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Thread: Will the ICL survive?

  1. #1
    SB Addict gobind's Avatar
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    Default Will the ICL survive?



    Will the ICL survive?



    After 79 ICL players decided to withdraw, it has become obvious that the league, in its original avatar, is no more




    It is a question that has been snapping at their heels ever since the

    momentous launch in Mumbai two years ago. And now, it's a question they

    can no longer run away from. Will the ICL survive? Tony Greig, the face and

    voice of the private venture, says the battle is not over; Himanshu Mody,

    the brain behind it, says the league will emerge stronger. But after 79 of its

    Indian cricketers decided over the last month that they don't want to be

    tagged as rebels any longer, it has become obvious that the Indian Cricket

    League, in its original avatar, is no more.


    Of course, cricket might still spring back to life under the ICL banner, possibly

    this October. But that would, at best, be a diluted version of what was once

    hailed as a revolution in world cricket. For now though, it looks like it will be a

    long haul back, if at all.



    What are the options?


    ICL officials say that the current exodus of players is part of a larger plan

    where they will first trim the losses - running costs, including a wage bill that

    runs into millions of rupees - and then start with a clean slate. They say that

    they still have around 40-odd players on the rolls and can recruit new talent

    whenever they need to. In the meantime, they are hoping that the economic

    recession will let up, and that they will also succeed in getting the courts in

    London to force the ICC into granting the ICL recognition, citing restrictive-

    trade-practice clauses, as it happened in the famous Kerry Packer-versus-

    the-establishment tussle in the 1970s. Such an outcome, they claim, will lead

    to two things: sponsors will be back with money, and the players will only be

    happy to sign up for the official version.


    But for now this is just a scenario. The reality is that the official IPL, and the

    BCCI's sponsors, are mopping up whatever money is left in the market; and

    the players are now wary of signing up for a league that will shut them out of

    all official cricket, thanks to the BCCI's all-pervading ban. In fact, in the

    middle of the last ICL season, a senior player revealed the trauma and

    frustration he was going through, after even his local college refused to let

    him use net facilities. As for the players who are still with the ICL, only a

    handful are Indian; the rest are foreign players, most of whom, as Greig

    admitted, have retired from international cricket and so are driven by

    a "different motivation".


    What went wrong?


    The ICL claimed that their mission was to promote domestic Indian talent,

    and they did succeed to an extent, at least in shining the spotlight on

    talented players like like R Sathish, G Vignesh and Alfred Absolem, who may

    have slipped under the radar otherwise. But overall, the league's cricket was

    inconsistent, and the foreign players failed to sparkle - Brian Lara, their

    biggest signing, failed to even turn up after a season. They were unable to

    sustain the initial buzz, having struggled with sparse crowds in the first

    season, and found comfort later only in Ahmedabad, a cricket-crazy city that

    was kept out of the IPL loop. Besides, the league, which was launched with a

    projected three-year budget of Rs 100 crore (US$ 21 million approximately),

    struggled to evolve a profit-making model.


    Then again, within months of the ICL's launch, the IPL swept through cricket,

    with the full backing of the powerful BCCI and their sponsors, drowning

    whatever hopes the ICL may have had of carving a niche for itself in the

    business of Twenty20 cricket. More than anything else, it was the vindictive

    attitude of the BCCI that finally broke the ICL's back. Players were banned,

    and the dues they were officially entitled to from the BCCI were kept on

    hold; sponsors were aggressively persuaded to stay away; and the ICC

    network was used to ensure that other national boards shut their doors on

    their ICL players. Not only did the Indian board ignore worldwide protests

    against their aggressive and monopolistic crackdown, they also pushed the

    ICC's board to refuse recognition to the ICL, leaving the world body

    vulnerable to a legal challenge.


    The BCCI even led David Morgan, the ICC president, to believe that the issue

    could be sorted out amicably but ended up having two "compromise

    meetings" with the ICL that yielded nothing. The BCCI's offer? Shut down the

    ICL and take up an IPL franchise instead, or similar variations, including a

    suggestion that the ICL operate as a veterans' league. The ICL, not

    surprisingly, rejected these offers.

    What does this mean for the players?


    Some of the ex-ICL players that Cricinfo spoke to were confident that they

    would be selected to play for their states again. This could be true for

    established players like Bengal's Deep Dasgupta and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala,

    Hyderabad's Ambati Rayudu and Uttar Pradesh's Shalabh Srivastava. But it

    may not be such an easy road for others. Some state officials are still

    seething at the way these players walked out on them two years ago - the

    Hyderabad Ranji team was almost wiped out. Return tickets, obviously, will be

    at a premium. Besides, as one state association official asked: what will they

    do with the players who stepped up to fill the breach two years ago?

    Then there's the IPL. The BCCI initially said that those who returned from the

    ICL would be eligible to play domestic cricket immediately (the IPL is a

    domestic event), but seems to have developed second thoughts since. They

    have clarified that the norms for IPL eligibility will be revealed later, and

    suggested that they may apply a year's cooling-off period on these players

    before they are let into the official league. But according to some ICL players

    who have returned, the event that they are really hoping to be a part of is

    the BCCI's soon-to-be-launched inter-corporate tournament, to be

    conducted in 50-over and Twenty20 formats - the winners will take home Rs

    1 crore (US$ 213,000 approximately), and the runners-up half that amount.


    The word on the street


    Naturally, the ICL's willingness to release their players without much fuss,

    and the BCCI's open welcome, have led to intense speculation in Indian

    cricket circles. An ICL official privately suggested that these moves are part

    of a compromise that could see Zee TV, ICL's parent company, get a share

    of the official broadcasting pie when the BCCI's TV rights come up for

    renewal next year. Zee TV is currently blacklisted by the Indian board, and

    one of the reasons why Subhash Chandra, the owner of Zee, started the ICL

    was that he was denied the opportunity to broadcast India matches in 2004,

    which led to a long-drawn legal battle with the BCCI. Incidentally, Chandra

    also shares a good personal rapport with Sharad Pawar, the former BCCI

    president, who still has the final say in Indian cricket matters.


    The buzz doing the rounds among ICL players, meanwhile, is that they will be

    part of an IPL auction now, with a cap of US$ 50,000 per player. But, of

    course, all these suggestions have been dismissed as "wild speculation" by

    BCCI officials who claim that the ICL is simply crumbling under its own

    financial burden.

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