Sunday, 18 May 2008

IPL is here to stay!! What about the franchises??

I think the biggest relief for the organisers of IPL must be that people have showed up at the grounds... I know selling cricket on TV is where the real money is, but you wont sell it for much if your stadium is empty... its the crowd at the game that really stir up the atmosphere... when you have fifty thousand or more watching a nervous chase... the tension is that much greater... and on those counts the IPL has delivered. This has guaranteed it "eye balls" for the next season... And next time will cause even more anticipation... The Ad rates will be higher... We will be subjected daily to our daily dose of Shahrukh, Preity, Lalit and the awesome Cricket with twice the vigour... If you think the media has gone crazy about the IPL.... Imagine what will happen the next time around?? If anyone from the media missed out on the IPL pie this time, they will be back with both hands to grab some of it... So basically once its on TV.... You have to watch.... And I think on those terms... the IPL is definitely here to stay...

But what intrigues me is what now happens to the franchise? Does it just vanish and appear again when players, coaches, physios and the other people required for a team are assembled again at some hotel in some city? Or will the franchise exist with training grounds, practise facilities, full time staff, passionate fan base, academies and stadiums? If the IPL really wants to stay and the franchises really want to grow into profit making companies then I think they will have to work the whole year and not just for two months in a year. But when do they get the players again? I think the franchise teams should play all limited overs domestic competitions in India, this will give an opportunity for the younger and fringe players of the franchise to play regularly and stake a claim for a place when the internationals return for the IPLt20 next summer.

I think the BCCI need to look at the domestic calendar and need to tweak it to support both the IPL and the Ranji trophy domestic teams... The problem is the calendar... The season opener is always the Irani Trophy... It is played between the Ranji Winner and the Rest of India... After that comes the Ranji Trophy which is played between state and other teams like Railways and Services... This is a four day competition... After that is the Duleep Trophy which is again a four day version with the zonal teams... Then come the One day Competitions.. The Deodhar Trophy and The Vijay Hazare Trophy.... Deodhar is played by the zones and Vijay Hazare Trophy by the states... There is also the Challenger Trophy which is between India, India A and India B. The calendar should be made in such a way that all these tournaments happen together and not one after the other as is the case now.

The season opener can remain the Irani Trophy, but when the league format of the Ranji Trophy begins... The league for the Vijay Hazare Trophy should also begin... This league should be played by existing franchises and other associations with whom there is no franchise upto a maximum of 16 teams... That means 8 existing franchises and 8 teams from the other parts of India e.g. - Kochi, Pune, Cuttack, Ahmedabad, Indore, Kanpur, Srinagar and Gauhati... The league will have 30 games for each team.... These should be played at home and away basis... For about twenty days of each month the league should take place with games on a friday/saturday or sunday. For the last ten days of every month, the players should return to their state teams for the ranji league game.

The Deodhar and Duleep Trophy should be played on an "All-Star" basis where fans from the zone vote for their zonal team. For the Deodhar Trophy each of these 16 teams gets alloted zones so Delhi, Mohali, Srinagar and Jaipur are North, Gauhati, Kanpur, Kolkata and Cuttack are East, Hyderabad, Kochi, Chennai and Bangalore are South and Mumbai, Pune, Indore and Ahmedabad are West. Let the fans vote for who should be included in their zonal team and those four teams play a Twenty20 competition over a weekend at a specific location which will change every year. The Duleep Trophy similarly should have zonal sides picked by the selectors but it should be played as a knockout competition like it used to be.

Having played this during the domestic season the big franchises should then be ready for the big one every summer, the internationals should be back and the best of the players from their franchise should then be ready to join them in the IPLt20. I hope unlike this year the leaders at the end of the league phase should be given the IPLt20 Trophy from next year. In future seasons the eligibility to play in the t20 league should be decided on the result of the Vijay Hazare Trophy. The top 8 teams this year will get to play the t20 league the next year. This will keep the franchises interested in the 50 over format as only a good performance there will lead to the t20 league which is the most rewarding. The bottom 8 teams can play the second division league for the t20.

What then happens to the Ranji Trophy.... There are currently two divisions... Super Division and Plate Division... Super has 15 teams and Plate has 12. The number of teams in each division must be interchanged such that the Super Division (SD) has less teams. The 12 teams in SD should then be split into 2 groups and they should play a league competition of 5 games each with the top 2 teams going to the semi-finals and subsequently the final. These matches should be planned in the last 10 days of the month. Similar competition for the Plate Division with the concept of promotion and relegation where the bottom two sides in each group come down from the SD and the PD semi-finalists go to the SD for the next season.

This now will give the franchises a real path on which to work on. They will have to keep a full squad of players for the Hazare Trophy and will need to plan and execute trying to stay in the top 8 so that they get to play the lucrative t20 league which will include all the international stars. Also based on these performances the states can then call up players for their Ranji teams and every player who wants to play Test Cricket for India will have to play Ranji Trophy as well. This will keep the players on their toes and will make them concentrate on all forms of the games. In the future another 16 team division can be made for the other cities in the Country which have grounds good enough to stage matches. This will mean that the bottom four from the Hazare Trophy First Division will go back to the Second Division and the top four coming up.

