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The apparently resounding success of the Indian Premier League, barely past the halfway mark of its first season, has seen the already loose rules and regulations being twisted and turned to suit the franchise owners, who are calling the shots.
IPL Paisa Vasool Index
The tournament was launched in a knee-jerk manner in order to crush the breakaway Indian Cricket League at its nascent stage. It may have succeeded in doing just that. But the long-term implications of the IPL taking off so early with the paying public are ominous for the future of world and Indian cricket.
How so? Just study the signals being given off by IPL commissioner Lalit Modi.
The salary cap per team of $5 million imposed on the franchises for the first season was hotly contested by the owners. Now they have got their way and Modi has been boasting to the foreign media how cricketers next season could end up being the highest-paid sportsmen in the world.
While Dhoni [Images] landed the largest contact this season, of $1.5 million, Australia's cricketers are reporting this could zoom up to $15 million next year.
The resulting explosion in salaries means the vast majority of international cricketers will simply walk away from their national teams.
How the captains are faring
It is already happening with the sudden retirements of a spate of players and polls of Australian and English cricketers have revealed alarming results -- the IPL (and ICL, while it lasts) is now the priority for a significant number.
Even this season, with the salary cap in place, there were murmurs of protest among Australian, West Indian and New Zealand [Images] players, who had to leave the IPL early on for national duty. No doubt some of them would have been happier not to get selected for their country so that they could stay on and make hay in the IPL.
The temptation will be even greater for both players and coaches to ditch their nations once the cap goes. Already New Zealand coach John Bracewell has indicated he will soon step down with an eye on the IPL.
And India's grassroots cricket structure is rapidly falling apart. Which child will nurture dreams any more of playing for India when he can get a packet parading his skills in the IPL?
Modi's loud noises of a player requiring an NOC (No Objection Certificate) from his national association in order to play in the IPL will be quickly forgotten next year, mark my words. The result will be a total disintegration of the world cricket structure as we know it.
The farce surrounding banned Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar's [Images] sudden appearance in the IPL despite his ban is a sign of things to come. It is pretty obvious that the BCCI/IPL authorities, with all their financial clout, put pressure on the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) to release him this season.
National cricket associations around the world and the ICC [Images] as well will stand helpless before the money power of the IPL if it becomes successful and a time will come when the number of franchise teams will start growing from the current eight.
In that probable scenario, the six-week window which the IPL is asking/demanding from the ICC will also grow till the international cricket calendar set by the ICC will cease to exist or even matter.
Now we are being informed via Shane Warne [Images] that the cap of four foreign players in the playing XI of each franchise is also likely to be lifted next season.
All this pious talk of the IPL being beneficial to young Indian cricketers will therefore go up in smoke, once again on the demand of the franchise owners.
There has also been the farcical situation in the IPL where umpires' and Match Referees' actions are being called into question. So who will police the police?
That is not all. A Chennai newspaper has questioned the credibility of the drug testing procedures of the IPL. This is a serious issue that needs explaining by their head honchos.
The biggest danger to the league though is the spectre of match-fixing. And it is a daily from New Delhi that has exposed the presence of a top Delhi District Cricket Association (DDCA) official sitting in the Delhi Daredevils dressing room during Thursday's match at the Kotla, busy talking on his cell phone. The man in question is a well known bookie in the Capital.
The ICC made it clear that the IPL is a domestic tournament and their Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) officers would not be present.
Team dressing rooms are a no-go area during international matches for all but players and support staff, such as coaches and physios.
The dressing room during the IPL tournament is no longer off limits though with franchise owners, their staffers and assorted hangers-on enjoying open access, much to the consternation of the players.
It is also rapidly beginning to sink in for them that being owned by someone rich and powerful can be a humiliating business if things don't click.
The IPL is fast becoming a law unto itself, its backers, drunk on power, money and fame.
A leading national daily has exposed the nexus between the top brass of the IPL and the BCCI and various IPL franchises.
When the commissioner of the IPL has been revealed to have family links with two of the teams and two top BCCI officials have team connections as well, is it not obvious now that the whole exercise has become a vehicle for the personal aggrandisement of a favoured few at the expense of cricket as we have known and loved it for over a century?
The writer is a freelance sports journalist based in New Delhi
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