Category Archives: ICL

A Requiem For The ICL

The latest news from the IPL — that is, off the field — is full of intrigue and scandal. Taxmen raiding the IPL offices (or not raiding, Lalit Modi insists, but simply turning in for a stroll)? The Cochin team putting in a bid with backers who didn’t know what they were backing? Twitter twitter?

Of course, we don’t know if anything illegal has taken place. We don’t know much about anything, really; the BCCI and the IPL are hardly paragons of transparency. But I wanted to just pass a little note about how badly I feel about the ICL’s demise. It always struck me as patently unfair that a group of athletes could not organize themselves and practice their trade without the BCCI’s authorization. The specter of the ICL belies any claim that the IPL is a triumph of the market; if the IPL is winning, it did so by quashing the competition, not engaging it.

I don’t know if the market could have tolerated two Twenty20 leagues. But I think there would have been so many other benefits (Econ 101 tells us enough about that). In the IPL, we have a situation highly prone to conflicts of interest and corruption: one man controlling access; huge amounts of money; shifty politicians (and I hate to count Shashi Tharoor in this group, but what is the matter with this man?) hanging around.

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Tipping Cricket’s Finances And Twenty20

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting story on Twenty20’s financial revolution in the cricket world yesterday. Since it appeared in an American newspaper, there was the obligatory bemused tone about this strange game that so many people apparently love. That said, the article has some redeeming points, including a basic introduction to the different attractions of Test cricket and Twenty 20:

Joseph O’Neill, author of the bestselling novel “Netherland,” says that T20 is “a kind of home run derby” — his tone making it clear that he doesn’t think much of either T20 or home run derbies. Both Mr. O’Neill and Don Lockerbie, CEO of the USA Cricket Association, compare test cricket to a golf tournament. It’s an “examination of character,” explains Mr. O’Neill, “a test of your weaknesses and strength….The great psychic adventure that constitutes a test match doesn’t happen in Twenty 20 cricket.”

Conversely, when Mr. Lockerbie, who dreams of bringing T20 to America, calls it “home run derby meets running bases,” he means that as a good thing.

And many English fans would agree. Introduced in 2003 to boost the fortunes of the flagging lower-level “county game,” which is the domestic league below the international teams, T20 succeeded at its mission; grounds filled up and the format was accepted as the kind of harmless AAA sideshow the late-baseball owner Bill Veeck, creator of the exploding scoreboard, might have come up with if he had owned a cricket team.

Good stuff. There’s also some interesting figures about IPL wealth. Read the whole thing.

Hating on Twenty20

Alex Massie may be a bit too harsh on Twenty20, but I think his conclusion is spot-on:

Indeed, all the noise and colour associated with the Twenty20 “spectacle” is a clue to its essential emptyness: you need all this nonsense to distract the audience and prevent it from realising that that there’s very little that’s interesting actually happening on the pitch. High church cricket fans might be depressed if the game were sold to an abbreviated format that was, nonetheless, superior to the traditional forms of the game, but it’s quite another thing entirely for the game to be bought and soldto promote a markedly inferior, less compelling, less textured and varied form of cricket. And yet that is where our current masters are taking us. It is madness.

I’d only add a brief amendment to Massie’s argument. One of the big joys of Test cricket’s interminable length is that it allows the audience to keep the game in a pleasant background. You go to watch the game, obviously, but you also go to relax, read a book, and have the general hum-drum of leather and wood around you.

Twenty20, however, is the opposite: it’s an all-out assault on the senses. Even if the on-field action doesn’t include a boundary or a wicket, there’s music, cheerleaders, interviews, and the like. You just can’t look away, even if you want to. It’s really not cricket at all, but hyper-entertainment.

Detaching IPL from Time, Space, and Country

Regular readers will know I don’t have much love for the IPL, or Twenty20 for that matter. I thought the last tournament went on too long and, even though I’m glad cricket viewership increased, I thought the franchises were made-up and the amounts of money thrown about ill-considered.

