At the moment, the IPL can't fully be considered as top flight because the best players are not fully able to participate for the duration of the tournament, if they participate at all.
By Peter Della Penna
Just when you thought it was okay to relax at the conclusion of the IPL and take a breather for two weeks before the start of the World Twenty20, Lalit Modi has opened his mouth. Predictably a lot of hot air has come out, making people shift uncomfortably in their chairs as the temperature in the room rises.
Moses, in the Gospel according to Shastri, has apparently come down from South Africaís version of Sinai, Table Mountain, with a new set of commandments for devout followers of Twenty20 cricket. The first and most obvious commandment is, "The IPL is the lord of all Twenty20 cricket leagues. Thou shalt believe in no other Twenty20 cricket leagues besides the IPL." The first step in getting everyone to believe in this commandment was declaring that the ICL is pagan cricket. Anyone who participated in the ICL was then cast out from the rest of cricket society.
But apparently Modi wants to take it a step further by initiating a twice yearly version of the IPL, with the second tournament taking place in a destination outside of India. The success of the tournament's shift out of India and into South Africa has set the hamster running furiously on the wheel in the mind of the IPL's commissioner.
Clearly, Modi wants to take the steam out of any momentum that might have built up at the ECB in regards to their proposed plan for an IPL-style Twenty20 league. There is also a joint plan that has been discussed between the boards of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to start up a Twenty20 league that would be modeled after the Super 14 Rugby competition. Modi probably figures a second IPL per year would nip both leagues in the bud.
However, it might be good to take care of a few things with the single season version of the IPL before getting carried away with making it a semi-annual tradition.
The first thing would be to truly establish it as the Indian Premier League. At the conclusion of the final between Deccan and Bangalore, 50% of the games in the history of the Indian Premier League will have taken place outside of India. Also there is the fact that the Champions League, which was created in conjunction with the IPL, still has yet to take place for the same reason that the IPL was moved out of India this year. The country was not safe.
Modi is getting carried away thinking about a second IPL when he has not even secured a window free from international cricket for the first IPL to exist. At the moment, the IPL can't fully be considered as top flight because the best players are not fully able to participate for the duration of the tournament, if they participate at all. While Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff missed out on a good chunk of the season due to their England commitments, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, and Mitchell Johnson skipped out entirely because they prioritized Australia ahead of the IPL. Then there is also the part where all Pakistani players were banned because of political friction between India and Pakistan since the terrorist attack in Mumbai last November. When the league is out of its home country and has so many top players missing in action, it's hard to buy into it as being either Indian or Premier.
If reports coming out of South Africa are to be believed, the administrators of the IPL were not the greatest guests in the world. Lining up five learners at every match to tell the world what school they go to and who their favorite player is before they receive a 15,000 rand scholarship from the IPL creates goodwill. However, it hasn't done enough to erase many ill feelings from the initial stages of the transfer of the tournament to South Africa. Host cricket associations in cities such as Johannesburg were left feeling like their grounds were undergoing a hostile takeover. There can't be too many other nations willing to be on the receiving end of such behavior in the future, regardless of how much exposure is gained from the games.
Modi has done well to seize financial opportunities that have presented themselves to the IPL. But with his idea to have two IPL seasons per year, he is overreaching in his pursuit to scale even greater heights on the mountain of cricket. It doesn't appear that anyone has ever told Modi no. In this case, someone needs to before hubris strikes and Modi tumbles down the mountain, crashing all the way back to earth. Modi seems to forget that he is a mere mortal, just like the rest of us.
Contrary to Shastri's belief, Modi is not quite Moses. If he attempts to carry this plan out, Modi will wind up more like Prometheus. This Greek hero was a shrewd man, just like Modi. He accomplished many great things as a Titan, until he tried to go one step further by stealing fire from the gods. Zeus was not impressed.
(Peter Della Penna can be contacted through Twitter @DPMilGaya.) The views expressed in this column are those of the author.