Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Give us more Monday Night Wars!

Back in the early to mid 1990s the WWF used to be a leader in sports entertainment. It used to kill its competition (WCW, ECW, etc) in TV ratings and Pay Per Views till Ted Turner brought on board Eric Bischoff to compete with Vince Mcmahon's empire. Bischoff, a smart businessman with buckets and buckets of Turner's money, lured in the top WWF stars and by the mid 90s the likes of Hogan, Hall, Nash, and Bret Hart were seen in the WCW rings. WCW started to beat WWF in the ratings and built a larger fan following for a good 2-3 years largely because the WWF stars of the early 90s had jumped ship. The best part was that it gave us the best every Monday Night Wars in the history of wrestling! WCW remained #1 before a Stonecold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon changed the fortunes for the WWF. A few years on the top and an IPO later the WWF bought out WCW and ran as a monopoly before the TNA emerged. Today, known as the WWE due to a lost law suit against the panda foundation, the WWF remains largely popular despite a tussle for wrestlers with the TNA.
Now what does this have to do with cricket? It does. The same could be happening with the ICL and the IPL.

The IPL has been able to sign on many more international stars than the ICL but that has largely been due to the 'unoffcial' tag given to the ICL. Would it have been different if it wasn't deemed an unofficial league and if the national boards did not ban players joining the ICL? Surely. Remember that Shane Warne and Glen McGrath were first linked to the ICL and the only thing that made them change their mind was 'unofficial'.

What if a few years down the line the ICL and the BCCI reach an understanding? What if the ICC decides to sanction the ICL? What if the Indian Govt. decides that a BCCI monopoly is no good and that a free economy in Indian cricket is needed thus making ICL 'official'? What if the national boards show compassion towards the banned domestic cricketers?

Surely there are a lot of 'what ifs' but they are all very probable. If these what ifs happen, then instead of the cricketers auction set to take place between the 8 IPL franchises, you could be witnessing a bidding war between the ICL and the IPL ala WWF and WCW in the mid 90s.

As of now the IPL is sitting on BCCI's riches while the ICL is backed by ZEE which is by no means a pushover, it is the largest listed media company in India. Both have the money to attract high profile stars, both have the infrastructure to hold matches and telecast them live. Both have the sponsors to back them up. The IPL has the edge right now only because of its status as 'official'. I say grant the ICL the same status and let the 2 leagues compete. It can only be good for the game.

There would have been no Stonecold Steve Austin had there been no Eric Bischoff. Vince Mcmahon would have never gotten off his lazy @$$ had Ted Turner not pulled him down.

The IPL has a succesful model in place but no monopoly is good for the economy. Let competition prevail I say and give us a war of words between Kapil Dev and Lalit Modi; give us some bidding wars between ICL's Kolkata Tigers and Shahrukh Khan's Kolkata team; give us some media wars between ZEE and Sony for advertisements and sponsorships; give us some tussle between ZEE and BCCI for rights to using stadiums. Give us some more Monday Night Wars!

Not that all this is not happening right now but the IPL has that unfair advantage, that 'official' tag. Despite that the ICL has been able to attract stars but mostly retired cricketers while the IPL has signed on current internationals. The IPL's magnitude has also led the ICL to rethink their competition - they had a regional competition in their first year, this year they are planning to field full international sides. An Indian squad will not be difficult to build but the others would be a challenge. The ICL will live up to that challenge as well as they have just announced their first international squad:
Pakistan's latest ICL signees: Mushtaq Ahmed, Rana Naveed, Imran Nazir, Humayun Farhat, Riaz Afridi, Mohammad Sami, Shahid Nazir, and Hasan Raza. Add them to last year's signees Inzamam, Razzak, Mahmood, Imran Farhat, Taufeeq Umar, Shabbir Ahmed, and you already have a 14 man squad coached by ICL agent Moin Khan. To me that looks like an international squad, only that it includes retired cricketers and those out of favor with the selectors. Mohammad Yousuf would have been there had it been 'Official'.
I think both the leagues can prevail 'officially'. The BCCI and the ICC can sanction both. Subhash Chandra and Sharad Pawar will have more thinking to do. Kapil Dev and Lalit Modi will have more recruiting to do. Ricky Ponting and Brian Lara will have more options to think of. Zee and Sony TV will have more ratings to vie for. At the end of it all, it adds up to a lot more dollars for everyone involved and ultimately a lot more dollars for India.
It can only be beneficial to the ICC, cricket, the players, the media, the TV channels, and everyone involved. It can only be beneficial to the one stopping it from happening at the moment, India.
It will fast track their 20-year process of becoming the largest economy in the world!

Make your pitch on this post...

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2 Pitched:

  1. O2 said...

    Great blog Q!
    Completely agree with your views.
    Lets put capitalism at work and let the two fight it out.

  2. NAzhar said...

    Excellent analysis. Competition has never hurt :-)

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