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Leagues could be made to pay cricket boards for services of players

Cricket boards cannot stop players from taking part in the Indian Premier League, but they deserve a return on investment for developing the talent, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Franchises such as Kolkata Knight Riders, who won the Indian Premier League title this season, have benefited from recruiting the best cricketers from around the world. Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP
Franchises such as Kolkata Knight Riders, who won the Indian Premier League title this season, have benefited from recruiting the best cricketers from around the world. Dibyangshu Sarkar / AFP

Haroon Lorgat, the outgoing chief executive of the ICC, last week ruled out an official two-month window for the Indian Premier League on the Future Tours Programme, and rightfully so.

The IPL may be "THE premier league", attracting the game's biggest stars and forcing many to choose between country and franchise cricket, but it is still a domestic competition and the ICC cannot be a partisan.

Yet, many around the globe are seeking just that. There have been more than a few editorials in the Caribbean hoping for such a window so that their poorly-paid cricketers do not miss international cricket for the mega money of the IPL. Many international cricketers and coaches have also supported the idea.

"The IPL won't go away," said Stuart Law last year, when he was the coach of Sri Lanka and preparing his team for a tour of England without eight of his players.

"It's huge. It is shown around the world. The boards will have to come up with a compromise, a definite window to accommodate it."

In 2009, Sri Lanka were forced to shelve their plans for a tour of England during the IPL tournament as most of the senior cricketers were not keen on returning their lucrative contracts. Their cricket board has since been careful in planning their tours around the Indian league.

The New Zealand cricket board and its players also have an agreement where they will try to avoid scheduling international series that clash with the IPL. The Australians are doing their best to allow their cricketers to play in the tournament.

It is almost impossible for any cricketer to avoid the lure of the IPL.

Michael Clarke, the Australia captain, kept himself away for the first four seasons, but he was there earlier this year, playing for Pune straight after the tour of the West Indies.

In a recent column, Ramiz Raja, a former Pakistan cricketer and now commentator, claimed international cricketers were "rebelling" now against what they perceive to be "a dictatorial set-up where they have been engaged in a master-slave relationship".

Raja adds that most cricketers, given the choice, "would only play the league circuit where they feel wanted and are better valued".

And you cannot really blame them. The Sri Lankans played without being paid for eight months last year. The fires of patriotism cannot dwell in empty stomachs.

So what hope do cricket boards have? They certainly cannot match the money that is available in the IPL.

Unlike the franchises, they do not just need to pay their cricketers and staff for a couple of months, but run the game, from the grass roots to the international level, right through the year. They need to build and maintain infrastructure, and spend on developing the next generations.

Every cricketer playing in the IPL has come through this system in their home countries. So why not recompense those cricket boards? The IPL has modelled itself on the English Premier League, but would a player from Colchester United or Wycombe Wanderers play for Manchester City without a loan or transfer fee?

The ICC cannot create a window for the IPL, but it can certainly enforce such a fee structure. It is only fair that the national cricket boards get a share of their cricketer's contract in the IPL or any other league, earning.

Of course, for that to happen, the boards will need to get all their cricketers on the books with steady annual contracts. They will need to change their archaic system of governance and treat the players as equal. If not, the number of cricketers abandoning their national sides will keep growing, just like the mushrooming T20 leagues.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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