Last week, I suggested that interest in international cricket would play second string to the start of the 2022 Indian Premier League. However, that interest is not going away quietly.
Australia’s men’s Test team beat Pakistan in Lahore to secure a 1-0 victory in a three-Test series, whilst the West Indies’ men’s Test team beat England in Grenada to also secure a 1-0 victory in a three-Test series. The pitches that were prepared in both Pakistan and the Caribbean received criticism for their slowness and were not good advertisements for the longer format.
Nevertheless, the results mean that Australia sits at the top of the 2021-2023 World Test Championship table and England at the bottom of nine teams. Under new leadership, Australia reveled in its defeat of Pakistan.
The position of England captain Joe Root for a record 64 Tests, with only one win in the last 17, is under increased scrutiny. Currently, his team is without a permanent coach, whilst the England and Wales Cricket Board has an interim chair and no director of cricket. One is expected to be chosen soon and the new director will have the task of appointing new coaches. It is an unstable and unsatisfactory situation.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, England’s women’s team, as defending champions, has avoided the ignominy of failing to qualify for the semifinals of the women’s 50-over One Day International World Cup competition. Having lost its first three matches, the team rallied to win the next four and then comprehensively beat South Africa in the semis.
The tournament has generated some thrilling cricket, with 10 of the 28 matches being decided in the last over. Australia has been dominant, beating its own previous record run chase when amassing 280 to beat India and crushing West Indies in the semis. The team has an aura of invincibility. Only England now opposes its ambition to become champions on April 3.
After that, the IPL’s dominance of cricketing interest will only be challenged in the next two months by domestic cricket as there are few international matches, once England and the West Indies, Pakistan and Australia have completed short T20 and ODI competitions.
This is indicative of the way that other countries and the ICC are having to make allowances in their future tour planning for the expanding IPL. Eight of the 10 IPL teams are waiting for around 15 players to join them once their international duties are fulfilled. Most notably, nine Australians are involved. This is not an ideal situation for the respective coaches, but it is a long and arduous tournament and player rotation is normal.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India seems to be more concerned with players withdrawing from the IPL shortly before it starts. This year there have been several examples, with players citing bio-bubble-fatigue. Franchises plan carefully to identify players for whom they wish to bid and late pull outs are disruptive. It is unlikely that the BCCI will impose a blanket penalty, opting for sanctions based on the individual’s circumstances. Such is the financial lure of the IPL that there will be only a limited number of reasons for late withdrawal, unexpected injury being one.
In that case, if this were to befall an overseas player before the tournament has started, he will not be entitled to any payment. This would be a major disappointment for someone who has not played IPL before. It is understood that the proposed payments schedule for 2022 is 20 percent within 10 days of the first match of the season, 60 percent during the season and 20 percent after completing the season. Tax is deducted at source by the franchise, Indian players charged 10 percent and overseas players 20 percent of the bid amount. All players sign a tripartite contract with the BCCI and the franchise relating to the payment. If a franchise defaults on player payment, the BCCI steps in to make the payment, deducting it from the franchise’s central revenue pool.
Current contracts are for three years, renewable each year. Payment to the player is the bid amount, payable each year. Thus, a player who was acquired for INR10 crore (about $1.3 million) is entitled to receive INR30 crore (about $3.9 million) over the contract life, subject to his availability. All players in a squad receive their contractual money irrespective of whether they are selected to play, as long as they report at the specified date prior to the tournament and stay its course. Likewise, if a player is injured during the season or while practicing in the nets, he is entitled to his full salary and the franchise covers his medical expenses.
These rules of engagement and reward lie at the heart of the decision by South African cricketers to choose the IPL over representing their country against Bangladesh. This would have meant that they missed the beginning of the IPL. Cricket South Africa has an agreement with its Cricketers’ Association not to refuse players going to the IPL. Those on central contracts receive retainer salaries in a range of ZAR1.3 million to ZAR3.7 million ($75,000 to $250,000) a year. In IPL 2022, the range of bids for their services was between 0.5 crore ($344,284) and 9.25 crore (over $6.3 million), or ZAR1 million to ZAR19 million. The economics of honoring the IPL bid over representing one’s country are unassailable.
Furthermore, for each overseas player in the IPL, their national cricket association receives 20 percent of the contract fee, shared equally between the BCCI and the respective franchise. Thus, for a South African bought at auction for ZAR8 million ($551,088), Cricket South Africa will receive ZAR1.6 million ($110,217). Clearly, it considers this to be a satisfactory return for not standing in the way of its players’ wishes. It does not much help its Test captain in building a competitive team. However, this is the modern world of international cricket, in which the IPL’s expanding product will stretch the ability of both players and administrations to accommodate and work around its ambitions. The noise generated by the IPL grows ever louder.