BCCI must show some flexibility towards Sri Lanka Premier League

BCCI’s attitude of protecting players by not allowing Indian players from participating in the SLPL is fallacious as it defies the very logic of hosting the Indian Premier League (IPL). If other boards back out with similar stands, a huge chunk of IPL’s quality would be taken away © Getty Images


The inaugural Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) may not feature Indian players. If these reports are true, it would be an ill-conceived move by the BCCI- which is set to alienate a number of boards. Nishad Pai Vaidya examines the implications of such a move and recalls the time when a similar move had led to the postponement of the SLPL.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is an adamant bully that uses its humongous financial clout to its advantage. Being the most powerful cricketing body in the world, it remains untouched and in a position to impose its views on bodies of similar if not bigger stature. The BCCI’s supposed move of rejecting the Indian players’ availability for the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLP) is ample evidence of the Indian governing body’s poor handling of men and matters. Although BCCI hasn’t officially informed Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC), some statements in the media indicate that the Indian players will not feature in the inaugural edition of the SLPL.


One mustn’t forget that it was BCCI’s refusal to allow its players to participate in the SLPL in 2011 that prompted the postponement of the inaugural edition. Understandably, Indian players are huge star attractions and their participation would have generated considerable interest in India. As a result, a debt-ridden SLC bore the brunt of the BCCI’s arrogance.


The SLC had announced the initiation of the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) which was set to feature various international stars including a few Indian players. Even as the other Boards backed this tournament and permitted its players to participate, the BCCI took the opposite cue. Ultimately, this move turned out to be the coup de grace for the SLPL as it was postponed. The SLC admitted that it fell through due to BCCI’s withdrawal of support. It was an astonishing development considering SLC’s flexibility regarding the Sri Lankan player’s participation in the Indian Premier League (IPL) season four, even as their tour to England commenced.


In 2011, the BCCI didn’t permit its players because it felt that a private company, Somerset Entertainment Ventures, which had commercial rights for the tournament, would be handling the contracts. Despite the assurances from the SLC – who also offered a bank guarantee to protect the Indian players’ interests – the BCCI was unmoved. There were also murmurs that the Indian body suspected the involvement of its bête noire Lalit Modi.


A year down the line, the BCCI has taken a very different stand – one that exposes its obvious double standards. This time around, they say that if they allow the players to participate in the SLPL, they would then be compelled to permit them to play in various T20 leagues around the world. This argument is fallacious as it defies the very logic of hosting the Indian Premier League (IPL). If other boards back out with similar stands, a huge chunk of IPL’s quality would be taken away.


India may have a busy schedule and the series against New Zealand may clash with the SLPL. However, there is no harm in permitting players who wouldn’t be picked for the Indian team. If the BCCI takes a very hardliner stance and prohibits all players from travelling to Sri Lanka – irrespective of whether they are selected or not – it risks losing the support of the SLC. In 2011, the SLPL may have helped the SLC through a tough financial phase, but BCCI derailed those plans. A similar move a year later would certainly leave a bad taste in the mouth and the SLC may not tolerate BCCI’s highhandedness any further.


The Big Bash League (BBL) also doesn’t feature Indian players as India’s domestic season clashes with it. This argument is still understandable, but if the BCCI continues to find a plethora of excuses to prevent its players from participating in various T20 leagues, the concept of their own IPL could come under threat in the near future. On the one hand, they encourage the participation of foreign players in their own tournament, and on the other they take a contradictory stance with regards to other counterpart leagues.


If the BCCI goes ahead with such an unbending policy, it would hurt the goodwill it shares with the SLC and probably other boards. It was the same board that showed tremendous understanding despite an international tour and allowed its players an extended stay at the IPL and the least the BCCI could do is permit the non-selected players to play in the SLPL.


Although the BCCI argues that some leniency shown with the SLPL may compel them to accord similar treatment to the other leagues, they have their players bound by the contracts. If these players are contracted with the BCCI, then they can easily prevent them from featuring in such tournaments – that is if it doesn’t clash with an international assignment. Take the example of the Australian players. They had the ODIs against the West Indies prior to the start of the IPL and the Test series clashed with the event. The ODI specialists came to India after the ODI series was over whereas some members of the Test side stayed on in the Caribbean and arrived late. A similar approach would help BCCI maintain its goodwill.


It is time the BCCI wakes up to the hard reality that a growing number is miffed at their egotistical behaviour. Gradually they may lose all the support and become an isolated body. But, ultimately money talks and the time BCCI learns from its mistakes may be a distant possibility.


(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)