Vantage point

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

India's Kerry Packer?

Subhash Chandra of Zee wants to become India's Kerry Packer. After the host of problems the Zee group encountered in buying broadcasting rights to Indian cricket, much like Packer in the 70s, it has now announced something called the Indian Cricket League which it will pump 100 crores into.

Though Zee says that their league will be complementary to the BCCI's domestic schedule, it will be interesting to see how the board reacts. Zee's plans are to sign up Indian, international and "junior" players for a league, much like the PHL for hockey. Will the board allow it, considering it could be the first step in the erosion of their monopolistic powers? Chandra has already criticized the BCCI's selection process, saying it has failed to create a pipeline of players.

The ambition with which Zee pursues this can have major implications. PHL has been a reasonable ratings success. Considering how mad the Indian public is for cricket, an ICL, with top Indian and international players, can be very lucrative for sponsors. In fact, the failure of the bulky Ranji trophy format is a massive indictment of the lack of marketing skills of the BCCI. ICL will have just 6 teams, which will ensure quality participation, which will hopefully lead to quality cricket and the deserving viewership. This will mean a lot of cash, enough to lure away big players from even the county scene or their own domestic scenes.

It will be interesting to see how events unfold after this. At that time, Packer was thought of as a villain, but history has shown that his contribution to the game has been invaluable, both in raising the vewership as well as the organization structure in several countries. BCCI still follows an archaic politicised system. Will ICL be the much needed competition that will shake cricket administration in India towards professionalism, just like the Packer Circus did to the ACB in the 70s and 80s?

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