Home > Cricket News, icl info > Analysis: Rebel league challenges Indian cricket board

Analysis: Rebel league challenges Indian cricket board

The Indian Cricket League, a brand new rebel organization, has thrown the gauntlet to the Board of Control for Cricket in India by designing its own tournament and contracting local talent, as well as roping top international stars to its base. 

 The duel is historic as the rebel aims to wipe out the supremacy, monopoly and bureaucracy of the current Cricket Board, all in the name of nurturing talent and developing the sport. The rebel league’s matches are currently primed for a November opening in cricket-crazy India. 

 Since the rebel’s birth in April, the BCCI has been stung by the defection of its young contracted local cricketers to lucrative playing deals offered by the ICL. Beside the exodus of local players signing up for the ICL’s mouth-watering million-rupee offers, several retired Indian cricketers — including some in non-playing positions with the BCCI — have also called it quits and jumped on the ICL bandwagon to fill in executive, administrative, and coaching positions. 

Perceiving a serious threat to its monopoly, the BCCI had warned that it would not pass on any financial benefits to defecting cricketers and other officials and had threatened to ban them from playing in international and domestic tournaments, including the National Cricket team. However, it could not stop the ICL from dragging it to court to challenge the legality of intimidating players who had opted to join the new league.

The recent order from the Delhi High Court, restraining public sector units including the BCCI from penalizing players who have defected to the rebel cricket league, has left it licking its wounds. Meanwhile the verdict has elevated the rebel’s position to a serious contender vying for a stake in the cash-strapped cricket market.

Mangesh Tendulkar, cousin of batting maestro and top Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, laughs off the ICL as a group aimed only at making money rather than genuinely determined to develop the sport at India’s grassroots levels. “BCCI is perhaps the richest sports body in World Cricket today and ICL is bent on breaking its monopoly for a share of the same. If the motive was to develop sports in India, why does ICL not support football or hockey, which need a strong induction of funds and sponsors to improve their infrastructure and players’ emoluments?” he asks.

Tendulkar also believes that the ICL’s idea for a separate league, beside those currently run by the BCCI, is half-baked. Contrary to the big names it has contracted, not much is known on how the tournament would run or what the format of matches would be and how contracted players will be selected to form and represent a team. “The assembly line looks good but the output is uncertain,” he says.

However, Hong Kong Cricket Association executive committee member Animesh Kulkarni believes that the ICL is not a bad idea and that competition to the current Cricket Board is a good thing. “If we can accept competing businesses, films, and art forms, what is wrong with a club entity like ICL forming its own league and contracting players to run it? It is absolutely legal and will help cricket,” he says.

Competition would test the BCCI’s competence in distributing its wealth and resources for the betterment of the sport, something critics say it has done poorly in the past. But the looming hands of politicians add another dimension, clouding the simple fact that these are competing firms clashing over the same business model.

BCCI Chairman Sharad Pawar, who is also president of the Nationalist Congress Party and holds the agriculture portfolio in the current administration, has refused to provide any sports stadiums held by the BCCI to conduct tournaments hosted by the ICL. However, the ICL response has been equally forceful and decisive, with Minister of Railways Lalu Prasad Yadav pledging all sports grounds held by the railways to them.

As the sports battle heats up in the offices of ministers and politicians, the ICL — backed by powerful Indian media baron Subhash Chandra’s Essel Group — has successfully lured up to 50 of India’s young, talented and first-class cricketers into its stable. Amongst the lot are Kaushik Reddy and Ambati Rayudu, who have performed brilliantly in local tournaments but have been sitting on the sidelines awaiting selection to the national team.

The current Board’s election process is fraught with bureaucratic attitudes, favoritism and selection criteria that revolve around zonal parity, where equal representation from four broad-based regions — east, west, north and south — is sought rather than consistent performance. The ICL plans to ditch the zonal roadmap and instead instill a selection process based on performance.

The ICL’s biggest draw, however, remains the induction of international players. The reported signing of retired West Indies superstar Brian Lara, former Captains Inzamam-ul-Haq of Pakistan and Stephen Fleming of New Zealand, as well as South African all-rounder Lance Klusener, is expected to raise the morale of Indian players and boost the sporting standards of the league. Despite mixed feelings and skepticism from other international cricketing councils, the rebel league is forging ahead with million-dollar contracts for more international caps like Australian bowling genius Sharne Warne.

In its attempt to counter the rebel’s charge, the BCCI has taken some retaliatory measures to retain players in its fold. It has announced a hefty pay hike for domestic cricketers, raised the match fees of its domestic league tournaments and increased the expenditure on women’s cricket. It has also set up a zonal cricket academy in Kolkata and an indoor stadium in New Delhi. According to media reports, it is also planning a two-tier cricket league involving domestic leagues in four countries and an international league, along the lines of the Champions League in football. Industry analysts believe that Cricket Australia and the event management company International Management Group are helping the BCCI in this project.

The ICL is a club entrant that has no authority at the national level. Unlike the privately funded BCCI, which is recognized by the International Cricket Council, the ICL has no jurisdiction over national team selections or organizing international matches. Yet this zealous rebel with a penchant for cricket and a fierce drive for business has rattled the BCCI with its smart idea of providing playing opportunities for talented young local players and organizing exciting cricket for the ever-hungry fans.

In a land that worships cricket with the same fervor as gods and goddesses, spectators are the key to success for both groups. Whether it is development, business or plain entertainment, the one who wins the audiences is most likely to win the match. In all probability, the rebel has fractured Goliath’s supremacy. The game is on.

Categories: Cricket News, icl info
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