistan seems to be the only one who has some international cricket still left. But we'll talk of that later.

Considering the various threats handed out by the BCCI and considering that every cricketer's "dream" is to play for the country one day, its surprising that as many as 45 Indian domestic cricketers have aligned with ICL putting their careers in jeopardy. Going through the names Dinesh Mongia and Ambattu Rayadu are the two names who probably had some hopes of playing for India; I reckon others realised that they had no realistic chance of playing for India.

For ICL to succeed - and I'm one of those who want ICL to succeed for reasons I'll enumerate later - we need some more big names to join. I'm assuming that the current crop of 20-25 people who are on the fringes of selection for the Indian team will not join ICL at this stage. But, someone who has an international career at stake. Maybe, someone like Kaif, or Ashish Nehra, or Irfan Pathan. Cricketers who do not know whether they will ever be asked to play for the Indian team again, and are biding their time to see what position to take.

Viewership and sponsorship is what counts. I reckon there will be no shortage of sponsors; anything remotely connected to cricket attracts huge sponsorships and Zee Television will surely know a thing or two about selling commercial spots. Viewership is where ICL will get hit. We have seen empty stands for Tests and domestic cricket; its only the ODIs which get the spectators in droves. Even the Challenger series between India Sr, India A and India B teams were largely played in front of empty stands.

Here's where the international players come in. A McGrath, Warne, Klusner, Inzy or Chris Cairns can get the crowds in small centres. With the BCCI and all affiliated organisations controlling most of the cricket grounds, ICL may have to look at grounds with private organisations; IPCL grounds at Vadodara, Andheri Sports Complex at Mumbai; etc. Railways must be having their own grounds; so would large corporates like Tata's, Godrej's etc. A nice sponsorship deal should get the corporates interested. Laloo Prasad Yadav has already thrown his weight behind ICL and so has Jagmohan Dalmia. Surely, these two gentlemen would sway some people for giving out their grounds!

The Brabourne Stadium at Mumbai has been used for wedding receptions and other gala functions. Surely, a little cricket shouldn't harm them. Problem is that with the Wankhede stadium up for renovation, Brabourne must have been hopeful of getting a few matches from the BCCI.

ICL now has to be a little more responsible than what it had planned for. With BCCI acting tough and if these Indian cricketers have put paid to ever playing for India, then ICL needs to ensure that these players are taken care of. For this to happen, ICL has to organise cricket for 8-10 months in a year, invest in infrastructure, have proper trainers/coaches/medical staff, etc. This needs money; this needs sponsors; this needs viewership; this needs some more high profile players. ICL needs to be professionally managed; players need to know where they stand. If ICL can do all this, there is no reason why it cannot succeed. And if it succeeds, I see a day when ICL will take over the functioning of the BCCI. That will be the day when the "bravery" and "courage" of these 45 cricketers - as rightly acclaimed by Kapil Dev - will be immortalised.

Finally, BCCI has revoked the pension of Kapil, Madan Lal, Sandip Patil and Balwinder Singh Sandhu for aligning with ICL. Well, I thought pension was in recognition for services already rendered. I mean, if you retired from Mahindra & Mahindra for eg., and then were approached by Bajaj Auto for help / assistance in setting or running an automotive plant, then will your pension be liable to be cancelled by M & M?. No way. Then how can BCCI get away with this? Well, Mr Sharad Pawar and other functionaries of BCCI, please have a closer look at the names whose pensions have been scrapped. They were part of the team which brought the cricket World Cup home in 1983. Scrapping their pension? Just not cricket.

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