Sunday, September 02, 2007

Zee's Indian Cricket League (ICL): It's all about dollars!

By John Cheeran
What is the Indian Cricket League, floated by the Zee Group, is all about?
Is it about strengthening the Indian cricket? Or is it a long-term business venture to win telecast advertising?
No doubt there is excitement in the air. I become cagey when Kapil Dev talks about values and strengthening the Indian cricket. Kapil is after for a bigger slice of the money cake in the Indian cricket. He could not realize his grand designs with in the BCCI, whether it is Ranbir Singh Mahendra or Sharad Pawar.
Let me tell you, all these worthies including Zee’s Subash Chandra, and our illustrious veterans such as Kapil, Sandeep Patil, Bawinder Singh Sandhu and Kiran More are chasing dollars. And they are free to do that. Just as you and me are chasing dollars.
The only point is that you cannot expect to cry over and win the game. You cannot expect the Board of Cricket in Control for India to make things easier for the ICL. The BCCI will, and they have the right, fight to protect their turf. For them things are easy since the nature of cricket is such that it arouses patriotism in its followers more than the boundaries of scoreboard.
Organised sport is half reality, and half fantasy. That’s why the BCCI when questioned with another moral crisis of sorts told the Indian supreme court a few years ago that they are selecting not the Indian team but only the BCCI team. At that stage, unfortunately, India’s sport editors, hollow men all of them, looked elsewhere.
Do you have any stake in the BCCI? I don’t have. Do you have any stake Indian cricket team? I do have, and therefore I watch Rahul Dravid and company. Not because they are Jagmohan Dalmiya’s boys are Pawar’s henchmen.
Can anyone challenge the rights of the BCCI to run the cricket in India? Can Subash Chandra do it? The ICC will deal with the BCCI only. Malcolm Speed has made that explicit. And in a year’s time Sharad Pawar will be the ICC supreme. I cannot see the ICC offering a helping hand to the ICL. And without the veneer of nationalism, none is going to watch the Indian Cricket League. As it is there is hardly any free day without official cricket. Subash Chandra will have to wait a long time. No doubt, Chandra is a canny tycoon. He has the resources to play a Test match in this battle of Twenty20s. The ICL will be in limbo despite the odd international has beens such as Brian Lara, Damien Martyn and assorted Pakistani cricketers.
For the ICL to take off, Chandra has to shake up the ICC. To conquer the ICC, the easiest route is to conquer the BCCI. Well, all said and done, the BCCI holds annual elections, and Subash Chandra can contest the elections. For that he has to become the candidate of any affiliated unit. May be Dalmiya could help him. But even Dalmiya is searching for a foothold in the Cricket Association of Bengal.
One thing is sure. ICL’s emergence will force the BCCI to shed its flab. One should not fear competition, on the field and off the field. But floating parallel bodies with a heap of currency notes is not the way to boost Indian cricket.
Everyone is busy comparing the Zee’s ICL to Kerry Packer’s World Series. But what those pundits in their hurry are forgetting to point out is that Packer dismantled his circus tent soon he reached an agreement on telecast rights with the Australian Cricket Board.
Tell me how long did Packer series last? Where is the Packer Series now?Much in the same fashion, the ICL too shall pass. Pawars may come and go, but the BCCI and the ICC and so-called official cricket will go on and on. Till India discovers its Maradonas and Peles.

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