When the Indian Premier League was launched in 2008, the then Board of Control for Cricket in India president Sharad Pawar had said that the big money being paid to youngsters wouldn’t have any adverse effect on the overall health of the game.
“The money will provide stability to their lives and help them perform better,” Pawar had said.
The monetary benefits of IPL for many Indian players are undeniable. It has helped raise the income standards for those who had previously toiled in the domestic circuit without the returns to show for it. And in the early days of the tournament, the uncapped players were drafted in by franchises at fixed prices.
However, after twelve seasons of the T20 tournament, arguments against the point Pawar made have grown significantly.
Several former cricketers have stated that the large sums of money being offered to youngsters in the IPL and other T20 leagues is having an adverse effect on the growth of red-ball cricket.
On Wednesday, Yuvraj Singh joined the debate and shared his concerns regarding the same.
“IPL offers big money and it takes away the focus (from the youngsters),” said Yuvraj. “Not the current lot. They want to play Tests but the younger lot, who play one-day cricket mostly, their focus is to play IPL and not four-day cricket for the states.”
In an interview with Betway last month, former England player Kevin Pietersen had said that the International Cricket Council must do everything in its power to sustain the longest format.
“We have to try our hardest to get Test match cricket back to where it belongs. We’ve got to make sure that players are committed to Test match and that all the youngsters are wanting to play Test match cricket,” he said.
“The ICC have got a hell of a lot of money and so have lots of the boards. I think the players need to be paid a hell of a lot more, because the lure of the quick dollar in T20 cricket is attracting a lot of youngsters. If those youngsters can see that the best players in the world are being paid the most money to play Test match cricket then people might start changing their ambitions.”
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It’s difficult to argue with the point Yuvraj and Pietersen have made. Young players in India are paid fortunes to participate in the IPL, even on the back of a handful of good performances. Surely, this has to affect their motivation to perform in the longer format?
In an interview with Scroll.in last week, Chandrakant Pandit, a legendary coach in Indian domestic cricket, had said that the IPL enables players to take shortcuts to enter the Indian team, which is detrimental to the growth of the game.
“Most players these days give very little importance to days cricket. Players are always looking for ways to play the shorter formats and thus taking shortcuts. They neglect domestic cricket and are very interested in playing the IPL. All this has led to a great change in Indian cricket,” Pandit said.
“I get scared thinking whether youngsters even want to play first-class cricket. Kids who are playing in the IPL, are they keen to take first-class cricket seriously?” said Jaffer.
If one looks at the other side of the argument – from the perspective of the youngsters and the franchises who are willing to pay them exorbitant amounts – it could be seen as a simple case of supply and demand. A player shows potential in a local T20 league like TNPL or MPL or KPL, gets scouted and a team owner is willing to pay a certain amount to acquire that player’s services. That’s fair, isn’t it?
Having said that, one would expect the BCCI to look at the bigger picture in all of this. If there is indeed a case of youngsters prioritising T20 leagues over red-ball cricket, isn’t it the board’s responsibility to restore the balance?
After 12 seasons of IPL, and many auctions, perhaps the time has to come to revisit salary caps, especially for uncapped or Under-19 cricketers.
So what are the ways in which the IPL, which is an important tournament for the BCCI and Indian cricket in more ways than one, can avoid missing out on fresh talents without it leading to the decline of red-ball cricket?
“In my honest opinion, people who have never played the IPL shouldn’t get three-four crores, or even more, in the auction,” said Jaffer. “That needs to stop, it isn’t fair. Only someone who has already proven himself in the IPL before should command such figures. It’s fine if they’ve performed in the Ranji Trophy and are getting such amounts, but not when they’re coming up through some X, Y, Z T20 league.”
Pandit, too, offered an interesting solution: “One thing that can be done is not picking players in the IPL based on one or two performances. There should be a criteria put in place where youngsters are required to perform for a minimum of two seasons in the Ranji Trophy before they are eligible to be picked up for the IPL.”
What do you think needs to happen: Should the IPL restrict the upper end of the salary given to uncapped or U-19 players in the auctions? Or does the auction itself need a rethink? Let us know in the comments section.