Brian Lara signed to the Indian Cricket League... more signings to follow?
The Indian Cricket League (ICL), an unofficial Twenty20 venture by Indian television network Zee Telefilms, has received its first major signature in former West Indies captain Brian Lara. Will Lara's affiliation to the league attract more big names to sign on though?
It seems unlikely.
The unofficial nature of the league means that any star players are unlikely to get onboard. The ICL's only hope of bringing in the big names, lies with recent retirees. Already, Stephen Fleming, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath have been the names linked to the league.
Fleming would almost certainly have to retire from international cricket to join the league, if nothing more than to alleviate any conflict of interest. On Cricinfo.com, it was reported that Warne's manager had said his chances of joining the league are "reasonably slim". Only McGrath has expressed noticable interest in the league.
McGrath was reported to have said "It's tempting, obviously, you can make a little bit of money.".
Money. This is what the entire league boils down to. The organisers have said on multiple occasions that they simply want to expose local Indian talent, have young up and coming players interact and play with legends of the game. While no doubt this would have come into their minds (most likely as an afterthought), the primary reason behind the leagues creation was to create more sports content on Zee TV.
Having been outbid for the rights until 2011 by Nimbus (who bid $613 million to Zee's $513 million), Zee TV were left in an awkward situation, having already created a new station, Zee Sports, in anticipation of televising the cricket. In a situation nearly identical to that of Kerry Packer's and World Series Cricket thirty years ago, Zee TV's solution was to set up a new cricket league to fill the void.
Both the Indian and Sri Lankan national cricket boards have already made their positions clear. Anyone, even domestic players, taking part in the ICL will be ineligible to represent either of the boards. Considering the sort of influence the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) has over the game globally, it is likely more national boards will take a similar stance.
One has to wonder, what sort of Indian "local talent" would risk losing the chance to represent India at some point, to play in what is essentially a meaningless money making venture. The answer is very few. The majority of players, should the tournament go ahead, will no doubt be from outside Asia, and only a very small percentage of those players will share the same star status as Brian Lara.
Even at this early stage, it is hard to see the ICL making any real impact on the world of cricket, and the BCCI should have recognised by now that the ICL poses absolutely no threat to them.