In the IPL hoopla most have forgotten that the now discontinued Indian Cricket League (ICL) was the first T20 cricket tournament in India. Started in 2007, it saw the potential of T20 cricket among different teams as an entertaining format ideal for TV.
Indian Premier League (IPL), however much Lalit Modi may deny was inspired by the ICL format.
ICL was considered an unofficial league for the simple reason that it was a private league promoted by Subhash Chandra. It did not have the blessings of BCCI. BCCI even punished people like Kapil Dev and players associated with ICL and ganged up with other cricket boards to disallow the players included in ICL in their national teams.
On the face of it, IPL appeared to be totally above board and had the sanction of the BCCI, implying that the Govt backs it. So IPL came to be recognised as the official cricket league. This gave it the moral authority, government backing and the credibility which ICL lacked. In addition with the kind of budgets and the scale that IPL could muster , IPL succeeded and ICL failed.
But recent exposes on IPL gives us a completely different spin to IPL. IPL has more similarities to ICL than just the T20 cricket format.
- ICL was promoted by Subhash Chandra and run by Himanshu Mody. IPL was promoted by BCCI (Sharad Pawar ?) and run by Lalit Modi.
- ICL contracted various Indian and foreign players and divided them randomly into city teams. All teams were owned by Subhash Chandra initially. IPL auctioned franchises to various corporates/ owners and then each team bought players in auctions. Now it is becoming clearer that although public face of the teams were different, the owners of the teams were all part of a caucus ,either direct BCCI office bearers ( CSK) or benami by Lalit Modi ( KKR, KXP, RR ?). The rivalry between teams was an artificial creation only for public consumption.
- ICL was conducted to create content for Zee Sports, which was owned by Subhash Chandra. IPL was conducted to create content for SET MAX, in which Sharad Pawar’s son-in-law B R Sule is alleged to have a significant stake.
- ICL co-opted Kapil Dev as the Chairman to give it a credible cricketing face. IPL brought in Sunil Gavaskar, Pataudi and Shastri in the governing council for the credibility. In both cases it was ‘cash for credibility” deal. Atleast in the case of ICL, Kapil Dev was a paid Chairman and it was disclosed.
The only major difference between ICL and IPL was that ICL was a private league upfront, IPL was termed as a BCCI , therefore government, sponsored league.Though it is now coming out that IPL was as much a private league as the ICL Lalit Modi’s real calibre was in getting it an official status and manipulating back-doors to ban ICL players.
In India, hyprocrisy is a way of life. Manipulators succeed where entrepreneurs fail.
The monopoly of BCCI ( often called Badmaash Company of Cricket in India) to conduct cricket leagues ought to go. Their arm-twisting International and state boards should stop. There are enough cricketers waiting to be discovered, tens of TV channels hungry for content, enough zoozoo advertisers, plenty of out-of-work stars who will come to cheer for some sweat equity and millions of cricket crazy Indians.
If Lalit Modi is really the magician he is made out to be, he can revive ICL ( very unlikely because of the bad blood ) or start a new league with his papa’s wealth.
If the Indians love T20 cricket, give them choice. May the best league win.