The ICL Plays To Its Strengths

Just when everyone thought the ICL was done for and that Subhash Chandra and gang were ready to pack their bags and leave, India’s first professional cricket league is back – and not just literally speaking.

They have been pushed to the background by IPL but have continued to do the various small things, which ICL fans’ hope, will ensure the league’s survival for this year and beyond

They needed to expand to newer centres in the country and they have done just that by expanding to Ahmedabad. This expansion has come at the cost of a Rs. 10 crore investment towards the development of the stadium. They have quite clearly stuck to their commitment of doing their bit for the development of the game at the grassroots and reaped a few benefits in return. In addition to the expansion, they will also have a much better stadium to play in this time round.

The absence of any quotas or restrictions is the League’s major advantage. They have gone ahead and cashed in by recruiting half the Bangladesh national side. The ICL is fast becoming a haven for those international cricketers who have missed out on the riches of the IPL – and this is quite a list – Mohd Yusuf is close to being the most high profile member of this club. The ICL will benefit from this disgruntled bunch to substantially improve its player quality. While it may not match the IPL, it will have just enough star power to be in business.

Consisting largely of internationally ‘banned’ cricketers, except for those playing in England, the ICL has their players at their disposal for the full year – which is huge advantage. The BCCI and other boards are already having trouble finding a window to stage the IPL on a regular basis. As a consequence of the conflict of interest – like in the case of the next IPL clashing with Sri Lanka’s proposed tour of England, the BCCI continues to invoke the wrath of other boards like the ECB, who, are none too pleased at the gaps appearing in their international calendar.

The signing of the Bangladesh players like in the case of the Pakistanis last year has two more advantages for the ICL. One, it opens up a huge international market in Bangladesh – the population of that country will be quite keen to watch their home grown stars – which is almost like an alternate national side perform in the ICL. The ICL might not be able to compete with the IPL in India, but can surely give them a run for the eyeballs in Bangladesh. A case in point being ICL’s popularity in Pakistan – where matches of last edition where shown live on their biggest broadcaster Geo TV.

Additionally, it hurts the Bangladesh Cricket Board who lost some key players. They will have good reason to support the ban being lifted from the ICL players – they have nothing to gain from the IPL-BCCI-ICL fracas and only important players to lose. They will also be sore that the beneficiaries of the ban – the BCCI haven’t lost any national players to the ICL, and not that they are alone – NZL and Pakistan are also peeved. And then there is the ECB. This small bunch can soon gain enough critical mass – enough to influence the ICC. The international body is still struggling to find an answer to ICL’s petition and if pressurized enough by the victimized boards, will surely succumb.

But when is the question. It will be a huge victory for the ICL. But till then they continue to lose money and just about survive. The IPL hopes the moment will never come and even if it does comes late enough, so that the ICL is crippled by its losses and has to close before the salvation happens. At the moment, it continues to be a battle of attrition between the Essel group and the BCCI. The ICL though just gained a small but significant victory.

Avnish Anand

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