Since only 20 days are allocated every month for this only 3-4 games will be possible each month for every team. This will mean 1-2 home matches a month for every team. I think teams should manage filling in stadiums, the occasional wave from Shahrukh will help here again. And since games will be held just once or twice in a month (in a city) and that also on weekends, it will not be an overkill. Regular gate reciepts and another TV Deal to show these games on TV will continue the revenue generation for the franchises. They can then look to build a real city based fan base with people regularly going to the Cricket for all the home games. Franchises can collaborate with people and make this a total entertainment day for the visitor. Depending on the season these games can be scheduled as day/day-night games, ideally every venue should get lights so they can also have night games. Fans should be given the royal treatment at every game, and more and more fan involvement should be encouraged. Fans also will want their team to do well as then they would get to watch the t20 league in the summer in their own city. This may actually lead to people watching the Ranji game at the end of the month as they would want to know how players from their team fared in the Ranji matches. Also restrictions should be placed on the franchise teams that local players be represented not only in the squad but also in the playing XI.

The "All Star" Deodhar Trophy should be a total carnival, party and fun tournament. It can have six hitting competitions, direct hit competitions, bowl out competitions between the players and also have a knockout t20 competition between the zonal teams picked by the fans. Annual player awards and other such events can be held to conincide with this event. This event should be held in a different city every year and be held for a complete weekend from friday evening to sunday evening and should involve a lot of fan participation. Ideally this tournament should be played mid season and it would be better if all the Indian players are present.

The present Domestic Twenty20 Championship and the Challenger Trophy should be replaced by the The Indian t25 Cup which should be a knockout t25 competition for the franchises. This can be played home and away on the basis of first innings and second innings like a t25 test match. The losers will get knocked out and the winners will move to the next round and so on till the finals. This will let the teams which do not qualify for IPL the chance to play and beat the IPL teams. In the future this cup can comprise also of teams which play in a lower division of the t20 league.

The Season can end with the IPL and just before the IPL should be the Ranji Trophy finals. If the BCCI can tweak the domestic calendar in such a way that both the formats co-exist and both types of teams co-exist it will be a win-win for everyone. The players will get proper professional atmosphere with good wages to play cricket all around the country in front of crowds and as a reward of good performance call up to the Ranji Team. If performances are excellent then possibly a call up to the national side. The franchises will get to develop further with employing full time playing and support staff. This will give them a more settled feeling, and coming last in the t20 league will not be the end of the world as they could do well in other competitions. They will be able to leverage their brand the year around and can really look to build relationships with sponsors, fans, media and other interested stake holders. The state associations will get some revenue from the franchises for stadia use and other support work, they also might benefit from viewership for the Ranji games. They can infact look to build similar models within the state, where other district level cities are involved in all competition with each other along similar lines. They can work with the local media and work out leagues and competitions on that basis. The BCCI will be promoting all forms of the game in a proper manner and building a huge resource pool of cricketers, coaches, physios, analysts, support staff, umpires and other members of the cricket world(bat manufacturers, groundsmen etc.). The best of these will represent India in all internationals in all formats of the game. The game itself will be more accessible, for fans who long to see good cricket in a stadium played with good atmosphere (right now you get it once or twice a year during an international only), more people will play the game as it could be a serious career choice as only playing for India will not guarantee you a big future, that should be the bonus.

This should make the franchises survive better and become a real entity, if they can keep a playing and support staff and plan and execute for the whole season with all the different competitions then this model will be successful and the franchises will grow and understand their business better and go onto the next level with academies producing young cricketers who are ready for the world of Indian Domestic Cricket. Any player who gets to play at this level should feel a sense of achievement, playing for India though must be the aim and finally all great players will get to play at that level. The IPL has been a phenomenal success, no doubts about that, for the franchises though the game has only just begun.


Kuber said...

good stuff pandeyz...
Its a good adaptation of the european league system, with a touch from NBA. Without getting into details, one aspect that simply makes loads of sense but would be difficult to change considering the present setup is the tournaments not following each other...
You have some smashing ideas which if implemented have no reason to fail. I hope it strikes the right people if u are not the one..(Pandey for President)
But (there always is one)...since we're talking market, it is important that these adaptations happen at brisk speed without too many compromises.. My major concern is that of sporting culture, it is just about emerging in India. you're right about the fact that fan base development will happen gradually, but i'm keen to find out what your views are about other such leagues in England and Australia.. ? They would like to make their league the biggest the richest too and the inherent advantage of piggy backing on existing football and rugby fanbase is crystal.

Let me reiterate, i think the format you suggest is the way to go but a format alone is not the answer. India is endowed with the biggest cricket fanbase I am sure we can be the biggest league too..and we've made a good start...

adarsh said...

A deep study you've made into this new game Phenomenon. What amuses me is also the historical aspect , which is, it was a game invented by the British and today the same game has been twisted to make it exciting for an audience , 99 % Indian. What i see , where the future lies not of the IPL, but 20-20 cricket, is when Indian american, Indian-africans , indian- europeans....all will have their respective teams, and fight it out, cause no matter in which country the Indians live, everyone loves cricket. I personally hated the game, until it took this form which could throw the stupid soaps out of the most accesible information medium, television.

About your study into the francise dilemma... i just became aware of the fact ... so thanks dude... nice write up...

Anurag Pandey said...

@Kuber .... I think if you look at the depth of talent we have in India is far superior to England and Australia. Any kid of 15 in India is miles ahead of their counterparts in these countries. What is lacking right now is a fully professional structure where this talent is harnessed correctly and all aspects are taken care of (diet, fitness, fielding, mental aspects etc.). Once this happens the domestic game in game in India will be far more attractive and of a higher level. Also in terms of volumes of spectators, England and Australia can't compete with us. Infact I think the sub continent has the potential to become to cricket what europe is to football. All the best players should be playing professionally here.