Indian Cricket League (ICL) Players Deserve Better

The ICL players deserve better than being marginalized and ostracized by the BCCI and ICC. In a space of less than 18 months, what began as the Indian Cricket League on a crest wave of glorious intentions to target the BCCI for mismanaging cricket and failing to unearth new talent amidst the backdrop of the unwieldy domestic structure that has been blamed for killing, rather than nurturing, fresh talent, has dwindled into the rebels being maligned, boxed into a corner and suppressed by the sheer absurdity of the BCCI’s stand and the enormous success of a spectacle called the IPL. It’s just a side note that the real reason for launching this league was because Subhash Chandra had an axe to grind. Reeling from the blow of not being able to secure the television rights, he was unwavering in his quest to mortify the BCCI and hit upon a breakaway cricket league as the best way of achieving his goal. That he did and sent a few reverberations towards the nondescript BCCI’s officialdom is something that he should take credit for in galvanizing the BCCI into frantically reacting and blatantly repackaging the concept.

However, far from being a league that sought to address the malaises of lack of opportunities, the quagmire of favoritisms, lack of recognition, nepotism, and political wrangling’s, the ensuing ostracization has led to a tragic aftermath. In a sport that has no definitive owner, the BCCI has monopolized cricket in India and isn’t shy to thwart any attempts that might threaten its stranglehold over the sport in the country and beyond.

The Indian Chastised League might front a brave face but under the veneer of its bravado lay gaping cracks that threaten its very existence. Amidst this crumbling façade, some, if not all, of the main proponents are cushioned from the impact of this relentless strangulation by the clout and arm twisting tactics of the BCCI. In the twilight of their working lives, Kapil Dev and Kiran More can reflect on their respective careers with immense pride. They’ve done the yards and worn the colours and caps with pride. Even if the ICL were to wither away into oblivion sooner than most people give it charitable time, these two and others who steered its course can simply move onto other things. Their journeys, fraught with obstacles galore and undue sniggering by those who claim to have the biggest coffer in sporting history, may well come to an end but in no way would they feel entirely despondent. Life, for some, goes on and with cricket an extension of their being, they are bound to be involved in some capacity in the future.

Whither the ICL players though? Victimized by the BCCI for embracing a rebel league that couldn’t gain its auspices, they’re left in the lurch in a league that may have hit a dead end or at best a path that hankers for a modicum of respectability and a share of this lucrative market. With the stupendous success of the IPL, the future looks bleak for the ICL. More so for the players who, like orphans, dared to ask for an extra portion only to be met with an severe and stern reprimand, and find themselves serving time on the sidelines with absolutely no prospect of entertaining a comeback into the mainstream cricketing fold. This is a tragedy of enormous proportions for the players who merely chose to explore an enterprising avenue on the back of constant shunting around by the BCCI. While the majority of ICL’s players may never have threatened to break into the Seniors side in their careers, some like Ambati Rayudu are left to bear the brunt in a case of déjà vu. Rayudu’s case is an all too familiar example that curtailed a very promising future. Once touted as India’s next great batting hope, he was unashamedly sidelined by the ugly nexus between a father-son collaboration that did great harm not just to him but to cricket as well. He has been done twice over by the authorities.

While Hyderabad may be ruing the defection by Rayudu, Bengal was depleted as a side by the mass exodus of most of its players to ICL. One such extremely promising player, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, may forever be lost to Indian cricket. The BCCI’s step motherly treatment towards those who chose to improve their lives and secure their futures is a sad reflection of their narrow-mindedness and paranoia. It must be remembered that it was sheer desperation and discontent with respective State Associations that drove most of these players to the ICL not discounting the hefty wage packets that were on offer. If it weren’t for ICL’s offers of between Rs. 30 and 50 lakhs, would the BCCI have reacted by hiking the match fees for the domestic players? I’d harbor a guess in the negative.

The existence of the ICL must not be perceived as a threat by the BCCI. Cricket can accommodate the existence of both the ICL and the IPL. Paranoia usually results in knee jerk reactions and it hasn’t been any different with the BCCI. Furthermore, ICL neither has the players nor the backing to stake a challenge for the IPL. Allowing it to co-exist would rightfully provide an opportunity not just to strive towards a common agenda of granting opportunities to promising cricketers but will not dent the future success of the IPL. The ECB has backtracked in the face of trade laws and has allowed 25 ICL cricketers to turn out for 18 Counties under its jurisdiction. Such flexibility isn’t a sign of weakness but rather an exercise in finding common ground. The ICC will continue to avoid dealing with the issue of the ICL and will hide behind the theory that until the BCCI approves the ICL, it can’t do much about it. For those who’ve watched its mode of functioning over the years, the ICC prides itself on inaction and ineptitude. Let not the BCCI adopt the ICC’s approach, as it is capable of bigger and grander things.

Like a small player in a land of one monopolistic leader, the ICL can and should be allowed to run its course. Not just for cricket’s sake but for the players’ sake too who have been needlessly caught up in this imbroglio. Cricket ought to be winner at the end and not the egos of a select few.

  • The BCCI has proved its point, loud and clear. Not only is it one of the most dominant sports organizations but now, thanks to the success of IPL, the world has also witnessed its execution prowess so much so that an otherwise level-headed Gilchrist got carried away and termed it a better spectacle than the Sydney Olympics. The ICL may have the word “league” in its name but it is certainly not in the BCCI’s league. Does it then make any sense for the BCCI to continue to rub it in?
  • What would be more humiliating to the ICL than Rayudu accepting a MOM award at an IPL match and thanking the BCCI for salvaging his career? Lastly, and importantly, the likes of Rayudu & Abhishek may not turn out to be International megastars. Then again, they may! Thanks to the IPL, there is an improved focus on discovering raw domestic talent, and these two players may play the county cricket tomorrow and show the world that they had it in them. Does the BCCI really want to take the risk of that embarrassment?
  • Instead of getting distracted by the ICL every now and then, the BCCI’s sights should be set on conquering the world; the world, which may soon see T20 leagues mushroomed everywhere. is initiating a petition to highlight the plight of the ICL cricketers. We can make a difference by uniting together for a common cause of granting acceptance to the ICL’s players and embracing them into the cricketing mainstream. An exclusion zone does not benefit anyone least of all the players. If cricket ought to be winner, pray what better way than to sign the petition and express your approval for this petition?

Every voice counts, every signature matters, every fan is invaluable and every cricket player, regardless of league affiliations, matters a great deal to us genuine cricket fans.

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