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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

past saga of ICL ~ is global rebel league possible again ?

DO  you know or remember – Alok Kapali, a leg spinner who played for Bangladesh; he had a cult following there, especially after his hat-trick in a Test.  The promise of a luminous career began in 2002 when, in his first year at the highest level, Kapali carved an unbeaten 89 in an ODI against West Indies, followed by two more half-centuries in the Tests in the next two weeks.

Some say the 8th season – IPL 2015 is not as exciting ! – that is perception !! – as the league phase is drawing closer – the probabilities are exciting.   There have been some young performers from Shreyas Iyer to Sarfraz Khan  while veterans like Virender Sehwag struggle.   As of now,  Kings XI Punjab, who finished as runners-up last season, are placed at the bottom of the points tally and look the first to be ejected from the play-offs race. Meanwhile, Chennai Super Kings, the most successful team of the tournament, continued to dominate the charts.  Ajinkya Rahane and  Ashish Nehra  are topping the batting and bowling charts respectively.  In between, there have been washouts and a 10-10 over match too whence Mandeep Singh enthralled making 18 bal 45.  Sunil Narine has been directed not to bowl off spinners and is sort of out of tournament !
Rajagopal Satish of Chennai Superstars playing !

Remember ICL still – the  Indian Cricket League (ICL) was a private cricket league funded by Zee Entertainment Enterprises that operated between 2007 and 2009.   Its two seasons included tournaments between four international teams (World XI, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and nine domestic teams notionally located in major Indian cities as well as the champions Lahore Badshahs who were based in Lahore, Pakistan. The matches were played in the Twenty20 format.  Each team was coached by a former international cricketer and comprised four international, two Indian and eight budding domestic players.  CSK’s equivalent were Chennai Superstars !! DD = Delhi Giants; MI= Mumbai Champs – that faded away as Boards banned players and grounds at prime locations  were not made available !!

Now there is news of a  ‘global rebel league’-  the ICC confirmed it was investigating the registration of company names which it regarded as of "concern to the sport of cricket" as reports of a rebel organisation which might split the game continued to emerge.  The Guardian newspaper reported recently  that Indian media conglomerate, the Essel Group, had attempted to register the company name "Australian Cricket Control Pty Ltd" and had made similar efforts in other cricket-playing nations.  Owned by billionaire Subhash Chandra, the driving force behind the ill-fated rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), Essel issued a statement saying they were "geared up to enter the sports business at a global level, focusing on cricket".

Whether it is merely an international Twenty20 league or a full scale assault on the ICC's governance of the game, it is clear some challenge to cricket's status quo is afoot.  Cricket Australia  dismissed as "highly speculative" media reports that Michael Clarke and David Warner would be offered $40 million, 10-year contracts to play in a rebel league.  A report in  Hindustan Times said Essel, which through its Ten Sports channel owns rights to cricket around the world but not in India, had registered 15 city-based leagues in India. "We have a massive plan for cricket in India and groundwork has been going on in many states," Naresh Dhoundiyal, a senior Essel Group official, told the newspaper.

Lalit Modi, who helped set up the lucrative IPL Twenty20 league before falling out with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), said he had been approached by Chandra to get involved in a plan to set up a new global governing body but had turned him down.  "Subhash is a powerful body no doubt but it is a foolish plan at the moment," he said in an interview with the Guardian on Thursday.

Back home,  it is stated that  Indian cricket leaders are not convinced that a rival league could drive a wedge through the sport's global competition or threaten the power of the International Cricket Council. After all, they say, this has been tried before in India - and didn't succeed.  "No one can stop someone from setting it up (a new system), but to dislodge what is established is very difficult," Niranjan Shah, the former secretary for the Indian cricket board (BCCI),  is quoted as saying.  "The ICC is cricket's only world (governing) body," said BCCI’s Anurag Thakur. 

One could recall that the players who joined ICL were banned and could get back to National reckoning only after BCCI announced an amnesty scheme.  Former India allrounder Madan Lal believes that gaining players' confidence will be the biggest challenge for anyone trying to form a breakaway competition.  New Zealand Cricket believes Black Caps are not at risk of being poached by organisers of a proposed rebel league, backed by Essel Group. Barclay NZ representative at ICC  said NZC had blocked attempts for the registration of the name Aotearoa Cricket Ltd. and revealed that the board became aware of potential New Zealand involvement in December when it had to block attempts to register company names New Zealand Cricket Ltd and Cricket Ltd.  The Sunday Star Times reported that New Zealand cricketers are under a master collective agreement that runs through until 2018 but players' individual contracts are renewed annually. Barclay said despite the fact players could be targeted on an annual basis, NZC was not concerned players would be poached.

Brains behind IPL believes perilous finances of counties make them ideal targets for businesses planning to move into cricket world by establishing own leagues and governing body outside control of recognised boards. English cricket is the most vulnerable to take over by a rebel league according to Lalit Modi, the founder of the Indian Premier League. His warning comes as the England & Wales Cricket Board faces one of the biggest decisions of its history as the debate over the future of Twenty20 cricket in this country threatens to split the game. The ECB is currently reviewing the state of county cricket with a view to relaunching the Twenty20 competition in 2017.

Ironically, it was ECB which first mooted the T20 before it went global !!  Alok Kapali struck a century against India in an Asia Cup match in June 2008, but within months would take a hiatus from Bangladesh cricket by signing up with ICL.  He was the unlikely hero to score the first century in ICL – a 60-ball 100 in Hyderabad that won him a scooter.  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
6th May 2015.

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