State T20 leagues in turmoil as TNCA asks Supreme Court to snub BCCI and grant permission for signing outstation players

Unless you are an avid cricket follower, most of the following names will mean nothing to you: Ankul Roy, Tajinder Singh, Mohsin Khan; Anirudha Joshi, Vikas Tokas, Navdeep Saini; Monu Kumar, Kanishk Seth, Kshitiz Sharma; Sayan Ghosh, Abhishek Sharma, Gurukerat Singh; Apoorv Wankhede, Rinku Singh; Bipul Sharma, Khaleel Ahmed, Ricky Bhui; Sudheshan Midhun, Jatin Saxena, Prashant Chopra; Pradeep Sahu, Manzoor Dar and Mayank Dagar.

Yet, they are current cricketers of Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab respectively but have played very little or no cricket in the 11th edition of IPL.

The franchises bid and paid good money to get these players. Unfortunately, these players were not tested in pressure cooker-like situations, which T20 cricket often throws up. So IPL franchises’ foreign coaches, captains and team owners know very little of these players‘ abilities to perform under fire.

File photo of the Chepauk Super Gillies who won the TNPL final in 2017. Image courtesy: Twitter

It is an accepted fact that pressure on players could be multiplied manifold when matches are telecast live, played under lights and in the presence of demanding franchise owners.

It is for this reason that state T20 cricket leagues are very important in gauging the worth of lesser known players signed up by various IPL franchises.

Currently, Karnataka has the oldest state T20 league (Karnataka Premier League). Tamil Nadu too floated its own league (Tamil Nadu Premier League). At various times, Mumbai, Goa and a couple of other states have also staged these leagues, even if they have not been as elaborate as KPL and TNPL.

Karnataka were first off the block when they launched their own T20 league the year after IPL rocked the cricketing world in 2008. At that time, Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) stunned other BCCI members with its announcement, even as it was at pains to point out that its aim was only to provide aspiring cricketers the best opportunity to play competitive, high-pressure franchise-based cricket.

It tried to follow the IPL model, except that there would be no foreigners or big money involved. Instead KSCA wanted to sign up four young outstation players for each franchise and was willing to settle for even two in a bid to intensify competition and lift the standard of KPL.

KSCA’s argument at that time was that the window for state T20 leagues was open only between early August and mid-September. It argued that most of India would be reeling under monsoon, and barring swathes of the east coast and some rain shadow regions of Karnataka, it would not be possible for too many states to follow suit.

But the BCCI Working Committee, probably alarmed at KSCA’s initiative, held that there would be chaos if all affiliated units wanted to similarly float their own elaborate T20 league. KSCA even asked BCCI to nominate two players for each team from its Bengaluru-based National Cricket Academy’s young trainees. But BCCI shot that down too.

It insisted that only players registered with the affiliated unit could play its T20 league and no player from outside would be permitted without prior approval.

BCCI also laid down the window for such tournaments: ‘The Staging Association is not allowed to conduct the tournament during IPL and/or 15 days before or after the IPL and/or during 15th September to end of February every year.’

The BCCI also drew up guidelines dealing with application for approval, eligibility of participants, frequency (only one per year by association), window for event, bar on conducting inter-state event, compliance with BCCI rules, protocol, award of contracts, etc.

While other associations sat on their haunches, KSCA — through KPL — discovered and fast forwarded the development of some exciting talent including KL Rahul, Karun Nair, Shreyas Gopal, Mayank Agarwal, R Samarth, Prasidh Krishna, J Suchith, Krishnappa Gowtham and others. A few others — Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa, Stuart Binny, S Sharath, Vinay Kumar, S Arvind, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ronit More, KC Cariappa, CM Goutham, Pavan Deshpande and Shivl Kaushik also benefitted from KPL.

A bonus was the development of outstanding infrastructure for floodlit matches at Hubbali and Mysuru.

Other state associations who were earlier curious to gauge how KPL panned out saw merit in developing their own league. They saw it as an opportunity to groom home-grown talent.

TNCA (with TNPL entering its third year) and Mumbai (who conducted their inaugural event earlier this year) were the other big cricketing and economic powerhouses with the wherewithal to make a great success of their event.

TNCA attempted to take it to the next level by inducting players from other states. Their argument was that they had had the services of many top cricketers in their league over the past decades including Rahul Dravid, Brijesh Patel, Zaheer Khan, Venkatesh Prasad, Sujith Somasundar, K R Rajagopal, Sunil Valson, Vivek Razdan, Vikram Rathore, Venkatapathy Raju, Arshad Ayub, Piyush Chawla and Sandeep Sharma and thus fielding other states’ cricketers was not a new thing.

But the fact is BCCI’s restrictions and guidelines regarding T20 leagues came about only after 2009 when Brijesh Patel-led KSCA sought to sign up players from other states.

The Committee of Administrators drew attention to the existing guidelines and its e-mail to TNCA, copied to all affiliated units called upon TNCA to … “confirm that players from outside the jurisdiction of TNCA are not participating in the third edition of the the TNPL.”

The email further asked TNCA to note “that is the event of your failure to comply with the aforesaid, the third edition of the TNPL may be declared as an ‘Unapproved Tournament’ as provided in the Rules and Regulations of the BCCI.”

An alarmed TNCA, which was hoping to field 16 outstation players in the event starting at Tirunaveli on Wednesday, 11 July, has approached the Supreme Court for permission.

The decision, which is expected on Tuesday, might well set the course for future state T20 leagues. Certainly KSCA, MCA and others with a skin in the game would be waiting with bated breath. Watch this space.

Updated Date: Jul 10, 2018 12:49 PM

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