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An Open Letter to ICL's Mr. Subhash Chandra - Chetan Narula Column
by Chetan Narula
Nov 20, 2008
Dear Sir,

Subject: ICL - A travesty of cricket

So, the Lahore Badshahs won the ICL. Does anybody really care? Maybe, the players do, for the fat paychecks that they will be getting. The Hyderabad Heroes care because they lost those fat paychecks. You, being the owner will care because you have got to see that those paychecks don't bounce, and that there is always more moolah coming in for later payments. Your ICL administrators care, otherwise their teary-eyed act on television will resemble just another soap opera. And the commentators you hired might care, for it will get them those paychecks as well.

But does any one in your association bother about the cricket, anymore? No, for that today is probably left only to W.G. Grace, lying somewhere in England, in a forgotten grave. It is sad, sir, that the riches that have taken over the game, have made it oh so poorer!

Yes, the money is the real problem here. One doesn't want to imply that your players don't deserve to earn a livelihood as a majority of them are probably not good at anything else. So cricket by all means has to be their source of getting the cash flowing in. But when the families of these players are broadcast on world television (mostly your network), cheering away to glory just because their bank accounts will get fatter, that is a disgrace to the game we love so much.

Showing some respect for their profession; that is the least expected of them. In today's times of global financial meltdown, it is imperative to think of securing a future but at what cost? In this light, kudos to all those who were offered the chance to play in your 'league of errors' and instead chose to stick with their country. Examples that come to mind are the Bangladesh captain Mohd. Ashraful and fast bowler Mashrafe Mortaza. The need for money is far greater in that country than say in India, the players are paid so less. But did these young players leave their country, and the respect for the game, in order to make a few quick bucks?

No, for if they had done so, then, the game would have lost something, yet again. Like it did, when Shane Bond turned his back on New Zealand or Justin Kemp on South Africa and joined your league! These were all well established players, who would have no dearth of resources at their disposal. It was just the greed of more that drove them here. Or for that matter, the ones taking retirement just to turn up and earn a few fast bucks. Yes, you can show this to Mr. Graeme Hick!

The far grimmer loss to the game is when some one like Imran Nazir, who can bat like Sachin Tendulkar or Sanath Jayasuriya when in-form, doesn't get to play for his country. Add to it, the fact that he is satisfied playing for you is really rubbing it in. Imagine what the game truly lost when hundreds of those Indian youngsters who were lured away with those check-books on the reasoning that they may never play for India.

True sir that they may never play for the country! For there are only eleven spots that you can fill! But is that really why people are taking to this game like it is in their very blood? Is it only about the fame and riches now? Whatever happened to playing the game just because you love playing it?

The players are not the only ones who are to be blamed for this. Yes, the Board of Control of Cricket in India is the one that should be put on trial for defaming the game like this. Things may have taken a turn for the better in the last couple of years for the domestic players but why did they need an ICL from you to wake up to the plight of these players? That was probably because they are too busy handling the vast coffers that trickle down to their own pockets rather than the very source of it all.

Even when they are awake now, what is done to get the common man to come and watch a Ranji match? Instead power is being bequeathed to one man, so that he can arrange more and more T20 games in the country, holding the world of cricket at ransom. That the ICC is also helping him out only goes so far to show that they too are smacking their lips in anticipation of the money coming in!

This may reflect you, the owners of the ICL in a far better light, and indeed the hundreds of Ranji Trophy players, current and former ones, would forever be indebted to your brave move, Mr. Chandra. But you, sir with all the respect, are not Kerry Packer by any stretch of imagination!

For what the great Australian did was keeping in mind the betterment of the game. He introduced a format that would not undermine the value of cricket as such even though his motives may have been similar to yours, and that is to get even with an autocratic cricketing body. Because sir, if you are so involved with the betterment of cricket in India, and of these players, then please just answer one question. When are the First Class games of the ICL starting?

There would be no answers forthcoming, expectedly, as till date the ICL has organized one fifty-overs tournament. That is three less than the number of T20 championships that have already taken place. And this is where your administrators, namely Kapil Dev, Kiran More and all those attached to the running of this cruel cricketing joke, come in. None of them are holding honorary positions with the ICL, something they did when they 'working' for the BCCI. Is it really about the betterment of cricket, and cricketers in India then, or just how many zeroes your accountant adds to their savings at the end of every ICL season?

If it is really about the cricket, then will you please ask Mr. Dev to explain as to how these players are good enough to play for the country based just on their T20 performances? Surely, he didn't mean just that format now did he? For if he did, sadly then, one of the greatest captains this country has ever seen has but fallen prey to these times of money over the game and is being used just as a mere prop by your league.

And so are the commentators. Tony Greig and Dean Jones were players par excellence in their times and then only added to the grace of the press box, once they hung up their boots. When one first heard these voices associated with your League, it was a joyous moment for hundreds of cricket fans across the world.

But when Dean Jones says that a fast bouncer by some bowler reminded him of Jeff Thomson, one can only say, "Really?" Or, take for example, Tony Greig's comments on Nazir's electric hundred in the third final. He announced the batsman as the great Imran Nazir. Again, "Really?" There is nothing wrong in proclaiming his innings a truly great one indeed. But to hail him as standing in the company of some of the best ever, on the basis of one T20 innings, isn't just done. How many people remember Nazir's exploits in Tests or ODIs when he played for Pakistan? Not many Sir!

The point is that your commentators, on air, are there to tell the world what is happening on the scenes and sometimes off the scenes. And since these are some of the stalwarts of the game, it is only given that they compliment the players for their efforts some times. But more than that, it just appears to be on cue and purpose, especially if one hears, "Oh what a great call!", when the batsmen decide against running a single!

One is not advocating the case of IPL over here by mentioning everything that is wrong with the ICL. For if you refer above, there is no difference between you sir, and one Mr. Modi. The only point that ironically sets the two of you apart is that the ICC empowers him to put obstacles in your path. But make no mistake that both of you have taken it on yourselves to destroy the sanctity of the game for the masses are now gluttony with T20 cricket and this is one of the most important reasons why the India-Australia Tests witnessed such low turn out.

That, sir, was real cricket. What you have here is just hurting the same!


A Cricket Lover
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