A cricket revolution that could see international clubs and players contracted permanently to the Indian Premier League is underway – and it threatens to destroy the sport as we know it.
The value of the Indian Premier League [IPL] was $AU8.44billion in 2019 before the Covid pandemic struck, and those figures are expected to soar now the tournament is back on home soil with crowds back in the stands.
But the IPL has grander visions for the sport, with franchises busy purchasing teams in T20 tournaments around the world, including competitions that have not yet started in South Africa and the United States.
It is all part of a grander vision to have contracted players participate in tournaments around the globe and effectively walking away from their country commitments.
This would not only devastate the international game, but domestic tournaments that are not owned by the IPL – like Australia’s Big Bash League – which would be starved of talent.
Australian Test cricket veteran David Warner is already reportedly set to shun the BBL to pursue the riches of the IPL and its associated tournaments in the twilight of his career.
The IPL expansion threatens to cause Aussie cricketers to turn away from the BBL and Test cricket to secure long-term deals across multiple T20 franchises around the world
Venky Mysore, the chief executive of IPL Kolkata Knight Riders, said having players contracted permanently, not just during the IPL season, was inevitable.
‘In an ideal world, sure – because that gives us the opportunity to make our vision and our strategy even stronger,’ he told The Telegraph.
‘If we were able to have X number of contracted players, and were able to use them all in different leagues, I think that would be nirvana. Hopefully, someday it will happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.’
Indian cricket commentator and journalist Harsha Bhogle tweeted that countries like Australia and England, which rely on Indian revenue to survive, would have no choice but to toe the line.
‘The ripple effect of the IPL blockbuster. Rights for cricket in Australia and England for India are sold at a significant increase over the previous value. The faceless Indian fan continues to fund cricket in far pavilions,’ he tweeted.
In one of the most telling signs this cricket revolution is already at our doorstep, South Africa recently cancelled its scheduled one-day international series against Australia in January.
The tour was canned so the international players could focus on the launch of the new South African T20 League, which has already recruited the likes of Jos Buttler, Jason Roy and Jason Holder.
All six South African T20 teams are owned by IPL franchises.
This move means that South Africa will forfeit vital World Cup qualification points, with the nation putting IPL riches ahead international cricket.
In addition to their IPL franchises, Kolkata, Rajasthan, and Punjab also own Caribbean Premier League teams. After decades of trying to crack the United States market, the US Major League Cricket T20 competition is set to launch in the summer of 2023. This league is also affiliated with the Kolkata franchise.
The Mumbai Indians celebrate after they defeated the Chennai Super Kings during the Indian Premier League final at Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium on May 12, 2019
Former English captain Michael Atherton warned in his column in The Times that franchise cricket dominating the sport is just around the corner.
‘A franchise-dominated landscape, with yearly ICC tournaments and not much bilateral international cricket or Tests, is coming,’ he wrote.
‘All this is good news for the players’ bank accounts, mainly, but it will be a very different landscape, with players contracted eventually to private companies who will acquire franchises across the globe.’
Former English skipper Michael Vaughan is predicting the next step will be two IPL seasons every year to double their revenue.
Aussie cricket legend Adam Gilchrist told SEN last week that he could understand why Warner would walk away for the riches, it set a dangerous precedent for younger players who could potentially snub the BBL and international cricket for Australia.
‘It’s the new younger player coming in that starts to make those noises where it’ll be really challenging,’ he said.