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Impact of ICL

Should IPL be thankful to ICL?

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SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: Kapil Dev and his ICL proteges in 2008. Ambati Rayudu (right) is one of the many ex-ICL players who sought the BCCI's amnesty and are now turning out for the IPL

It's a snub everyone is talking about. The Indian board's decision to drop former India captain Kapil Dev's name from the list of beneficiaries - who have been given up to Rs 1. 5 crore for their contribution to the game in the country - has raised quite a few eyebrows.

How can the board ignore one of the greatest cricketers the world has seen? Well, the board's point is simple: Kapil was the face of the rebel T20 tournament Indian Cricket League and hence does not deserve a single penny for walking out of the fold. BCCI says Kapil didn't apply for amnesty after the ICL folded up and, hence, there was no point wasting Rs 1. 5 crore on the legend who led India to their World Cup triumph in 1983.

The insult has left Kapil unfazed. He says he's doing well for himself and does not need the BCCI's dole. He has no regrets that he became part of a league which started the T20 culture in India. He felt good that the ICL gave several domestic players - slogging in dusty, heart-breaking bowls across the country - money to live their lives with dignity.

The lack of official support snuffed the life out of the ICL and put many players' careers on life support. These players were given the option of amnesty and they returned, happy to be playing in the domestic circuit and the lucrative IPL too. But Kapil refused to say "sorry". He still feels that the ICL had a huge role to play in the success of the IPL which has flourished under official patronage.

The question then is: to what extent did the ICL impact the IPL and help it become the 'fix' that fans crave for every Indian summer?

One cricketer who opted for amnesty and got back to the BCCI's fold to become a part of the IPL set-up, insists the BCCI has several reasons to thank the ICL. For one, it pushed the panicky board to host the inaugural season of the IPL just a year after the ICL began.

"Both the leagues were good for the game but what separates the IPL from the ICL is the involvement of cricketers. The ICL had several cricketers in the administrative set-up, so the understanding of players' concerns was much deeper. In IPL, the players are under constant pressure to perform, which is not possible every day. You can't score in every match, " says the player on the condition of anonymity.

The IPL did exactly what the ICL had already done - hire different levels of coaches, monitor players' fitness, prepare training schedules etc. However, the former ICL player insists that the ICL was more cricket-centric than the IPL where entertainment plays a huge role. "Besides, there is a lot of interference from the team owners, which wasn't there in the ICL. The ICL team owners were mostly on paper and thus the involvement was less, " says the player.

However, he added that given a choice, he would opt for the IPL because of its reach and following. "If you are playing in an empty stadium, it's no fun. But in front of thousands of screaming fans, the feeling is different, " he said. He added that the carrot of a bigger pay cheque and job security also influenced some of the ICL players to take amnesty. It's another story that some of these former ICL players are not too happy with the kind of money they are getting from the teams.

Kapil claimed in 2007 that he got involved with the ICL because some former cricketers who were not doing too well in life requested him to "do something for us". He did, but quite a few of these cricketers asked for amnesty and are now being honoured by the BCCI. But that's the way the BCCI functions and that's the power money has over ageing men who once ruled the cricket fields as larger than life figures.

Cricket has become much more professional over the years, more money has come in and there is no doubt that the BCCI is the leading sports body in the country by a mile. However, the officials running the game, who have never played the game at the top level, just can't shake off the feudal mindset.

Despite all the off-field controversies in each season, the IPL will continue to grow, but the churlishness of the world's richest cricket body would continue to stand out if it continues in this fashion.

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