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Cricket rewind 2017: IPL rakes in big money, Indian domestic circuit suffers

The Indian Premier League raked in the big bucks in 2017 with a massive media auction but domestic cricket suffered from low interest, lack of coverage and flip-flop over scheduling.

Year Ender 2017 Updated: Dec 30, 2017 09:27 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Indian Premier League,Ranji Trophy,Duleep Trophy
A car driven in the middle of a pitch during a Ranji Trophy game between Uttar Pradesh and Delhi at Palam highlighted the apathy of the Board of Control for Cricket in India towards domestic cricket. (Kamesh Srinivasan/Hindu)

If one has to look at 2017 in the context of Indian cricket, it was a year when Virat Kohli’s team set a benchmark of domination. The success has, however, been diluted by some confounding developments in the domestic circuit. The year saw the Indian cricket Board making a clear demarcation between the Indian Premier League (IPL) and ‘other’ domestic tournaments. The IPL celebrated its 10th edition; the tournament has grown with each passing year. So much so that, in the 2019-2023 Future Tours Programme (FTP), there will be a window for IPL. The IPL television viewership rose by 22.5% compared to last year, according to the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).

In September, the BCCI held the auction for the global broadcasting and digital media rights of the IPL for the next five years. STAR India outbid Sony Pictures with a consolidated bid of Rs.16,347.5 crore. With this deal, the BCCI is set to earn approximately Rs 3,270 crore from media rights per year, nearly double the amount in half the duration as compared to previous deals. Ironically, the Board will earn Rs 55 crore from an IPL game compared to Rs. 43 crore for each international tie India plays.

The huge amount of money invested in the IPL broadcast and digital rights is proof that the league is the BCCI’s top priority.

However, that is bad news for traditional events such as the Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and the Irani Cup. With the mushrooming of T20 leagues across the world, the debate on ‘Club vs Country’ has gained momentum. However, in India, it has reduced the relevance of first-class cricket.

In a classic example, Karnataka all-rounder Krishnappa Gowtham pulled out of the Duleep Trophy stating that he was ill, but turned up to play in the Karnataka Premier League. The BCCI took action and replaced him in the India A squad, saying that it was a “gross insult to the system”.

Gowtham’s case highlighted the state of ‘other’ domestic tournaments that are losing relevance. The flip-flop over the Duleep Trophy in 2017 was another case in point, which highlighted the Board’s apathy.

Duleep Trophy, the oldest tournament after Ranji, was deleted from the schedule, only to be hastily restored. Sourav Ganguly, the Board’s technical committee chairman, was in the dark about the decision. The BCCI’s decision to juggle with a settled domestic structure, by changing it from five zones to three teams, has not helped this tournament.

Besides, a packed international home calendar has not helped. There were 23 home matches for India from October to December, featuring Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. This led to a scheduling problem for the Duleep Trophy.

In fact, the country’s premier domestic tournament, the Ranji Trophy, suffered last season because of the Board’s ‘neutral venue’ rule. Cricketers not only played in front of empty stands, they also faced apathy from host associations, besides logistical hassles associated with travel.

In 2017, the Ranji Trophy reverted to the traditional home-and-away system. However, the groups were rearranged, matches were reduced and the promotion-relegation system abandoned, which eroded the competitive nature of the tournament, as teams realised that poor performances will not invite penalty.

The incident, where a man drove his car on to the pitch and stopped play during a Ranji game between Delhi and Uttar Pradesh at Palam ground, highlighted the point that domestic cricket is not being given the importance it deserves.

The step-motherly treatment meted out to domestic tournaments stands in sharp contrast to the big bucks being shelled out in IPL. The development will only hurt Indian cricket.

First Published: Dec 30, 2017 09:26 IST