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League of big bucks
- Money and masters in BCCI reply to ICL

New Delhi/Mumbai, Sept. 13: Like football, cricket will have its Premier League and Champions’ League from next year when you might watch Shane Warne and Ranadeb Bose bowl Calcutta Tigers to victory over Victorian Bushrangers.

You will be turning up after office to watch the 5pm or 8pm matches — if they are home and not away games. Before a new season, you will be telling everyone how your team poached Mohammed Asif from Bangalore or worrying about losing Stephen Fleming to Yorkshire.

The BCCI today unveiled its answer to the Indian Cricket League’s rebel series by announcing a domestic Indian Premier League (IPL) and an international Champions Twenty20 League with bigger prize money, bigger stars and the support of every major cricket nation.

The board lined up Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, snatched Warne and Glenn McGrath from the ICL’s grasp, and paraded ICC honchos and the cricket bosses of seven nations in a show of money and political muscle.

The IPL, which starts next April, will have eight city teams vying over 44 days for a prize money of $3 million (Rs 12.13 crore). The top two teams join the top two clubs from the Australian, South African and English T20 leagues for an eight-team Champion’s League in October (see chart on Page 4).

The prize money for the nine-day, 15-match event equals that of the 2007 World Cup — $5 million or Rs 202 crore — which is nearly three times the current T20 World Cup’s $1.9-million purse. The cash award announced by the ICL is $1 million.

“I hope this will be successful, if the people on the dais cannot make it work, then it’s just not going to work,” Dravid said.

McGrath and Warne chose the known devil after being terribly tempted by the ICL’s alleged offers of $700,000 (Rs 2.88 crore), sources said. New Zealander Fleming apparently turned down $500,000. Sachin, Sourav, Dravid and Anil Kumble are said to have been made even bigger offers.

None has signed up yet, but the BCCI showcased them to reassure potential bidders that they were “available”. Board vice-president Lalit Modi said, “This (the IPL) is towards the end of the season. Cricketers are mostly free at that time.”

The league’s most revolutionary aspect is a franchise system under which the eight teams will be owned by companies, which can list them on the bourses. The franchisees must pay the BCCI a fee but will get to share revenues.

Modi said the model was inspired by the US basketball and baseball leagues. “The franchisees will get marketing rights… will be entitled to local revenues like ticket sales.”

There will also be a draft allowing the buying and selling of players.

“The concept of franchise is mind-blowing,” McGrath told the news conference. Warne said from London: “I am pretty much excited to join.”

Modi said over 30 companies and individuals had approached the board for IPL sponsorships. “IMG will be the event manager,” senior board official Ratnakar Shetty told The Telegraph.

Both Sony and SET said they were confident about bagging the telecast rights. Nimbus was undecided but CMD Harish Thawani said, “As the current domestic telecast rights holder for the BCCI, we have the first right to the board’s new domestic property.”

The advertising industry was happy. “The player pool will expand and more opportunities will be available to more cricketers. With localised teams playing, it can throw up local stars,” McCann Erickson India’s Prasoon Joshi said.

Each team must have at least four local players and not more than three foreign players. The rest of the squad of 16 will be non-local Indians. Four players must be under 21.

Each IPL team plays seven home games and seven away. The 56 league games are followed by two semi-finals and the final. The Champion’s League divides teams into two groups of four. The 12 group matches are followed by the semi-finals and the final.

Sunil Gavaskar, whose son Rohan has joined the ICL, will be in the IPL’s governing council with fellow ex-skippers Ravi Shastri and M.A.K. Pataudi.

ICL head Kapil Dev was reluctant to comment. “I don’t want to say much,” he said.

Modi, who had a lot to say, slipped up once, requesting board chief Sharad Pawar to unveil the logo of the “Indian Cricket League”. He quickly realised the mistake, smiled and sat down.

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