Laloo Yadav’s fodder-filled pot belly. Kareena Kapoor dancing to exaggerated facial expressions. Big bear Inzamam Ul Haq‘s “Bismillah ur Rehman ur Rahim”. Sporty men catwalking in shocking pink uniforms (picture courtesy Bombaybitch) Brian Lara in orange. Diya Mirza expressing her love for cricket. Stupendous sums of money. Twenty-two men, some with a great future behind them and some with no future ahead, running around on a bumpy cricket field in front of non-existent audiences.
Yes all this can mean only one thing.
The India Cricket League, the sporting equivalent of Mithunda’s “alternative Bollywood” in Ooty, is on.
And I, for one, am rooting for the ICL, even though doomed to failure it is in front of the “official” BCCI league with its monopolistic hold over the current stars and the real stadiums.
For one, the BCCI, historically an organization of honorary clowns, is increasingly beginning to look like a truly evil corporation, a corporate entity that would make Walmart, Exxon and Dow Chemicals as benign as the Red Cross.
Any organization whose ostensible mission statement is to improve the standards of Indian cricket would have welcomed the exposure ICL is giving to its cricketers in terms of providing them with superior coaching, physical conditioning facilities (which include relaxation of their “stiff muscles” as per picture to left and this article) and the opportunity to learn from established international professionals.
Of course BCCI is not “any organization”.
Not merely satisfied in banning ICL cricketers from first-class tournaments, they have, in Al Caponsih “I want him dead. I want his family dead. I want his house burnt to the ground. I want to go there in the middle of the night and piss on his ashes. ” style, also banned them from all corporate tournaments effectively putting their permanent jobs in jeopardy and even prevented them from entering Board-controlled premises, as if , as Reetinder Singh Sodhi says, they are criminals.
If there is any crime anywhere in this picture, it is how BCCI treats its employees. While the top bosses eat the cream accumulating stadium-like girths and jet-set all over the world in premier style, first class cricketers are paid pittances (a certain state board gives Rs. 25,000 for an annual contract). If they get injured, they are often not reimbursed for medical treatment. Greats like Prasanna are treated with disrespect. And if any doubt remains about the BCCI’s regard for our domestic players, sample this.
In a surprise move on Monday, a senior member of the Indian cricket board said that for their inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) they are ready to accept overseas players, who have signed for the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL), but put a question mark on taking back domestic cricketers.
“Foreign players who have joined the ICL are welcome to play for the IPL, provided they terminate their contract with the ICL,” said board joint secretary MP Pandove after a board meeting here.
When asked whether domestic cricketers, who have joined the ICL backed by the Essel Group are also welcome, Pandove said: “I don’t think they have any chance.”
The Board launched the IPL in order to counter the rebel ICL.
Some of the fringe domestic players and foreign cricketers like West Indies great Brian Lara and South African Darryl Cullinan have joined the ICL, which will kick-off with the inaugural Twenty20 Tournament from Nov 30 in Panchkula.
The board has barred all domestic cricketers, who joined the ICL, from playing in board-run tournaments.
Board vice-president Rajiv Shukla said as of now the exemption is only for overseas players. “Foreign players will be allowed to shift from ICL to IPL, but no such exemption is given for domestic cricketers, though a lot of them are eager to return.”
In the face of this kind of blatant exploitation of domestic talent by the BCCI, I, as a cricket fan, hope against hope that the BCCI’s IPL is a monstrous failure, that Russel Crowe and Shahrukh Khan’s investments get wiped out. Of course that’s not going to happen but what’s the harm in wishing for it.
The second reason I want ICL to succeed is that it provides opportunities for players especially from traditionally marginalized states to get noticed “internationally”. As an example, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala (whose joining ICL even after being selected for India A adequately reflects the frustration of many Ranji cricketers who know that their regional affiliation is a big impediment in their selection) has reportedly been noticed and offered the opportunity to migrate to England and become naturalized there.
Finally, a word for Ranadeb “57 wickets in 7 matches” Bose, who went to England, got to play 2 tour games (one in which he took 5/51 on a flat pitch) and has subsequently been dropped for the next series against Pakistan. If his name is not on the team to Australia, ICL may not be a bad option for him if only to get some tangible benefit out of his unrecognized talent.
Alternatively he can change his name to “Ajit Agarkar” and hope the BCCI makes a clerical mistake.