When the Indian Premier League was first launched, rich and famous folk from the world of business and entertainment took a risk by deciding to run cricket teams for a 6-week T20 league. They called it 'cricketainment' then and most weren't quite sure of what the league would become. Cut to the present, the IPL is a qualified success and many franchise owners are now looking at cricket as a round-the-year business proposition.
The IPL playing window itself is set to expand up to ten weeks from 2024. Over and above that, eight of the existing ten franchises will be involved in some T20 league or the other in other pockets of the world, next year onwards.
The inflection point was the recent franchise auction for the upcoming Cricket South Africa (CSA) league in which one learns all the six teams up for grabs have gone to team owners from the IPL. Owners of Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Delhi Capitals (Parth Jindal), Sunrisers Hyderabad and Lucknow Super Giants won team ownership rights, making the CSA T20, a reunion platform of sorts.
"All the new owners in the CSA league, also hold teams in IPL. CSA will be making the names public, this week," said one of the winners.
Recently, three IPL franchises – MI, Kolkata Knight Riders, and DC (GMR Group) had picked up teams in the upcoming UAE T20 league. KKR had made the first move by picking up a team in the Caribbean Premier League, eight years ago. Since RR and Punjab Kings have also bought franchises in the CPL.
Schedules of the UAE and CSA T20 leagues are likely to overlap, with both competitions expected to be launched in January 2023. This did not discourage five-time IPL winners MI from picking up teams in both the leagues.
The two part-owners of DC (Parth Jindal and GMR) will also be holding separate teams in these two competing leagues.
"None of the team owners are looking at these leagues as competing entities," said one owner on condition of anonymity. "The leagues may be jostling for marquee players, but for the IPL team owners, this is more of an opportunity to expand their cricket calendar. The real income still comes from the IPL."
KKR did not take the plunge in the CSA league but they will now have teams competing under the Knight Riders banner in UAE in Jan-Feb, IPL in March-May, the US in June-July, and the Caribbean islands in Aug-September.
Similarly, the Royals are spreading their wings with their CSA league ownership to add to CPL.
"For us, the CPL gives us another opportunity to develop players and coaches who can work across both franchises, and gives us the option to test out new approaches, bringing the latest innovations to the CPL to help us consistently compete," RR lead owner Manoj Badale recently told HT.
This multi-utilisation of support staff helps make informed choices for overseas player acquisition during IPL auctions. Equally, the player also seeks a long-term association. With Andre Russell having the option to choose between the Big Bash, CSA T20, and UAE T20 - their dates clash - he is inclined to pick the UAE league and the Knight Riders brand.
Not every IPL-styled franchise league has hit the jackpot with CSA having had two false starts in the past. They are now looking to benefit from their association with franchise owners who have run teams in the game's biggest cricket league.