The latest move to off-shore the tournament to South Africa, though, is an interesting experiment. The IPL began with a big first challenge: will cricket fans root for teams that did not exist before and have only the barest connections to their host cities? Why would, say, a Jaipur resident support the Rajasthan Royals, given that the captain is Shane Warne, who is clearly not Rajasthani? At the time, I didn’t think it would work out, but apparently it did.

Now, the IPL inadvertently poses a second big question: does it even matter where a cricket match is held? Continue reading

True Hospitality, New Zealand Style

Over at 99.94, Rajesh Kannan makes a great point, contrasting the BCCI’s behavior with New Zealand’s exemplary hospitality:

I can’t end this preview without mentioning the New Zealand cricket board’s hospitality in allowing six of the Indian test playing squad to play in the domestic tourney. It’s an incredible gesture, and one that Vettori will probably curse if Dravid or Laxman grind them down, but no praise is high enough for the board. India have always started poorly on the road, and playing no practice matches in alien conditions is usually a recipe for disaster for India. You can’t but compare the New Zealand board with India’s own petty mandarins who insist on excommunicating every bacterium that has every been within a five mile radius of the ICL. Power does corrupt, and it’s an ugly sight to see the BCCI hypocritically treading down the same autocratic path it has decried in the past.

The IPL Moves Out of India

Some sense prevails. The Indian Premier League will be moved outside of India, though it’s not clear where. South Africa appears to be the leading contender, because it has eight grounds to host the eight teams and its strong native cricketing culture will do the tournament proud. (Andrew Miller has a wonderful column on why England will not be able to host: broadcaster disagreements; political ill-will between the BCCI and the ECB; a broken county structure that is dangerously unequal.)

Those who disagree with the decision — which include none of the franchise owners, apparently — will say cricket has been betrayed. The BJP, an opposition party, has already chimed in, according to the New York Times:

The league’s announcement drew political repercussions on Sunday. The main national opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has consistently attacked the governing Congress Party-led coalition government for being weak on terrorism, criticized it up for failing to guarantee security for cricket.

This is beyond silly. Continue reading

Once More, Against the IPL

Homer and I engaged in some fairly live back-and-forth about whether or not the IPL means something, and whether or not it would hurt if it were postponed for safety reasons. I think the exchange is worth a read. 

I did have one more point to make, which I’m sure Homer will respond to: simply holding the IPL does not prove that India can host international sporting tournaments. Completing the IPL tournament without a security lapse or terror attack would. Continue reading

Is Cricket and the IPL Recession-Proof?

The Economist weighs in on how cricket will fare in the worldwide recession:

Leading sports are, by and large, standing up to recession better than most. They have two advantages. It helps, first, to be able to sell broadcasters and sponsors what they crave in a world of myriad channels: lots of dedicated viewers…The other advantage is timing, which is just as important in the business of sport as it is on the field of play…The IPL, for instance, started out with a ten-year, $1 billion agreement.

Later in the article, one analyst said the IPL would survive any economic woes, but English county cricket may suffer more (different markets, different pressures).

Ajay Shankar had a more pessimistic take on the IPL’s economic status last month. He noted that a variety of sponsors were trying to renegotiate or even pull out of deals.

Postpone IPL Season Two?

My Two Cents made a rousing pitch for keeping the IPL on schedule this year, even as the tournament faces doubts  from foreign cricketers and the Indian government as well, jittery about election season.

I’m not so sure I agree. My Two Cents lists a few good points — he’s right that it would de-hypenate India from Pakistan, at least partly, though I think that’s happened already to some extent — but he lists some other dubious ones, like: Continue reading

The BCCI Continues Stupidity Over ICL

As Harsha Bhogle recently noted, the whole gig’s up in the Twenty20 rivalry: the ICL pretty much lost, and the IPL won. No one has money on hand right now, not even Zee’s ever-resourceul chairman, so the IPL and its bosses might as well smile on the puny ICL rebels who dared to leave broken domestic careers for a somewhat lucrative gig.

But no. Not only will the the BCCI refuse to strike a deal with the ICL, it even refuses to countenance its existence: witness the recent fracas in New Zealand, with Sachin Tendulkar and Dinesh Kaarthik prevented from playing in a Twenty20 because Hamish Marshall (who?) would be present.

This isn’t just stupidity on the ICL front. Continue reading

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