The odds are even on whether the Essel Group will globalize world cricket
By BORIA MAJUMDAR
Over the past two weeks or so, there has been much talk about a possible rebel league being conceived by the Essel Group, led by ,. That the group has registered a number of cricketing domains since December 2014, set up a number of companies across the cricketing world, and is gradually starting to speak to players to join their stable, has caused much flutter in world cricket. Much has also been said about the group’s poor track record; they weren’t able to continue with the ICL and fell to the BCCI’s might and clout. So the moot question is, can a rebel league fly? Is there scope to establish a body that can rival the ICC and globalize world cricket? Is the Essel group plan an ambitious one, or is it foolhardy to think they can take on cricket establishments across the globe which will surely unite in trying to protect the ICC’s monopoly as the game’s apex body?
The real strength of the initiative is that it comes out of the ICC’s restructuring. The present dispensation at the ICC has converted the game into an ‘US versus the Rest’ thing. While the big three – India, Australia and England – command the bulk of the revenues and other perks, the rest of the test playing countries have been relegated to a second tier. And the associates too are suffering, with little respect being accorded to them. That’s where the genesis of this rebel effort lies. Chandra and his team have realised that if they reach out to these neglected and aggrieved boards, they can certainly pitch them against the Big Three. By doing so they will also be able to get their hands on infrastructure expected to come in handy when the tournament starts.
The ICL failed, insiders within the group suggest, because it had tried to take on the BCCI. But the moment you start using cricket infrastructure in other nations, this problem of lack of facilities can be addressed. The West Indies Board is already at loggerheads with players. Some of the leading stars such as Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy are playing in the IPL, when the West Indies is playing England in a bilateral series. If these men are offered more money, there is every reason why they would prefer to join a lucrative T-20 league rather than siding with their own board. Boards like the PCB, which has lost out because their players are not allowed to play the IPL, is yet another soft target for the rebel body.
Finally and most importantly, in recent times cricket has shrunk to being a sport played by a handful of nations. Globalization has taken a hit under the current ICC regime and that means associate member countries, which can play a key role in giving new initiatives a fillip, have lost credence. It is natural that they
would want their voices to be heard, and the new rebel body can very well be the platform they might latch on to.
Perhaps the single biggest concern for the new rebel outfit is how do they deal with the BCCI. Essel has already lost out to the BCCI once; to expect them to take the BCCI head on is foolhardy. It is too early to predict if the league will fly. At the same time it will also be unwise to predict that the new league will not take off. It is perhaps best to suggest that there are interesting days ahead for the world game with another Kerry Packer style invasion looming large on the horizon. Only this time the invasion seems to be more global and more powerful.