Apropos, a clip from my recent conversation with Harsha [the full interview, which was an hour long, will appear in Rediff Monday]:
It’s almost a given that the IPL will survive and even thrive so the question is, is this the cue we need to refashion our domestic cricket?
I think so. I think the best cricket, the best results, are produced by profitable enterprises. The best product eventually – unless you are in a capitalist culture where everyone comes and forms cartels to cheat the consumer – otherwise, the best deal comes from a profit driven enterprise. My original excitement with the IPL and the idea of franchise-driven sport was, eventually the state associations go away and you only have 15 franchises in India, and the franchises produce three teams each – a four day team, a one day team and a T20 team. Just as Yorkshire County Cricket Club is responsible for producing three teams. So similarly everything is done by the franchises, which are profit driven enterprises, and the BCCI is a governing council sitting up there framing the laws, picking the teams, having a selection committee, like a center, with federations. And that is what I’d love to see even today.
Utopian, but will we ever get there?
No, because the state associations that exist have been fattened on grants. Any system where you are fattened on grants, you will not want to pursue excellence – which is the bane of all sport in India, and the bane of federations in India. Hockey for instance doesn’t take off because hockey sits back and takes money from the government; archery sits back and gets money from the government, so they don’t have to become good. Associations don’t have to become good because they sit back and get money from the BCCI. Which is why I was very excited about the franchise structure, where all Indian cricket is franchise-driven.
Currently people say the problem with Ranji Trophy for instance is that no one watches Division 2, no one watches Tripura play for instance, which is fair comment. But if you have 15 private franchises, a Mallya for instance won’t want to come 15th, so he will go around picking the best players for his franchise and so will the others, and suddenly the league becomes competitive, people come to watch, and when the spectators come, it becomes profitable.
Right. Plus, give each franchise one stadium, and each of them will vie with the others to make their stadium the best, most state of the art, and for no cost to the BCCI…
Yes, and another aspect of this is, don’t the Bulls and the Lakers for instance do road shows? They want to popularize their players – and that is what the franchises here will do in this system, because when selling jerseys becomes an important part of your financial model you want your four day players to be popular too. The BCCI will no longer have to market the sport — the franchises will do that for you. The BCCI can do what it does best – sell television rights and pick teams, in that order.