Sunday, September 05, 2010

Changes in Indian Premier League

The Indian Premier League has finally come out with the changes for the coming season. I have to say I'm quite happy with most of them although it wouldn't be surprising if people blindly criticise whatever the league has done. There are a lot of stakeholders in the IPL and it's impossible to please all of them. The best one can do is be mindful of the interests of fans, players, franchise owners, sponsors, broadcasters, etc. and ensure long-term benefits aren't compromised for short-term gains. So let's look at the key points:

There was a fear that with two new teams being added there might be 94 games in a season. While franchises might have been keen to have more matches, this may have been detrimental to their cause in the long run as players would have either been tired by the end of the season or would have to be rested for some games. In both scenarios, you're compromising the quality of cricket and that's a definite no-no as far as fans are concerned. Reducing the number of games per team was also not practical as the business model was based on teams playing a certain number of matches.

Under the new format, there will be 14 more games in the season but each team will still play the same number of games in the group stage as they did last year. The 10 teams will be split into two groups with each team playing those from its group home and away. Each team will also play four teams from the other group either home or away, and the fifth team from that group home and away. I've come across people who found it a bit difficult to understand so I should point out that this is kind of similar to how the National Football League draws up its schedule (Click here and here).

The one different thing I would have done would be to simply create two permanent divisions - North and South (Don't get stuck on the names, they can be called anything). There are already 4 teams from the South and it makes sense to have them all in the same group. Ditto for the 3 Northern teams. This greatly reduces the amount of travel and also helps build regional rivalries which are a key factor in generating and sustaining spectator interest. Keeping this in mind, the two groups would be:

Group A: Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Mumbai, Pune.
Group B: Bangalore, Deccan, Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata.

Also, I think the teams that finish in identical positions in their respective groups should be the ones that play each other home and away next season. For example, if Punjab and Kolkata are the lowest ranked of the 5 teams in Group A and B respectively then they play each other home and away in 2012. Similarly, if Delhi and Chennai have the best record in their respective groups then they play each other home and away in 2012. What this does is creates a competitive balance because the teams that have performed badly play each other one more time than they play the better teams while the ones that perform well play each other one more time than they play the lesser sides.

I also like the knockout format for next year. Until now, teams have had no reason other than pride to play for top spot in the league. As Deccan and Chennai have proved the last two seasons, you really don't need to finish top of the league to win. It only takes two good games once you've got into the top four. Under the new format, the top two teams can make the finals even if they lose one game while the ones finishing third and fourth have no margin for error and have to win three games instead of two in order to be crowned champions. This should ensure teams will fight it out almost till the end so that they can finish in the top two.

If you had to pick a hole in this format you could say there might be a situation in which four teams might run away at the start and the others wouldn't have much to play for. The league could've looked into a wildcard system wherein the top two teams get a bye in the first round. The team that finishes third would play the sixth placed team while number four would play number five in the wildcard round. After that you'd have the usual semi-finals with the top team facing the lowest ranked team left after the wildcard round and the second-placed team would face the next lowest team. It would add two more games to the schedule.

Player Retention and Salary Structure
The initial IPL player contracts were for a period of three years and the league hadn't thought of how they would be structured going ahead. With the league being such a hit in India and two new teams entering the fray there were quite a few entities whose interests had to be looked after:

1. The players obviously wanted to maximise their value because a lot of them performed exceedingly well and they could see how well the league had done.
2. The 8 existing franchises wanted to retain some of their players but they wouldn't want to break the bank in order to do so.
3. The 2 new franchises would want to be allowed to be in a position to buy any player and hence wouldn't want the 8 existing franchises to be able to retain any players.
4. Fans would like to see the best players of their franchise and/or homegrown players to remain with them but they would also like to see certain players from other teams to be in theirs.

The league has increased the salary cap to $9 million so that's a good thing from the players' perspective. However, it is the point of retention that I'm wary of. By leaving it between the franchise and the player, the league has opened up possibilities of players being paid a part of their salary under the table. For example, let's assume Chennai retain Suresh Raina on a contract of $900,000 and the Super Kings owner N Srinivasan ensures Raina is bumped up to a Grade A contract for the national team. Also, the chairman of selectors is the brand ambassador for that franchise. He can ensure Raina gets picked for the Indian team even if he's struggling. If you think this is outrageous then think back to when the Mumbai Indians were ready to offer Ravindra Jadeja a salary that was FIVE times what he was entitled to under the league rules.

