Foreign cricket leagues, IPL and Indian players: Let the debate end
- IPL is currently the only cash-rich cricket league that Indian players can play in. Should this change?
- Should non contracted players be allowed to play in T20 leagues other than IPL?
Imagine you are an aspiring cricketer who is fighting for a spot in the Indian cricket team. You have made a name for yourself internationally with through the IPL. Finally, all your prayers are answered and a selection comes your way. But, due to bad form at the wrong time, or injury, or not enough opportunities at the highest level, or even inexperience (and many, many other reasons), you lose your spot. Now, domestic cricket is your only shot at a comeback.
Well, domestic cricket is domestic cricket for a reason. The level of play is a notch lower than international cricket for obvious reasons. You would be yearning so much for an opportunity at this level which is currently provided to you only by the IPL. But the IPL is all you get. Why you ask? The Board of Control for Cricket in India does not provide NOC (No-objection certificate) to Indian players who want to participate in foreign cricket leagues.
IPL only: reason behind not granting NOC requests for foreign cricket leagues
The reason behind this, according to the BCCI, is foreign cricket leagues, even though they encourage player participation at a higher level and keep them match ready, might cause player fatigue and make them unavailable for international tours. But, if player fatigue was the primary concern behind this, the recent New Zealand tour would not have been sandwiched between the short home series against Australia and South Africa, the latter of which was suspended due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Then, is money the reason behind this? Still no. With the IPL being the most cash-rich league in the world, BCCI is not going to be concerned with the money going out in the form of these players. Then, what might be the reason? The reason might be the authenticity of the league. IPL, is the most popular franchise cricket league, even though ICL came and left without a mark, is BCCI’s dream project.
After the first T20 World Cup win, Indian cricket fans accepted the format with open arms. IPL was a direct result of this adulation. The fan following, the love, the atmosphere in the stadiums might never be the same if those players play foreign cricket leagues. This might be the reason BCCI is standing its ground with its foreign cricket leagues participation rule.
So then, should BCCI allow players to participate in foreign cricket leagues? This long-standing debate was ignited recently as Suresh Raina, in his Instagram live session with Irfan Pathan, expressed his opinions on this and suggested that the BCCI should allow non-centrally contracted players to play foreign cricket leagues and not just restrict them to the IPL. He also said that this would help the players in keeping themselves fit and honing their skills further.
This would mean that the current 26 centrally contracted players need not be given NOC but the others who are not in the reckoning for the national team should be allowed to take part in foreign cricket leagues.
This suggestion by Suresh Raina, if accepted, might become one of the best moves ever made by the BCCI. By this, players like Nitish Rana, Suryakumar Yadav, Vijay Shankar, Rahul Chahar who have the potential to play for the national team will be given a lot of game time to prove themselves and make it to the team with international exposure in their pockets. Also, experienced candidates like Dinesh Karthik, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina can prove themselves on the big stage in a big T20 league other than IPL and they might become eligible for a comeback into the national team.
But, according to a BCCI spokesperson, the board believes that players approaching retirement might be looking for another source of income through foreign cricket leagues and that is fair on their part. He also claims that the board is striving to build a system in which these players can attract good value at the IPL.
This might be one of the long-term goals of the board. Players like Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh have benefitted from this system and have been able to make comebacks to the national team without playing foreign cricket leagues. But it would be a tad bit unfair to expect all players with different skill sets and potential to perform in the same system and come out of it to make it to the national team.
So, finally, should the BCCI consider player requests about these foreign cricket leagues? The answer is a definite yes. Non contracted players participating in foreign cricket leagues will, in one way, solve future selection crises.
Also, this helps in nurturing young talent in helping them get ready for the big stage. But, in turn, BCCI should prioritize the players’ participation in List A and domestic cricket apart from IPL, as T20 freelancing has become the go-to for players away from the spotlight due to the recent surge in foreign cricket leagues. Talent and potential exploration should be the primary intention behind this move rather than allowing players to have another source of income from the same. It's time Indian talents have more options than just IPL.