Just weeks after Mike Atherton delivered the ICC an ominous warning of the very real threat of franchise cricket taking credence over the international game, an IPL boss has confirmed the desire to contract players across the world to 12-month deals.
“In an ideal world, sure – because that gives us the opportunity to make our vision and our strategy even stronger,” Kolkata Knight Riders CEO Venky Mysore told The Telegraph.
“If we were able to have X number of contracted players, and were able to use them all in different leagues, I think that would be nirvana. Hopefully, someday it will happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.”
The report comes as former Australian captain Adam Gilchrist said it would be “commercial suicide” for Cricket Australia to allow David Warner to skip the Big Bash and play in a rival T20 league elsewhere in the world.
It also comes just weeks after the Proteas withdrew from their ODI series in Australia next January, with South Africa forfeiting their World Cup qualification points so they can have their international players at home for the launch of their new T20 competition.
While Gilchrist could understand Warner, who is in the twilight of his “great career”, wanting to play overseas to top up his bank balance, he said it would set a dangerous precedent for emerging players.
“This is the big kicker, isn’t it, of possibly being the step towards being contracted to the club before or over country for the predominant amount of cricket you play,” Gilchrist told SEN last week.
“I think it would almost be commercial suicide for them (CA) to allow a player like him (Warner) to go head-to-head up against their own competition.
“It’s the new younger player coming in that starts to make those noises where it’ll be really challenging.
“Perhaps it’s the first example where David Warner doesn’t sign a contract with Cricket Australia at all, he just plays for a match fee.
“He goes and plays wherever he wants but says, ‘I’m available for every Test match, for every one-day international and every T20 international’ by way of example, I’ll be there for you in national colours.
“But other than that, I’m going to play my club, my franchise cricket, wherever I want to, knowing that none of those big tournaments will be clashing with international cricket.”
Gilchrist’s comments came a fortnight after Atherton honed in on South Africa’s decision to walk away from their ODI series against Australia and, ultimately, predicted franchise cricket would increasingly fill players’ pockets and see them contracted by cashed-up owners instead of their countries.
“A franchise-dominated landscape, with yearly ICC tournaments and not much bilateral international cricket or Tests, is coming, though,” Atherton, the former England captain, wrote in The Times.
“All this is good news for the players’ bank accounts, mainly, but it will be a very different landscape, with players contracted eventually to private companies who will acquire franchises across the globe.
“I found myself chatting to a player’s agent this week in Birmingham along these lines. England, he said, will be the last man standing where Test cricket is concerned. June and July stand out as the only months without T20 competition when Test cricket can flourish.”
The Telegraph’s report confirms what many respected figures within the game have feared, with the privatisation of the game, particularly at franchise level, now starting to take full effect.
Twelve-month deals would likely have a seismic impact on the international game, enabling franchises to sign players on lucrative year-round deals and, as a result, throw into jeopardy a player’s international availability.
It could also have a destabilising impact at a domestic level, with the next tier of players unable to improve and test their skills against international players, should they be overseas.
AsThe Telegraph highlighted, The Knight Riders now have four teams under their umbrella – their flagship IPL franchise, the Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League, plus sides in the International League T20 (UAE) and Major League Cricket (US), which both launch next year.
Other IPL teams are buying teams in other leagues – all six franchises in South Africa’s new T20 league, which launches in January – as international cricket faces heightened pressure to compete.
One obstacle currently standing in the way of the IPL’s desire to globalise the game is the varied recruitment rules used across different T20 leagues.
Currently, for instance, India’s stars aren’t allowed to play in overseas T20 leagues while only four international players are allowed in an XI in the IPL.
Mysore is hopeful those barriers will be broken down eventually and says England’s The Hundred and Australia’s Big Bash competitions are the next hunting grounds for IPL owners.
“If it happened that way, at some point in the future, that’d be great,” Mysore told The Telegraph.
“What we want to create is a common platform and a system and a culture that allows us to participate around the year – enhancing our brand, building our fan base, and providing opportunities to cricketers around the world. And in the process, you build hopefully a successful business around it.”
He added: “Our immediate reaction to any such proposal is to say, yeah, we are absolutely interested because this is part of our strategy. Whether it is the Big Bash or the Hundred, although we understand the challenges these leagues face in inviting private investments.
“Wherever we have gone, we’ve made it successful for the mutual benefit of the league as well as the Knight Riders. When a proposal comes to us it’s because they understand the value that the Knight Riders brand brings with it and the entire package that comes with it – we know how to build those brands.”