BCCI’s myopic vision leaves IPL in tatters

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Sharing the league profits and making it a permanent fixture on the ICC calendar will solve the club versus country row

Sanjay Jha 

Illustration: Anand Naorem

THE BCCI possesses a remarkable propensity for hara-kiri. As Gautam Gambhir of the Kolkata Knight Riders picked up a shoulder injury, preventing him from going for the West Indies tour just a week after the conclusion of IPL 4, he joined an illustrious bench of colleagues in various stages of physical debilitation. Within seconds, the recurring debate of “club or country” gathered hysterical momentum. Actually that issue is irrelevant; what is perhaps more crucial is some “structural adjustments” to set the summer festivity in order.

The IPL is just an unofficial domestic private corporate league tournament. The problem, however, is that it is owned by the world’s richest cricket board with a disproportionately large share of the pie. The BCCI literally bulldozes the entire system blatantly even at the cost of disrupting established process; the Sri Lankan players were almost headed for a headon confrontation with their own board prior to the England tour. The BCCI’s dictatorial ways have often proved cataclysmic but now with India sending a depleted team to the Caribbean, its hubris has boomeranged on itself. But there is still a way out.

The logical solution to all IPL related anguish lies in ensuring that it becomes a permanent slot in the ICC’s Future Tours Programme. The IPL should have a fixed tenure during a reasonable part of the summer, perhaps commencing around mid-March and ending within a maximum of five weeks. The other international schedules can then be arranged around that. But to make this a reality, the BCCI will have to make a singular concession — give the other cricket boards/ICC a share in its huge profits. This will ensure that the IPL becomes a global event, not just a local monopoly of feudal warlords with bountiful treasure chests. Second, its massive magnetic pull will ensure that it has a competitive advantage against competing T20 leagues. But remember, the BCCI is an avaricious body with an autocratic streak.

The core problem is that while BCCI mandarins have talked of the IPL as a worldwide brand, it is run in an archaic style reminiscent of the Middle Ages. How can you have parttime office-bearers managing full-time professional players in an industry with multi-billion dollar earnings? It is this irrational administrative set-up that is the source of all issues; Lalit Modi had the chutzpah to mastermind a fraud as he was fully aware of its grotesque ways and Gambhir is a poor scapegoat for the same reasons. The scheduling of the IPL within a week of the World Cup reveals BCCI’s astigmatic vision. It is run with the scornful attitude of those who regularly float ponzi schemes.

The BCCI is run with the scornful attitude of those who regularly float ponzi schemes

Unfortunately, barring sporadic media scrutiny and criticism from refractory bloggers, the BCCI remains largely unaffected despite its innumerable indiscretions. The absence of a players’ association is a hugely limiting factor. It is a great pity that not a single colleague of Gambhir spoke out in his support, or even cursorily mentioned the ridiculous format that did not allow players any breathing space. The BCCI exploits this with ruthless resolution. Worse, many former players eulogise them with careless abandon. Modi was called a Moses. The alchemist is currently absconding.

As for the franchise owner, he has precisely eight weeks for prime asset utilisation, unlike a properly established English Premier League. Thus, the overkill on hapless players earning overnight windfalls, who become victims of the myopic vision of the game’s guardians. The IPL was sold as a business model with exponential growth up to infinity; it was fallacious. As IPL 4 has shown, it has already reached a plateau. TRP ratings have crashed, and franchise expectation of enhanced valuations have come a cropper.

The BCCI needs to know though that to have the elusive ‘window’, the raison d’etre of its current woes, it cannot shut the door on international boards and to pure horse sense.

Sanjay Jha is founder of Cricketnext.com. 
[email protected]

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