I would have rather liked to see all players go into the auction and then whatever price he commanded his original team could sign him for that amount if not at a premium. For example, if Pune put in the winning bid for Sachin Tendulkar at $2 million Mumbai would have the option to sign him for that amount or at a premium of say $50,000. That way the 8 existing franchises can theoretically retain any number of players and there would be no danger of paying players under the table.

Well these are my thoughts on the new rules. I'm sure there are other ideas out there as well that might improve the format and/or salary structure. Feel free to share them.


  1. If you divide the teams into groups as mentioned above you will have 3 semifinalists from previous editions in a single group, there by increasing the toughness of matches for them and making it easier for say Delhi or Mumbai to qualify (basing this on the performance in last two seasons). It would have been better if the BCCI used Last years positions and seeded them accordingly and placed them into groups and include one new franchise in each they want a random draw which in high probability will be conducted at the time of the auctions...

    To add to the example of Raina, last year UB group signed on KP as the brand ambassador for White and Mckay..the old system of 50k extra cap was much much better..but Chennai and Mumbai didn't like it and they have biggest say in it sadly..

  2. Aditya, what happened in the last season makes hardly any difference because all the teams will have a completely different look after the November auctions. Also, if you're going to say Mumbai or Delhi would find it easier to qualify based on the last two seasons then one can point out that 3 of the northern teams made the semis in the very first season. Another thing to be noted here is you may get all four semifinalists from the same division because the league table will be consolidated and not be split into two groups with each group sending two teams to the semis.

    There will always be a certain amount of disparity between the two groups every year, it's inevitable. However, I think it's more important to have sustained rivalries based on where the teams are located. Also, I'd look to minimise the amount of travel because it cuts costs and reduces the burden on players. Remember they're going to be playing in the peak of the Indian summer.

  3. Each team has played the same number of matches twice now in the peak of the Indian summer and you and I know that BCCI won't factor this in while making schedules. It isn't like the League has over 20 teams which is the case with most American leagues where the East/West conference concept exists after all there are just 10 teams! With respect to the travel issue the foreigners coped up well last year and performed in the World T20 where as the Indians who are supposed to be better acquainted to the climate were found complaining and wanting. It comes down to player fitness and how one takes care of themselves.If the BCCI was interested in cutting costs wrt the schedule they would have come up with better schedules where teams from north play their matches in south one after the other and vice versa but that is not the case.

    I agree that the team compositions will change so previous season's performances would not count for much, but it would be highly unlikely (mathematically possible) to see the top 4 overall from the same group given the fact they will have to play each other twice. Seeding system is used to group teams in ICC events and other sporting events worldwide based on the most recent performances/rankings or even the overall performance in the IPL.It would be more logical to use the same rather than a random draw to determine the same.

    Would it be fair if Chennai,Delhi,Deccan,Bangalore and Mumbai/Rajasthan end up in the same group(given their overall records in the league)? I am asking for consistent Performance has to be rewarded.

  4. There is no seeding system in most domestic leagues around the world, Aditya. NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, NRL, Super 14s, domestic football leagues. None of them have a seeding system to decide which teams go into what groups. You look at some of the greatest sporting rivalries and you'll notice they've been built over the two teams playing each other over a period of time, something we may not have if we keep changing the groups year after year. While it is improbable that all four semifinalists would come from the same group, it is still possible.

    The reason foreigners coped with it was because most of them weren't available for the whole duration of the IPL and even the ones that were didn't play all 14 games. However, even if we were to buy the argument it doesn't mean the league can't do its best to reduce the burden on players. If they didn't care about the workload they would've just gone ahead with 94 games in a season. The division concept in American leagues is not just because there are 30 or more teams, the AFL which started in the 1950s had just 8 teams and still had two divisions.

