The announcement that the Indian Cricket League have recruited Inzaman and Mohammad Yousuf shows it has real potential. While it is hardly a start to rival that of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket it is a start nonetheless; Inzaman and Yousuf are both Pakistani greats, with the latter amongst the finest Test batsmen in the world today.
Yet, except for those two, there are no earth-shattering names amongst the list of 50; Yousuf is the sole household name still in his prime. We still know little of the venture, only that, in its first year, it will comprise a 40-day Twenty20 tournament. But there still aren’t enough players to fill the proposed six sides; and, with India playing against Australia (home and away) and Pakistan this autumn, they have not picked a particularly opportune moment to start the league up.
Kapil Dev and Tony Greig would surely not have given their names to it had they felt it was bereft of promise; but it is all shrouded in mystery. Most international players earn copious sums nowadays, though perhaps some will feel they still do not receive the share of the total revenue they deserve; the situation is little like that of 1977, when superstars lacked fair remuneration for the gifts.
That said, Hamish Marshall recently opted for county cricket over New Zealand, as he would earn more than from his central contract. Oddly, however, there are no Kiwis (at least as yet) on the list. While current players from England, Australia and probably India (players’ earnings from endorsements would fall hugely if they stopped playing nationally) would seem to be out of reach, there is hope they will be able to sign up players from less lavishly endowed nations. Yet WSC simultaneously signed dozens of internationals - and they were Derek Underwoods rather than Nicky Bojes.
What the organizers clearly believe is there is a huge market for domestic cricket, and it is a much more marketable product than currently appears, especially in India, where a solid journeyman makes a pittance. Perhaps they are right; but will cricket fans really switch over from India-Australia to watch domestic sides?
In the early stages players will be motivated almost solely by money. The same could have been said for WSC, which ultimately produced some riveting cricket – but there were Australian and West Indian national teams participating rather than a hodgepodge of Indian youngsters and players who failed to make the grade internationally, mixed in with the odd big name. The Indian Cricket League may impact upon how the game is run in India – probably a good thing – but seriously needs more stars in their prime to justify comparisons with Packer.