The  emergence of  Indian Cricket League (ICL) promoted by Zee Network is a development that could have a long term impact on Indian Cricket. However, will this be a positive development that would help India resurrect itself from the World Cup 2007 debacle? or Will it divide the already demoralized Indian cricket into two rival factions? .. is the question that is uppermost in the minds of every Cricket lover in India.

The truth is, it is in the hands of BCCI to either of the above scenarios come true. ICL can only react to the choice of BCCI.

If BCCI thinks that ICL is a rival to be nipped in the bud, they will go ahead with banning players from participating in ICL tournaments and also investing time and money to set up its own TV channel which will compete with not only the Zee Network but also the ESPN and STAR. This could affect ICL plans and restrict their activities to organizing exhibition matches of retired Cricketers. This may not be a disaster financially since international players like Mcgrath and Warne would add an element of interest to the matches. In a few years from now, Saurav, Sachin and Rahul may also join this band. ICL will then focus on harnessing the brand values of international cricketers. Their expenditure would be limited to payment of match fees and there will be less investment on the development of the game.

On the other hand, if BCCI and ICL can work together, ICL can invest in developing a Cricket infrastructure in the country which can invest in development of cricket and players may graduate from ICL to BCCI. This would require more investment on development but less on hiring the services of ex-cricketers.

BCCI would benefit from this arrangement since ICL would then be sharing some of the investments which people expect BCCI to make in the development of Cricket in India. As long as ICL players aspire to play for the BCCI team, there is no loss of prestige to BCCI since it will remain as the apex organization in India. ICL will then be considered as subordinate to BCCI.

The best structure would be to admit ICL as a member to BCCI like any other state association without any jurisdictional limitations. In otherwords, ICL may be permitted to field a team of its own in the domestic tournaments picking players from any part of the country and making payment of whatever fees they can command. In the process, domestic cricketers would make more money and ICL would be like the “Rest of India” team. It would be like the earstwhile Bombay team from which 6 to 7 players would be picked for the Indian Test squad.

Obviously some state teams may be upset since their best players would go out to ICL. This fear is however academic since it is not possible for ICL to chose more than two or three players from any state team and they would anyway be available for the country. ICL and the State Associations may also work in coordination to the extent that a State association should  feel proud if their players move onto ICL team as if it is a step closer to being in the Test team. Even today of a state player is selected for India A matches he would miss the Ranji matches. The emerging situation would not be different from this scenario with ICL selection  substituting the India A team selection.

If required it may be agreed that ICL will not pick more than 3 players from any single association for a given series/match and a certain part of the fees payable to the player would be paid to the State association as a “Royalty” for release of the player.

This sort of a system would enable co-existence of ICL and BCCI and help young and old cricketers alike. It will also preserve the apex status of BCCI . BCCI may also make use of the Zee TV network in substitution of its own network with every cricket venture being treated as a “Joint Venture” in which BCCI gets a part of the profit share.

I suggest both BCCI and ICL give adequate thought to the above suggestion.

Naavi

August 8, 2007

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