By Roshan Abeysinghe
Despite the interest and the euphoria of Test Cricket Sri Lanka is gearing herself up to the latest cricketing extravaganza which is the SLPL or better known as the Sri Lanka Premier League. As we are aware the SLPL should have happened last year though due to the BCCI pulling the rug under the feet of the SLC it had to be deferred. In spite of the delay I am sure that the entire nation of Sri Lanka is looking forward to the SLPL with anticipation and plenty of hope and expecting it to swell itself to the levels or the status of the IPL.
While realists are aware that the SLPL can never be an IPL, I am sure it can carve a niche for itself and will always be the SLPL or the Sri Lanka Premier League, which will have a unique identity.
To start with the SLPL provides sponsors particularly from India who are absolutely egoistic an opportunity to compete with their big brothers in trade. With Pakistan still being a no go zone for cricket and Indians and with the BPL due to its defaulting of some players being under the scanner of the FICA and the ICC, the SLPL becomes a hugely attractive option to them. As the IPL has reached massive proportions and as the Champions League is even bigger with it being akin to a mini world cup, it gives the sponsor or a franchise owner with plenty of wealth the satisfaction of being identified with the richest in the trade. In any event I am sure it’s the dream of every major company to be able to own an IPL franchise and if they don’t make it the SLPL will naturally become the next best option to them at the current moment. Also the desire of many rich Indian businessmen to mingle with top international players and to be seen with them on International TV is priceless and a motivation to be a part of the SLPL. Further the fact that Sri Lanka cricket is healthy and they do have superstars of the world stage becomes an additional incentive to the franchise owners.
When one considers the above I wonder whether Somerset Ventures were able to get the best price for the Sri Lankan franchises. While Somerset along with SLC should be congratulated for floating such a league with plenty on offer, it is my thinking that the setback last year and the subsequent uncertainty surrounding the event could have made them anxious to ensure that there were enough and proper buyers lined up for the League. Hence the reason for the average sale of US$ 4.2 m!
Now that the major part is done it will be most entertaining to watch the next part of it unfold. As far as most people see it the SLPL will become a win-win situation. It will obviously benefit the players with recognition and finances as the Leagues such as the IPL as well as the Big Bash and the English T 20 will take a keen interest in the players emerging. Secondly if the SLPL can give the players thirty percent of the financial benefit the IPL offers, the domestic first class players of Sri Lanka should have a decent insurance for their future. Besides when one witnessed the advancement of Bangladesh in the ODI format particularly in the recent Asia Cup, Sri Lanka as a team too is bound to benefit.
Outside the main National squad no player really gets the benefit of sharing a dressing room with international stars and be exposed to the thinking and planning that happens. Even the Sri Lankan stars due to their heavy international exposure are rarely available for domestic cricket. Hence the experience and the knowledge cricketers of every age can gain by simply being present in a squad can be immeasurable.
SLC that has been struggling for funds in the recent past should also find some solace with the revenue it stands to gain from the entire tournament which should be a tidy sum. Hence the SLPL will naturally be a cash cow which has to be milked carefully.
To the purist of the game the SLPL will not be an attraction or development that will be considered positive. While many could argue the point it is also imperative that the world understands and appreciate the evolving of the game and the change in spectator tastes. Hence there are many necessary changes the game may have to accept.
Besides there are many other factors that one has to remember with regards to the SLPL. Firstly one wonders whether the level of rivalry reached between fans during the IPL could ever be possible here. The simple reason for that is India contains countries within a country. As we are aware the cultures the languages and many other factors could differ from region to region and hence the battle between Mumbai Indians and Delhi Dare Devils could be as keenly followed as per a game between India and another nation as people of India are proud and fiercely loyal to their regions and states.
They are extremely proud of their cricketing sons both individually as a state and in general as a country. I have my doubts as to whether an SLPL could create such an interest and battles between Basnahira Province and the Uva Province or the Southern Province and the Wayamba Province. Thus the spectator interest in that sense may not prevail though there is bound to be a following.
Besides the SLPL being in its first year is played only in Colombo and Kandy and therefore the number of people expected to turn up isn’t massive.
But when the League gets the opportunity of being staged in the respective provinces the loyalty and the interest factor is bound to be greater though that will take some time to happen.
Despite these minor short comings the SLPL has generated enough interest already. The pluses definitely outweigh the minuses and if the organisers could deliver on its initial promises the League can only get bigger and better.