By Sanjay Jha
The new IPL Commissioner Chirayu Amin has so far at least been a pleasant surprise to me .For two reasons. Firstly , because I had never heard of him before and better still because he does not seem to try hard to get heard. Its what we perhaps needed after the I Me Myself Me-Only traits of his more illustrious contrasting predecessor. Secondly, I discovered that he makes that delicious cough syrup Glycodin that as a perpetually cold-prone kid I drank with greater relish than my daily Ovaltine malt. The Benadryl generation does not know what it misses out on. But right now bothering him as much as the side effects of viral elements in the air on his product sales will be the next edition of India’s most controversial packaged entertainment spectacle that he now presides over. The classic posture that Amin has adopted was predictable from all IPL stakeholders, “IPL 4 will be bigger and better”. But how , is the million dollar question?
Will there be an IPL 4 at all or is a temporary strategic time-out necessary before it makes a well-washed , shampooed and dry-cleaned return? Or will it just appear next April rising like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes , buoyant and boisterous in confidence, without snooper dogs fishing for foreign exchange documents in its rather infamous dark corridors? There are many who have posed these questions publicly of late and most certainly in private conversations. After all, don’t we chat cricket ceaselessly at the slightest pretext in our cricket obsessed nation ? For the die-hard fanatic who loves the boom-boom three-hour pageant of sorts the consternation is understandable, the alternative of watching Akshay Kumar’s slapstick comedies is understandably a foreboding proposition. But for boring traditionalists like yours truly that is a superfluous puerile subject; does it really matter? After all, how can the absence of 45 days of summer jamboree , an abbreviated derivation from the great game be considered so indispensable ?
The genuine apprehension about IPL’s future is based on the innumerable statutory enquiries involving serious offences such as money laundering, betting and match-fixing, manipulated bids, kickback deals, dubious cross-holdings, it is all a virtual mess. Even fly-by-night casinos by comparison will stand out like a pristine, pure and professionally managed operation. At the moment, India’s foremost investigating agencies such as the Income Tax, Enforcement Directorate, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence are all on a hot trail of alleged misdemeanors perpetrated with casual abandon by the IPL management. These investigations based on past experience can become highly time consuming , depending upon the convoluted nature of financial transactions that they are tracking. What if that process reveals damaging issues requiring a fresh look at the IPL operations, structure and ownership and compels a systematic restructuring ? To expect a comprehensive and speedy resolution will be rather foolish but there is hope given that the PMO ( Prime Minister’s Office) is now following its trajectory in minute detail.
I am proposing below a radical new-look at IPL with the prime objective of making the tournament totally transparent, player-friendly, spectator-oriented and most importantly, with global recognition and ICC backing, and yet an “Indian” Premier League title. It could be the best way to not just salvage a smudged brand but even reanimate it and make it truly representative on a world-wide scale.
SALVAGING IPL ( This is extracted from my article The Summer of 2010 published in The Sunday Pioneer dated May 2nd 2010)
My suggestions are:
- As the first round of franchise bidding seems to have been conveniently manipulated to suit favored parties , ideally fresh franchise auctions ought to happen with terms being listed in the public domain. Clauses barring conflict of interest etc need to be incorporated and the entire selection process must be done with full disclosures in the presence of the entire IPL Governing Council. The existing franchise owners should be given the right to re-bid or match the highest bidders in the fresh auction to retain their franchises. Essentially, they should have the first rights of refusal. Alternatively, fresh bidding should be done only for those franchises where the ownership patterns are found questionable after investigations conclude. Those who fail to reacquire their franchises must surely be knowing that all businesses come with a risk of failure.
- The IPL Governing Council should have 11 members.
- There should be at least 3 members representing “ other” international cricket boards on the IPL Governing Council whose players participate in the IPL or potentially could in the future.
- The ICC ( International Cricket Council) must be represented to ensure that the tournament is conducted on international norms with presence of Anti-Corruption squads , proper drug testing , rules governing presence of extraneous humans in dug-outs and dressing rooms etc.
- If points 3 and 4 are enacted the IPL can then request for being part of Future Tours Program of ICC and teams can have their best players throughout the tournament . This would actually be the single most critical aspect to make the IPL brand truly “global” instead of the self-congratulatory proclamations that we keep hearing.
- The Franchisees must nominate one amongst them to be part of the IPL Governing Council.
- The Players Association needs to be resurrected and they should have a nominee as well. Who else can argue against that ludicrous salary cap of USD 7 mln , the abrupt sacking of Ravinder Jadeja ( by the way this poor fellow was not good enough for IPL but is in the World Cup team ) and Gautam Gambhir getting a monetary fine for criticizing another team’s chances?
- The BCCI should nominate 5 eminent citizens including distinguished former players with no conflict of interest issues. The IPL Governing Council will thus have a diverse Council representing all interested parties and would be collectively responsible.
- The IPL Governing Council must set up a proper administrative machinery headed by full-time professionals and not just titular heads dancing to the tune of the Council.
- There should be an Ombudsman-kind of position created as the eleventh member of the IPL Council with a casting vote on sensitive issues which get deadlocked.
- There should be no salary cap on player earnings and franchises should be allowed to hire any player based on their financial capabilities and risk appetite. This will create the missing element in IPL , the absence of clear-cut heavyweight favorite teams and also give the cricketers their real commercial worth. Local players can have a fixed share of 3-4 places in the playing team.
- Only 8 teams should play every year with the bottom two relegated out on an annual basis. This will ensure that we will not have a mindless 94 matches in 50 days. IPL should have a cap of maximum 45 days per year.
- The IPL championships must be played on a truly league basis with no knock-out element thus rewarding the better teams for consistent performance during the six-week period. The current format is preposterous with a capital P as it makes a mockery of the league format by introducing the knock-out from the semi-finals stage itself. At most, the top two teams only should contest a finals comprising of a best of three games.
The above is not an abstract utopian recommendation but a pragmatic approach to looking at IPL as a long-term proposition, professionally managed, possessing global credentials and respecting the ultimate shareholder ,the public of India. I rest my case. Over to you.