When Sir Allen Stanford landed his chopper at Lord’s to announce a cricket tournament that offers astonishing riches, he released a storm that could tear apart international cricket.
Five matches, each offering prize money of a million dollars per player, is obscene money. It is called Twenty20 for 20 (for 20 million dollars that is). Compared to this the IPL seems small-time.
The real significance of the Stanford-ECB deal is not money, the alliance contains all explosive ingredients capable of sparking a power struggle across cricket boards. It also has the potential of pitting England vs India.
The IPL was India’s major triumph but now it appears there is another player in the game with a point to prove. With him, money is not an issue. While the IPL is a thought-through financial enterprise, supported by a robust market and the participation of sponsors and TV, Stanford’s plan operates on personal whim.
England sees Stanford as a staunch ally to counter the Indian league and to protect its players from abandoning county cricket, this is their insurance against mass migration to India.
The Stanford-IPL matter is another example of the different positions of India and England on world cricket. India has deliberately moved away from England to assert its own independence and reduce England’s colonial hold over the sport.
Backed by a vibrant economy, and deriving strength from its enormous fan base, India positioned itself as the next cricketing superpower that also controls the levers of its global administration.
As part of this strategy, India sought a larger role in the ICC and fought furiously to get into positions of power.
The existence of two cash rich leagues can strain the international cricket structure because at stake is the bigger issue of control, power and authority.
In this tussle, the ICC stands to get seriously impacted. Will the game’s governing body, which converted itself from an annual debating society into a vibrant body wanting to take control of the sport, lapse into irrelevance again? Does it, at this stage, have the appetite to step in to restore order?