MUMBAI: The newly formed Governing Council of the Indian Premier League (IPL) – in its very first meeting – has proposed that franchises be allowed to explore the idea of playing ‘friendlies’ overseas.
The decision to play friendlies in overseas destinations will bear no official stamp of the tournament or the cricket board but will be considered as potential brand-building exercises.
TOI understands that as of now, this is only a proposal and has to be tabled at the BCCI AGM at the end of this month for approval. However, the Governing Council’s Tuesday call has, for the first time in 12 years since the inception of the tournament, considered the possibility of India’s domestic cricket going global. Till now, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) has not allowed either franchises or cricketers to play overseas, a decision that the court-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA) also stuck to.
“There’s a very simple way to look at it. Until now, if you were in Canada and were interested in watching Mumbai Indians play, you had to fly all the way to India. If you were in the Caribbean, interested in watching Shahrukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders in action, you had no choice but to travel half the globe. Now, the circus may come to a town near you,” says an industry executive, for long in favour of such a move.
IPL franchises had been pushing for a move like this. Mumbai Indians were among the first to request the BCCI in the past that they be allowed to play some friendly matches in Canada.
Likewise, the prospect of Kolkata Knight Riders touring the Caribbean, where their franchise owner Khan owns another T20 team; the potential in Chennai Super Kings flying to Singapore, a country that caters to a huge Tamilian diaspora; Sunrisers Hyderabad building a fan base in the Silicon Valley, a global techie-hub for Andhra-born coders – there always was tremendous potential in the idea. “It was time that something like this was considered. Who knows? Next, it could be the players, maybe fringe players from India being allowed to play abroad,” say those familiar with developments.
It is not clear if any IPL franchise has already picked up an overseas destination for a pre-season tour in the next few months. “It is imperative for such ideas to be given priority. When the IPL went to South Africa 10 years ago, the fanfare there caught the global imagination. Even a 20-day stint in UAE, in 2014, had an alarming effect. There’s a market and this is business. It has to grow if the sport has to,” say industry veterans.
A recent study of the IPL by US-based consultancy firm Duff and Phelps saw them value the property at $6.3b (approx Rs 46,000 crore). NBA’s annual, recorded revenues alone are around $8b (approx Rs58,000 cr). “That’s not a huge gap considering IPL is just a 13-year-old property. Now, look at the potential over the next decade or two,” they add.
A lot, nevertheless, will have to be figured out before the approval. With India’s domestic season about to get under way, national teams busy with bilateral commitments and overseas players of IPL teams busy with respective national duties, the franchises may find it difficult to put together a star-studded travelling unit. “These things take time, but after a while, these things can be planned better,” sources say.