That, however, may not mean that the BCCI has decided it is looking to introduce two new teams. While contemplation is on, with serious intent, to do so, “discussion” still means that members attending the AGM in the last week of December will have to agree in majority.
The idea of floating 10 teams has its pros and cons.
On the positive side, the BCCI can avoid the complications of another mega-auction in a year from now if two new teams are brought on board together. If only one team gets added for now, with the second to be brought in later, another mega auction will be needed in a year’s time or so, which would once again disturb the aesthetics of the first auction and make the process repetitive and cumbersome.
There are some more positives. With the dynamics of international cricket expected to change over the next few years – once the new Future Tours Program (FTP) of the International Cricket Council (ICC) that is being drafted comes into effect post 2023 – the time is ripe for the IPL to expand its existing window and stake claim.
Further, with a media rights tender expected to be floated later next year, 10 teams in the fray will probably allow potential bidders to write cheques of a higher value keeping the higher number of matches, a bigger window and renewed interest in mind.
Finally, it will also allow the board – looking at a huge outgo of cash on multiple fronts – to raise capital. The introduction of two new teams will ring in cash in excess of half a billion dollars – always a shot in the arm given the nasty legal battles the BCCI has found itself entangled in over recent years.
There are a few cons too.
First, addition of two teams will mean the IPL having to undergo a format change and revert to the one that was in use during the 2011 edition.
The ten teams were divided into two groups of five. In the group stage, each team played 14 games: facing the other four teams in their group two times each (one home and one away game), four teams in the other group once, and the remaining team two times. A random draw was used to determine the groups and who plays whom across the groups once and twice.
Each team played the team in the same row and the same column twice, and all others once.
It was complicated, even though it saved time. Despite 10 teams in the fray and a restricted window to play the tournament, a total of 74 matches were played, further leading to added double-headers – an area where broadcasters Star India will find the need to sweat again.
Complications of the format aside, the value that BCCI may get by selling two new franchises in the middle of Covid is another concern.
The pandemic hasn’t gone away anywhere, instead taking a heavy toll on the global economy and zipping up purse strings in general. In a scenario as bleak as this one and expected to take its own time before it regains any momentum, the challenge and onus will be on the board to get the desired value.
Another unseen worry stems from the general sense of hurriedness to pull off this exercise. With the present media rights wheel set to remain in motion until 2022, industry executives can’t help but raise questions on whether the Board could’ve waited to ring in two new teams, instead of one, for now.
Time will tell, say those tracking these developments.
The BCCI has a conscious call to make here even as it looks to put its best foot forward and break the brilliant yet undeniable monotony that its most prized property is going through.