It is remarkable what a change in leadership can do. Often when one head of state gives way to another, policies set in stone over one tenure are thrown out without much thought to continuity.
To suggest that this is what is happening within the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), with regards to the Indian Cricket League (ICL), might be pushing the limits of speculation. But the fact that one of the first things that Shashank Manohar, in his new avatar as president of the BCCI did, is tell the International Cricket Council (ICC) that his board would be engaging the ICL in dialogue to sort the matter out, does raise eyebrows.
What exactly happened?
Up until now, the BCCI had steadfastly refused to talk to the ICL, at least officially, instead slapping bans on virtually anyone associated with the parallel league. Manohar's recent statements at the ICC meeting in Dubai will trigger off a wave of questions. Is the BCCI looking to soften its stance on the ICL? Has a compromise been worked out between Subhash Chandra and Sharad Pawar? Is this just an elaborate ruse on the part of the BCCI to ensure that the ICL does not deal directly with the ICC? Or, in fact, was the BCCI forced into this, perhaps on advice of lawyers from the ICC and legal experts within the home board?
What is clear is that the ICL itself is on a charm offensive. They have spent serious money over the past few weeks as part of a re-branding exercise. The ICL has got media houses on board, ensuring that a buzz of sorts is created surrounding the second edition of their tournament.
The ICL have spent, or allocated to spend, substantial money on infrastructure development in the two grounds that it is allowed to stage matches at. While there are no audited accounts of the first year's ventures available, specialists in the market suggest that the ICL is spending far in excess of what it can possibly earn. Of course, there have been sponsorships for teams and events but this does not quite match the expenditure on player wages and running costs, not to include marketing expenses.
What can we expect?
The ICL itself has been caught slightly unawares by the BCCI's volte face, and it remains to be seen just what demands they put before the game's apex governing body in India. The first on the agenda will be overturning bans on players who ply their trade in the ICL. The second is likely to be the re-instating of pensions of those former Indian cricketers working in various administrative and cricketing capacities in the ICL. The third will be access to different grounds. What else the ICL will ask for, and just how the BCCI will receive all this, is anyone's guess.
Finally, while they begin to celebrate, the players involved in the ICL might just want to curb their enthusiasm. Even if some compromise is miraculously worked out - and Lalit Modi will certainly have plenty to say when this comes up for discussion -and the bans on players overturned, this could spell bad news. After all, the players are only drawing the fancy ICL salaries they are because of the BCCI ban. Only because they sign their cricketing futures away does the ICL have to put up so much cash. Once the ban is lifted, the demand for some of these players might just drop very quickly, and with it their salaries as well.