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The ICL-IPL Saga
by Suresh Menon
Nov 13, 2007
When Kapil Dev first broke the news of the Indian Cricket League, he made one thing clear - everything would be transparent, even the selection meetings would be telecast live, and there would be no BCCI-like cloak-and-dagger stuff. It came as a breath of fresh air in a system where political alignments are more important than the game itself.

Within weeks the BCCI announced its own Indian Professional League, on the same lines as the ICL but with the added attraction of being officially recognized. Those signing up for the ICL had to forfeit their careers, at least for now. There might be a compromise in the future, but there is no guarantee. Not surprisingly, the Ricky Pontings of the world lined up with the IPL while former greats and future no-hopes went with the ICL which told us at regular intervals the names of players to sign up. It was all meant to start in October, but no word is being spoken about this. Meanwhile, the ICL players have had their camp in Chennai, and you can read about the support they have on their website - from their own employees.

“We must be doing something good,” thinks Kapil Dev, since “even the BCCI is merely copying us.” He is probably right, but as the delays get longer and the questions more pointed, the ICL finds itself in a tricky situation. The IPL, which has announced sponsors, and worked out a plan is in the happy position of not having to do anything unless it is forced to. That is the public perception of their stand, just as in the case of the ICL it is the lack of firmness and direction.

The fans meanwhile, are not particularly fussed. India are playing Pakistan at home, and tour Australia shortly thereafter. There are no bigger series than those against these two. The team is in transition, careers are coming to a close just as other careers are being launched in a spate of publicity. Things are alive. A new Test captain will be watched as closely as the established one-day captain. By the time the team lands in Australia, one hopes the mess that their administrators have got into with the media (terms and conditions of accreditation have caused established writers and photographers to be thrown out of the press box) would have resolved itself.

The one favour the official cricket team did the ICL was to win the Twenty20 championship in South Africa. India went from being also-rans to the main runners in one leap, just like they did in 1983 when Kapil Dev led them to a World Cup triumph. Suddenly Twenty20 became the flavour of the season. But it caught both the ICL and the IPL under-prepared. Their leagues were not ready to take off yet, and a great marketing opportunity was lost.

The IPL has less cause for worry. The ICL on the other hand needs to establish itself; camps in Chennai are one thing, but a full-fledged tournament as promised is quite another.

For the moment, though the focus is on the international calendar. Both sides know they cannot top the on-going series, and are using the time to get better prepared. The IPL has nothing to lose. The ICL have the careers of a few players on its conscience.

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