What the prophets of doom have been predicting is slowly coming true
– international cricket under the ICC’s aegis is gradually become
hostage to the IPL. Consider this:
New Zealand have shortened next year’s home Test series
against Australia to two matches to help alleviate scheduling conflicts
with the lucrative Indian Premier League Twenty20 season.
Six senior New Zealand players, including captain Daniel Vettori,
delayed signing their contracts with New Zealand’s cricket board until
late July, after conflicts between the IPL and the team’s international
programme were clarified.
The unstated sub-text: six senior Kiwi players including the captain
were willing to refrain from signing national contracts if doing so
meant they couldn’t go make money in the IPL. And the Kiwi board took
the threat seriously enough to make a drastic change to the
The ICC had the option, when framing its latest Future Tours
Program, to bow to the inevitable and create an IPL window of a couple
of months. But the global body could not be seen to be bowing to the
dictates of an upstart league, hence it refused such accommodation –
and here on, will find itself increasing facing the problem of top
stars opting out of national commitments unless the schedules are
adjusted and they are allowed to make full use of the money-making
opportunities afforded by the Indian league.
Standby for outbreaks of heartburn from across the cricket playing
world; for diatribes on how Indian money is spoiling international
cricket. Such polemics miss one central point: the IPL is a fact of
life, as is the desire of cricketers to earn as much money as they
possibly can while they are still on top of their game, and the
solution clearly lies in making a simple accommodation.
The more interesting and potentially more far-reaching confrontation
however is internal. The face-off between the BCCI, represented by its
secretary N Srinivasan, and high profile IPL commissioner Lalit Modi is prima facie
a dispute over the bill presented by the IMG for services rendered –
but there’s a far larger battle brewing beneath the surface.
Harsha suggests that it is a personality clash.
The IPL has a visionary in Lalit Modi but if it
wants to compete with Wimbledon or the English FA or the Augusta
Masters it must create strong systems and ease away from personality
cults. Modi and Srinivasan cannot oppose each other!
I suspect that to see this as a battle of wills between
Srinivasan and Modi is to concentrate on the battle, and ignore the far
larger war. Check out a couple of links from the morning papers: state
associations weigh in on IMG dispute, and this other story on the controversy. Clips:
Cricket Board’s affiliates want a reduction in the Rs 33
crore fee payable to the International Management Group for services
rendered in conducting this year’s Indian Premier League in South
Africa, according to BCCI sources.
“A fee reduction in the range of Rs 7 or 8 crore is what the members want,” sources said.
The 25 associations affiliated to the Board are set to get Rs eight
crore each as their share of the IPL spoils and apparently want an
increase in this amount.
First up, we have now officially entered into the war of letters.
Thus, if Modi and the IPL wave around the letters of Mukesh Ambani and
six of the other seven franchises, BCCI secretary N Srinivasan can now
wave in response the missives of the 25 associations that comprise the
Why would state associations get Rs 8 crore each year, considering
they do zip towards the conduct of the IPL? Because that is how the
machinery works: the associations elect the office bearers who, in
turn, reward these voters with matches, grants etc.
In this cozy little scheme, the franchises are the outsiders — and
what the board fears above all else is the prospect of the franchises
demanding and getting a share in the decision-making process. Consider
It is also not clear why the working committee, the
all-powerful arm of the BCCI, was in such tearing hurry to pass a
resolution to this effect on this potentially tricky issue. A few
working committee members that TOI spoke to admitted to the haste on
their part but are livid with the IPL franchise owners for “poking their nose into” something that is clearly “none of their business”.
“The issue involves two parties - the BCCI and IMG. The franchise owners have no locus standi.
The matter is being reviewed by the BCCI president, who I am sure will
come up with an acceptable solution,” a working committee member said.
There lies the crux of the problem: the BCCI’s honchos cannot permit
a situation where its absolute right to take any and all decisions is
diluted in any way, and they view giving in to the franchises on the
IMG issue as the thin end of a wedge that could eventually create huge
fissures in the time honored power structure.
N Srinivasan represents the hierarchy; Lalit Modi, who earlier this year lost
elections for the post of president of the Rajasthan Cricket
Association, is now no longer a part of that structure, has no stake in
it, and would love nothing more than to create an independent power
Funnily enough, Lalit Modi had come up with the idea of
franchise-driven sport several years before the IPL was born. He was
out of power at the time, and had taken the idea to the then fuhrer,
Jagmohan Dalmiya. Dalmiya thought about the proposal and finally turned
it down. The reason given? Professionally run franchises, he argued
then, would not be content to just pay money into the board’s coffers,
but would demand a seat at the top table and a share in the
The fear expressed by Dalmiya then is coming true now. This
particular shindig will subside soon, with Board president Shashank
Manohar finding some kind of compromise formula ahead of the BCCI AGM
September 24. But unless I miss my guess, the larger battle for the
control of Indian cricket is now fully joined — and its going to be
prolonged, bloody and attritional. [Oh, and much fun for us on the