Despite organizing the IPL – the world's grandest T20 competition – for 15 years, the BCCI does not allow its players, contracted or non-contracted, to participate in other global T20 tournaments. However, with the latest reported change in ICC's FTP, the scenario might not remain the same anymore.
An almost-final draft of the ICC's latest Future Tours Programme (FTP) for men's cricket, reported by ESPNcricinfo last week, has propelled cricket into a new age. They broke the news that there will be a two-and-a-half-month window for the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the next five years. Along with that, two dedicated windows for the Big Bash League (BBL) and the Hundred will be there as well, and during all three above-mentioned competitions, not a single international fixture would be scheduled for the 12 Full Member cricketing nations.
As the millions of dollars of investments in franchise cricket are set to take the centre stage, the engagements in lucrative cash-rich leagues are making headlines everywhere. Yet, the Board of Control for Cricket in India ( BCCI) – the richest governing body of the sport – has got a strict rule for Indian men even if they are non-contracted. They do not allow players to play any franchise cricket outside India. At this point, when everyone is aware of where the sport is heading with private ownership and their vast sums of money, the time has arrived for BCCI to rethink this matter, particularly for the sake of players’ development across different conditions.
For over a decade, cricket has been evolving with outrageous power-hitting and quirky bowling styles in T20 leagues, or sometimes even in T10s. Of course, playing for their respective countries is still a dream of many but when it comes to choosing between national duty and the thousands or even a million dollars, paying the bills and the savings for retirement life becomes more important in most cases.
India’s last major success at the ICC event came in 2013. That year, under MS Dhoni, the Men in Blue won the Champions Trophy by beating England in their own backyard. More importantly, they did not win a single T20 World Cup after six attempts since winning the prestigious title under the same flamboyant leadership. After a memorable triumph in South Africa, they chronologically endured failures in England, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, at home, and in the UAE. With two of their modern-day greats Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli on the wrong side of their 30s, they strive to succeed in their next try in Australia at the upcoming T20 World Cup later this year.
Let us not get into the pros and cons of the current Indian squad who seek the glory at the next ICC mega event. Let us focus on the long-term vision. As the next ICC’s FTP calendar starts in May next year, the time has arrived for the BCCI to make changes regarding their stubborn rule for their men players. Yes, their decision used to make sense, at least to a certain extent, till the latest FTP calendar reports. There was a jam-packed international calendar schedule for Team India for many years, and to manage the workload, it was the right move to protect them. But, with the latest major developments, the international fixtures are set to be reduced. Thus, the case is not going to be similar anymore.
There’s no doubt that it (IPL) has helped English cricket grow and the numbers of players who were involved in the last few years. It was something I was desperate to play. For me it’s the best tournament in the world, taking out the World Cups. Some of the match-ups you get to see in the IPL are great. As a kid growing up that is what you want to play -- fantasy cricket. Mix all the teams together what it will be like if Kohli and de Villiers play together."
Jos Buttler on BBC Podcast 'The Doosra' in May, 2020.
In the past, the likes of Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and many others mentioned plenty of times that the IPL has helped them significantly to become more competitive and aggressive in limited-overs cricket. Not to forget, there have been drastic dissimilarities in English and Indian conditions, and now they are yielding rich dividends by playing with and against quality players more frequently in the franchise leagues. For example, Eoin Morgan’s participation in the Abu Dhabi T10 League last year tells the story of how much English cricket is speeding things up.
With the largest talent pool that India boasts of having, the BCCI must push all of them to get their better versions to make them habituated outside the subcontinent. Permitting them to play only in County cricket does not help them at all. They have been doing wonders in Test cricket all across the world anyways.
Not to forget, India’s last T20 World Cup in the UAE was not great either. In fact, for the first time in a senior men’s ICC tournament, they lost to their arch-rivals Pakistan, that too in an embarrassing manner with all ten wickets in hand. Many Pakistani players have already participated in the BBL and the Hundred and those numbers will only grow with time. The BCCI, acknowledging the future of sports and the recent trend, must not resist themselves to avoid such humiliations. By giving them allowances to play franchise cricket abroad, the board would only help them, as well as collectively while playing for the country, to get better results in the marquee events.