Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The hi(gh)story behind "The Indian Premier League"

Few years ago (2004), BCCI issued a tender for the cricket coverage in India for a period of 10 years. Many Satellite TV including ESPN-Star Sports, TEN Sports, Zee bid for this exclusive broadcast rights. Mind you Zee did not have Sports channel then. To capture the cricket audience and to bid for the tender, Zee network started Zee Sports. The bids ran in millions.

Being the highest bidder (260 million dollars) Zee won the deal. When Zee was awarded the contract, ESPN-Star filed a case against BCCI for handing the deal to Zee. The reason being Zee did not have sufficient experience in Sports coverage, which was one of the clause laid per the tender.

BCCI had no choice but to revoke the contract from Zee and give it to ESPN who were the next highest bidder (230 million dollars). However Zee counter filed a case against BCCI on the grounds that ESPN did not possess 10 years of production experience (a clause per the tender). ESPN had wealth of experience in sports broadcast; with respect to production they were always dependent on TWI.

Irked by the court battle, BCCI called off the tender, broadcasted cricket series for a while thru Doordarshan before venturing Neo Sports.

Much the same way Zee came up with its own cricket content and launched the Indian Cricket League (ICL) in 2007. Recruited some big names of the game like Kapil Dev, Kiran More, Sandeep Patel to run the show. The league was also able to lure some big names of the games like Inzamam Ul Haq, Brian Lara, Chris Cairns and created opportunity for many budding, ignored and retired cricketers of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Australia.

Miffed by the actions of Zee, BCCI banned ICL. Deprived cricket facilities and tagged the cricketers as rebels. The financial powerhouse also ensured players from any country who represented ICL were banned by their respective boards.

BCCI went on to launch “Indian Premier League” in 2008.

ICL fought hard to survive till 2009. Ultimately it gave up and today it is almost a closed chapter except for payment dues to players and whoever involved. BCCI lifted the ban on players and support staff aligned with ICL and offered an amnesty that will make the players eligible to play for the country again after a cooling period of one year. Not surprisingly almost anyone and everyone took it gleefully.

But the careers of many budding cricketers stay affected for playing ICL. Zee’s original motto of creating the league was not to develop cricket in the nation. The agenda was to capture the cricket audience to be glued to Zee network to improve the TRP ratings of the channel. The failure and frustration led to the creation of creative cricket content. Some legends played pawn to the creativity. Not to forget the financial quotient that attracted many of them to join the league. If every satellite TV starts to create their own content, no matter how creative it is, it only shakes the foundation of the governing body. The result, we just witnessed.
Bottom Line: In the war of greed, power and money, some careers lost, few images tarnished. Cricket survived.

Cricket Lover

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