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Why only IPL for Indian cricketers?

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IPL_Indian_Premier_LeagueOver the past nine editions the Indian Premier League (IPL) has arguably been the most watched T20 cricket league. Every year many overseas cricketers get an opportunity to display their skills in this two-month long carnival. The fact is that there have been occasions when an IPL contract has opened up many more avenues for a player. The irony being while players from abroad can play in the IPL, their Indian counterparts have so far been denied that opportunity by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to play in leagues outside India.

During the course of one’s career as a cricket correspondent there have been occasions when one has come to know or met players who have been approached by other franchise based cricket leagues outside India –be it Australia’s Big Bash League, South Africa’s Ram Slam T20, The Caribbean Premier League or the Bangladesh Premier League. All those players though never got an affirmative nod from the home board to accept those offers.  

It is now known that the inaugural season of the now defunct Sri Lankan Premier League (SLPL) had to be postponed by year in 2011 because the BCCI refused to send its players to the tournament, fearing it was financially supported by Lalit Modi -- the chief architect of the IPL.

In an ideal world the players are free to play in any domestic T20 league anywhere in the world provided they are given a no-objection certificate (NOC) from their home board and the same applies to the Indian players as well. In reality though none of the Indian players have ever been given that NOC to ply their trade in other leagues which BCCI considers as competition to the IPL. The BCCI though doesn’t mind overseas stars' presence in its league in order to market their property better.

Over the years, Indian players have found this unfair but none have come out in the open fearing the harm that the board could cause, especially, after the ban they imposed on players who were part of Subash Chandra owned ICL in 2007-08.  

 

 

The approach of BCCI though seems a very short-sighted one when it comes to not letting the Indians players explore options other than those provided by them. In imposing such restrictions (though not in letter) BCCI are limiting the range of cricket experience that can be gathered by playing in different conditions, against different opponents, sharing change rooms and taking the field with players around the world.

It is this exposure that has also played a role in making the West Indies such a strong T20 unit when it comes to international cricket. Even in the recently concluded World T20 in India the boys from the Caribbean had hardly played any international cricket together before they joined for short preparatory camp in the UAE. What they had done was play a lot franchise cricket around the world and that could have helped them be in the groove to win title for the second time.

Even Australia’s David Warner, who captained Sunrisers Hyderabad to their maiden IPL title in ninth edition, had once credited the tournament and times spent with former India opener Virender Sehwag in his growth as an international player especially at the Test level.

During the pre-IPL days, the four-month period from April-July was when Indian cricketers, if they weren’t playing international cricket in England, the Caribbean Islands or Sri Lanka (days when national teams travel to these countries) were looking forward to county stints in UK. This would keep them match-fit, enhance their cricket skills and give them a source of earning. These days hardly any Indian players are heard of taking that route. One reason being, that counties too want to hire services of players who can represent them in all formats and not just the longer version and the Indian cricket board’s approach acts as non-deal cracker here.

The point that the board here doesn’t seem too interested in is to take notice that even in the IPL not every player who is part of a franchise gets a game. Reasons could be his form, inexperience or requirements of a particular team combination. There are many who just play a couple of games in the entire tournament and warm the bench for almost two months. This wait can be demoralising.

 

 

If BCCI, however, does allow the players to play in overseas leagues, chances are that the second and third string of Indian players will benefit more from it as the big names are usually busy playing international cricket. Even if they don’t make it, atleast the possibility of being picked will make them more competitive in their domestic performances thereby increasing the standard of domestic cricket in the country.

The board can always put a condition demanding their availability for their respective state teams when the domestic season begins. Failure to do so would lead to no NOC in the future. They can also put another condition of taking 10 percent of the player contract fee from the respective franchise exactly how other overseas cricket boards do before giving NOC to their respective cricketers to play in the IPL. This money can in turn be spent in any way that works in the best interest of the game.

There are and will always be arguments in favour of and against the franchise based cricket leagues and whether players should be allowed to take part in them. The fact though is that it does fetch the eye balls, the money and players who play in them do get the exposure. With the newly elected Indian board president Anurag Thakur in his first presser announcing that he wouldn’t mind India’s women cricketers either having their own franchise based cricket league or playing in the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) to have better exposure, even the male cricketers would love to hear something like that.

 

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