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20/20 Opens up a Pandora’s Box
by Gulu Ezekiel
Dec 01, 2007
Zee TV head honcho Subhas Chandra has got his retaliation in first by launching his Indian Cricket League on Friday, well ahead of arch-rival BCCI’s Indian Premier League.

The Board officials though will do to closely study the first season of the ICL as they could learn from the mistakes that are bound to happen in the launch of any new venture.

I must admit to being left cold as I watched the opening game unfold in the rather miserable looking stadium in Panchkula on the outskirts of Chandigarh. In fact I found myself frequently switching to the Zimbabwe v. West Indies ODI from Harare as well as the New Zealand/South Africa game from Port Elizabeth. And the early part of the day was taken up being exhilarated by India’s batting on the opening day of the second Test against Pakistan at Kolkata.

The 20/20 format is almost always going to produce a close finish and its share of thrills and spills, whether it is an international match or a game of ‘gully’ cricket.

But despite all the expected hoopla attached to the match, the lack of adrenaline—so evident during the inaugural ICC World T-20 in South Africa in September—was sorely missing. And the reason is pretty obvious.

The whole concept of city, state or club teams in the context of Indian sport has never captured the imagination of Indian fans, except perhaps when it comes to soccer in Kolkata.

Arsenal can field an eleven without a single Englishmen and still stir fervent passions among its loyal fans. But for Delhi Jets, who lost the opening ICL match on Friday to Chandigarh Lions to have just one player from Delhi, meant there was a lack of intensity and attachment to the match.

The other surprisingly disappointing aspect was the quality of television coverage and the trotting out of politicians with their long-winded speeches.

Union Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav hitting out at “politics” in Indian cricket provided the one moment of comic relief!

The ICC even more than the BCCI must be having sleepless nights with the massive success of the 20/20 format around the world having seemingly opened up a Pandora’s Box.

Already Antigua-based billionaire Allen Stanford has shown up the West Indian Cricket Board as being hopelessly incompetent as his own tournament among the island nations got off to a spectacular launch last year. The bankrupt WICB had no option but to join hands with him. That though is unlikely ever to happen in the case of the BCCI and the Essel Group.

The biggest drawback for the ICL in their battle with the Board’s IPL to be launched next March is the comparative quality of players on display.

The ICL have not been able to attract a single current international player while the officially sanctioned IPL is packed with them, as well as recently retired superstars such as Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

In fact the legendary Australian leg spinner has revealed in his newspaper column that he switched from the ICL to the IPL despite the former offering him double the money. The format of this new brand of instant cricket though means that anybody with deep pockets and ambitions can start his own private league.

Will we in the next few years see, apart from the ICL and the IPL, also the RPL (Reliance Premier League), the TPL (Tata Premier League) and the KPL (Kingfisher Premier League)? If that does come to pass—and the portents are there for all to see—then international cricket as have known it for over a hundred years, will effectively cease to exist. And the ICC’s centenary year (2009) could well be its last!
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