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IPL contracts give insight into controversial event

THIS is what all the fuss is about. This Indian Premier League contract, obtained exclusively by The Age this week, is the document that is either the harbinger of cricketing doom or the key to a bright, prosperous future for the game, depending on your interview subject.

Cricket has not faced a more polarising issue in recent times. The Twenty20 rush, with the IPL at its apex, has prompted some to deride it as a purely money-making exercise that will inevitably erode cricket’s rich fabric. Indeed, Australia’s cricketers, in a survey commissioned by their own players association, expressed concern that the Twenty20 game could eventually harm, or even consume, 50-over and Test cricket.

Others, though, see the venture as an opportunity to take cricket to new audiences, new frontiers. The emphasis on innovation and the fan-friendly format have already proven wildly popular at domestic level in England, South Africa and Australia, and those at the forefront of the IPL are adamant those successes will be magnified internationally.

“This is an exciting time for cricket,” said Lalit Modi, chairman of the IPL. “There is no interest on our part to damage the traditional forms of the game. We believe this is a chance to take the game to places it has never been before, while at the same time preserving Test and 50-over cricket.”

Will the IPL prove a cricketing pariah, intent on devouring other forms of the game, or will it ensure cricket’s survival in a time-poor society? That question will not be answered until the competition begins next April. But for now, the players’ long-form contract gives an intriguing insight into the IPL’s vision for the game.

On the first page, under the section marked “conditions”, IPL franchises are directed to “enable the Player to play for the Team without being in breach of any obligation to such national cricket board”. The same condition, 1.1 (b), also states that a player must obtain a No Objection Certificate, which is described as certification “from the Player’s national cricket board … which states that such national cricket board or other relevant person has no objection to the participation of the Player in the League or the Champions Tournament”.

National boards are provided with further safeguards in the IPL contract. Under the Player’s Obligations section, 3.3, cricketers are excused from their IPL commitments if they are observing “proper compliance with any International Duty or with the terms of any Existing Agreement”. Furthermore, an IPL franchise must “release the Player as required for the purposes of fulfilling any International Duty,” as observed in the Franchisee’s Obligations section (6.1 e).

In other words, an Australian player will not play in the IPL without the express permission of Cricket Australia, and a franchise must release said player if CA demands it. And the NOCs are expected to contain a clause for a two-year cooling off period after a player’s retirement, ensuring that cricketers will not truncate their international careers to cash in on the lucrative Twenty20 league. Modi, it seems, has been true to his word.

“We still have a few things to iron out, such as working with Cricket Australia with issues such as those of global sponsorship, but there is no question that everything is being done with their consultation,” Modi said. “Without an NOC from the board, the player can’t play. It’s that simple. We have signed 49 international players, fully mindful of the fact that only two can be on the field at any one time. That demonstrates that we understand the demands of the current international schedule, and we are trying to work with it.”

Not that the IPL is establishing itself as a pushover in the global marketplace. The wording of the IPL contract is stringent in several areas, not least the protection of league sponsors and the fact players cannot engage in other sporting activities, in other words, county cricket “without the prior written consent of the Franchisee” (7.1 a). And, in section 1.1 of the Term and Termination section of the IPL contract, players are advised their contracts can be terminated with immediate effect for gross misconduct, any criminal conviction and “moral turpitude”.

Australian players will receive their long-form contract in the coming days, and the debate about the merits of the IPL and Twenty20 cricket in general will reignite.

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