Caught between a Base and a Foot Place: The First Year of Operation of the Indian Premier League

Article excerpt

Executive summary

Twenty20, a short version of cricket, was launched in England in 2003 in response to declining interest in the domestic game. This format of the sport was adopted rapidly throughout the cricket-playing world both at domestic and international levels. The first international was played in 2005 and the first World Cup was held in 2007, featuring all the major international teams. The aim of this study is to examine the operation of the Indian Premier League of Twenty20 cricket. Played for the first time in India in 2008 over a period of just a few months, the IPL has become the dominant league in Twenty20. This study also examines to what extent the IPL exhibits characteristics of North American and European professional team leagues and if there are any differences that set the IPL apart.

Sloane's key elements of professional leagues typology was adapted to highlight league operational differences. This was applied to the two leagues which exemplify the North American and European league models, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the English Football League (EFL). Their mode of operation was then compared with the IPL, which may, in time, come to epitomise an Asian model.

The analysis revealed that the operation of the IPL has far more in common with MLB than with the EFL. The development of the IPL may, in many ways, come to mirror that of MLB. It started off with the same number of teams as did the forerunner of MLB, the National League (NL), and it will have to see off the challenge of a rival league, the Indian Cricket League (ICL), as did the MLB. Additional similarities are that decisions about geographical spread and team additions will need to be made.

The major similarity between the IPL and the EFL is that both sports are played at professional level in a number of countries, so opportunities exist to stage domestic games abroad. The Champions League Twenty20 (CLT), involving the best domestic teams from seven cricketing nations and played in India in October 2009 for the first time, was evidence of this. The importance of European competitions for EPL teams, particularly the European Champions League (ECL), is well documented. However, in MLB competitions, teams outside of North America are of little importance.

A number of differences emerged, however, that set the IPL apart from both the MLB and EFL. These were deemed "mobility factors" and they allowed the league to be set up, played once and then moved to another country (South Africa), all within 18 months. There are a number of factors that contribute to this mobility: the lack of history of the teams, the small number of them, the short length of the season, the lack of ground ownership and the lesser reliance on gate money compared to MLB and EFL teams.

After only a year, the ILP cannot yet be said to represent an Asian model of operation. Indeed, it may come to be a prototype for a more modern form of league operation involving short seasons, players hired for a short period of time and a high percentage of revenue from broadcasting rights and sponsorship.

Introduction

The normative literature in this field discusses two different types of models of sports leagues in team sports: the North American and the European. However, 2007 saw the launch in cricket of the Indian IPL, which quickly usurped all other domestic cricket leagues in the world. The IPL is probably the first occasion in team sport that an Asian league has become stronger than a European one. The IPL's creators claim that it is based on the top tier of the EFL, the English Premier League (EPL) (Pande and Behl, 2008). However, while its name might echo the EPL (Kuper, 2008), the franchise system adopted in the creation of the IPL indicates that it also exhibits features of the North American system (Leahy, 2008).

This paper examines the operation of the first season of the IPL and subsequent events leading up to the start of the second season. …