I was extremely excited to read this morning, that Zee head honcho Subhash Chandra has decided to form the Indian Cricket League, ICL, as a professional cricket league separate from the BCCI’s structure.
While I am not a big fan of professional leagues like the NFL and the NBA because they truly do not encourage loyalty, I am also sick of having to play domestic cricket for your “state” side. Automatically, as a player playing for a “state” side, there is a tendency to believe things do not need to be fixed immediately. For example, if there ia a fielding problem, I doubt if someone is going to step up and say we need a fielding coach. If the team loses in the first round or worse, gets relegated to the second tier, the coach may not be fired at all. And of course, there is absolutely no passion among the fans today and it could be because of lack of interest in the domestic circuit but more interestingly, it could be because of lack of exposure to who is playing. How many of us know the #15 player in the Indian team? How many of us know, on the other hand, the captain of the Mumbai Ranji team? Worse, the winner of this year’s Ranji team?
But with the creation of a television network-sponsored league, there is an expectation now that there will be extensive coverage on a well-known television network, and since it is going to be a professionally run league, there will be accountability. The babus of our cricket team and the ones who aspire to be there, cannot simply say they are going to pass on the domestic circuit because now that is going to be their bread and butter. The professional league will then also need to have professional support staff. No more nominated managers and physios acting like trainers. If it is anything like the other professional sports, there will be a strict contract whereby the cricketer may not be able to do skydiving, for example. In short, the teams’ interests will drive the cricketers’ interests.
And those are all the good points. Not all is good though. Playing for the “state” does inculcate some sort of loyalty within the team. So when Sairaj Bahutule went to play for Maharashtra, there was some level of disappointment as well as a feeling that he had ditched “his team”. Whereas in a professional scenario, trades are part of the game. You play for one team one day and due to any situation with you or the team, play for another team another day. You are simply a resource that has to start working at 100% from day one and you may have many day ones in your career.
But besides the loyalty thought, there seems to be nothing wrong with a professionally run league and in fact, it may be a good idea to keep the BCCI on its toes, even though Zee has said that they are not competing with BCCI but complementing them. I don’t know how BCCI will let its contracted players play in a separate league with different commitments, but we’ll see how this plan unfolds and what happens next. I can’t wait to see it happen, if it materializes.
Congratulations, Mr. Chandra and all the best!