    I agree with you in that a random draw doesn't make much sense but we have differing reasons as to why that is the case. With the unpredictable nature of T20 cricket and teams undergoing an overhaul this November I think the only constant is regional affiliations, something the league has always claimed to exploit.

  5. Check the records for each team over the first three seasons. The ones which I put in the southern division have 153 points compared to 183 for the northern ones. So maybe the southern teams haven't done as well as you'd imagine :)

  6. I am aware that all the leagues in US you don't have a seeding system..I brought them up with respect to the division of east west conferences as they have many teams at their disposal usually more than 20. In NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, NRL, Super 14s, domestic football leagues all teams play at least the no of matches they would have played if there was a home and away structure. So there is no point in comparing them with the IPL given number of matches in it is very less.

    The seeding system is used in ICC events, Tennis and other sports per se.

    Kallis,Mahela Jayawardene,Sangakkara,Malinga,Albie Morkel,Dale Steyn,Pollard,Mathews played in all matches for their teams? Did their performance dip in the World T20? Did they perform as badly as their Indian counterparts. I think its just an excuse given by the Indian players, If one is able to take care of oneself then there shouldn't be a problem given the schedule, it also comes down to the players fitness.There is extreme competition for the foreign player slot in a team hence in spite of being available some of them.

    94 matches would mean spectator interest would dwindle dramatically, hence they recuded it from 94. Look at Team India's schedule till Feb 2012, they dont have any breathing space at all. If the BCCI cared about its main cash cow, wouldn't it have a proper schedule? and we know how crammed India's schedule is always..they seem to fit in pointless tri series in when we have a 15 day gap in the schedule.

    Yes the league has exploited the Regional affiliations but nothing on the basis of a north-south division has ever been seen in the IPL.A team is always promoted with respect to the location from which it is based but not from the region per se (South North East West)

    In your north south divisions you have only calculated on the basis of league matches points, reaching semis and winning titles counts for nothing then? It is skewed because of Hyd and B'lore pathetic performance in season 1. Mumbai should be part of the South group if you are going to divide it by region and NOT kolkata, then the score would be 172 to north and 163 to south, which would make north the tougher group and south with (Hyd,Chennai,blore and Mumbai) the weaker one! And seedings as I have mentioned earlier are done by using the most recent performances ( for ICC events, Tennis,badminton tournaments, etc ) and not the whole history. Or maybe they wanted to go the football way with draws! Football has draws for World cup and even UEFA tournaments if I am not wrong.

  7. Mahela, Malinga, Albie, Steyn, Pollard and Mathews didn't even play all their team's matches. I'm not sure anyone apart from Mahela did well in the T20 World Cup and he too struggled after a couple of good innings at the start.

    We know India has a hectic schedule but isn't that the reason why the IPL needs to be as lean as possible? The argument here isn't what the BCCI is going to do but what it can do.

    Just because there hasn't been a north-south division in the IPL doesn't mean it can't be done going forward. The reason I put Mumbai in North (Again, North and South are just names. You can call it whatever you want) is because there is another team close to Mumbai (Pune) so I'd want them both in the same group. Then you have 3 more teams from the North so it's convenient to have the 5 of these together, just as it's convenient to have the four southern teams together alongwith the only team from the East. One can call the two groups Northwest and Southeast for all I care, all that matters is forming them to foster regional rivalries and minimise travel.

    Again, there is a difference between domestic leagues and ICC events, tennis tournaments, etc. ICC events are held in the same country/countries so it makes sense to form groups. Tennis and badminton tournaments are contested by individuals so once again it's the ranking that makes sense. While the football world cup and UEFA Champions League have draws, the respective bodies do take into account the teams' rankings while drawing groups. For example, UEFA Champions League has a co-efficient system by which clubs are ranked based on their performance in Europe over the last 5 seasons. Depending on where you're ranked you got into Pots A, B, C or D.

    Yes I only considered the group stage. I don't think getting hot for the semis and finals makes a team with a 7-7 record better than one with a 10-4 record. Chennai is the only team that can claim to be consistently good all three seasons, the rest have blown hot and cold. Again, it's a moot point because all the teams will have a totally different look after the November auctions.

  8. If you strictly want to speak on who has played all the matches Dhoni,Praveen Kumar,Zaheer Khan,Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, M Vijay, Gambhir,Vinay Kumar haven't played all the matches for whatsoever reasons there maybe. Mahela(13/14), Malinga(13/16), Albie(14/16), Steyn(15/16), Pollard(14/16) and Mathews(14/14) all these have played more than or equal to their Indian counterparts. The point is they had a better tournament than our players and none of them complained about the hectic schedule.

    The BCCI can do a lot of things, in an ideal world they would have always given priority to the players and the schedule.

    The best situation would be to have the pot type system where it has to be ensured that only 1 new team is in a group. I would not want both the new teams in the same group.

    Well getting Hot for the semis ensures you win the tournament. India's 1983 WC triumph, 2007 T20 WC, Australia's 1999 WC win to name a few. Rising to the occasion matters and you have to play according to the format presented to you. If the team with the 10-4 record is indeed better than the one with a 7-7 record than maybe they should have defeated them easily when it mattered, they aren't better they are just consistent. What you do in pressure situations matters in most tournaments. In the recent FIFA WC too the Dutch were consistent(winning all their matches) but they didn't rise to the occasion when it mattered the most.The same can be said about Argentina as well.

  9. India's 1983 triumph was by no means due to the team going on a hot run. We beat the Windies and Australia in the group stage so it's not like we sneaked into the semis. Even in 2007 we lost just one game, while even Australia were unbeaten in their last 6 or 7 games in 1999. The whole thing about pressure situations is overrated especially in a league which is based on all 8 teams being reasonably well-matched. I don't think there can be an arugment that Deccan in 2009 and Chennai in 2010 were decidedly better than the rest. It's just a narrative used by "experts" to keep making fans believe in a myth. If these teams were really good under pressure you wouldn't have seen Chennai lose in the knockouts twice and Deccan getting rolled over in the semis and the playoffs this time.

  10. In the 1999 WC Aus won when it mattered as in towards the business end of the tournament. Both SA and Pak had better overall records before the knockout rounds and in 2007 WC as well Pak did not even loose one match and was in better form and a win loss ratio than us. In the 1983 WC if you remember West Indies also defeated us in the league stage and was the most consistent team in the tournament and was the favorite to win, but India won the final. Just saying that the performances in the knockout matches matter the most. and there is no point in comparing IPL teams across seasons., i was restricting my argument to one season in particular. Deccan in 2009 and Chennai in 2010 Won their matches when it mattered, they were able to handle the pressure situations better than other teams, just saying that the most consistent team always doesn't win, the one which handles the pressure best when it matters does and more often than not people remember who won the tournament and that matters as well rather than who topped the league stages.

    In the football domestic leagues they don't have the knockout games and there the most consistent is rewarded. So the same argument does not apply here.

  11. South Africa didn't have the better overall record going into the semis. They'd lost two games, the same number as Australia. Pakistan had lost three. Clearly it wasn't just a case of Australia going on a run. Yes the Windies did defeat us in 1983 but we beat them too. They were favourites because they'd won the last two World Cups and were by far the better side. Just because we beat them in the finals didn't make us better, and it was proved right after the World Cup when they swept us at home.

    Confining the argument to just one season is misleading. If a team is supposedly good under pressure then it should be good under pressure year after year but that is not the case.

    The margin of error is so small in T20s that it can just be a question of luck. Sometimes you can do all the right things and still lose because an edge flew just wide of the fielder or the umpire made a mistake. This is why what happens in the knockout stages of the IPL doesn't mean much to me. It might if we had a best of five playoff but one-off knockout games are just too prone to luck.

  12. What i meant in the 99 WC was the performance in the league stages where PAK and SA topped their groups. Super six is also a knockout round in a way!

    If we are to include all the seasons within the argument a team which has won the title once is better at handling pressure situations than a team which has never won. At least they got it right once!

    It would be better of we have home and away matches for knockout rounds like the UEFA Champions League or even best of 3 if not 5 (which would be ideal but lengthy).2011 format is also better by rewarding the teams which finish no 1 and 2.