KPL’s new avatar: will it work?

The Karnataka Premier League (KPL) has been renamed Maharaja Trophy. Not only has the name changed, but its fundamental structure is also different. The question is, will this new change make it an uninterrupted tournament, unlike all those years ago?

The Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) was unable to maintain the KPL consistently. The League started in 2009 then stopped in 2011. Then it was restarted in 2014, suspended in 2019 due to covid and later due to the match-fixing scandal. Now it has been renewed in a new avatar.

Not only has its name changed from Karnataka Premier League to a long – Maharaja Trophy KSCA T20 Cricket Tournament, but its very nature and ownership model has changed – KPL is no longer a franchise model. It is now a sponsorship model.

Previously, the franchise appointed the coaching staff, in addition to choosing its players. Now one person or company sponsors a team while KSCA does everything else.

A sponsor can only choose the city they wish to sponsor through an application to KSCA. If KSCA accepts your application, you get it. Once your application has been accepted, the KSCA invites the sponsor to participate in a lottery.

The process begins with two draws. The first is a box containing the names of the six teams, and the second box contains the names of the six coaching teams that KSCA has already formed, which includes a selector, a new addition to the coaching staff, unlike in previous years .

The process then moves to the President of KSCA who pulls out a team name from the first draw box. This time Roger Binny chose Mysore Warriors. Thus, Mysore Warriors was able to choose the coaching staff in the second box of the draw first.

After that, the sponsors are asked to leave the room and the coaching staff headed by the selector choose the players from said team through the “draft system”.

What is this system project? Well, once the sponsor chooses their coaching staff, that team has the first option to choose any player. Since Mysore Warriors was picked first, the Mysore Warriors coaching staff got the first draft pick and the coaching staff picked Karun Nair as their first pick.

Similarly, the second team that the KSCA president chose from the draw box, Gulbarga, got to choose the second player. They chose Manish Pandey. And so the process continued for the first six player picks. This is called the first round of the repechage.

In the next round, the team that got the first pick in the previous round gets the last pick, and the team that got the second pick gets the first pick. This rotation continues. There are eighteen such rounds in which six players are chosen each round, with each team choosing one.

This draw system is only this time, the first time. Starting next year, the winning team will choose last. In this way, the team that finished last this year will have the chance to improve their team the following year by having the first choice to have the best player. This keeps all teams competitive and on an equal footing over time.

Interestingly, this new drafting system is similar to the one used by the famous American Basketball League, the NBA – National Basketball Association. The Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) follows this same method. The difference is that in the NBA and TNPL, the teams belong to a franchise.

As KPL takes on this new avatar, one wonders what happens to the owners who have invested in these teams all these years. Many bought KPL teams, hoping that while promoting cricket they could also create ‘ownership’. Their team would do well, and they could get a reasonable “valuation” like the IPL teams, creating a new asset. Without control over the central aspect of the team, will the sponsors stick around long enough?

Since KSCA follows the NBA model, why not give ownership while keeping control of the players and cricket aspects? The TNPL does exactly that, so why not us? In this way, KSCA promotes talent while the team owner promotes the team and its franchise.

What is this new model for? It used to be that owners wanted to win, at least the professionally managed ones. Those who wanted to fix games never wanted to win anyway.

Additionally, the former owners would ensure “meritocracy” rather than “favoritism” or influence. Now KSCA officials can choose their favorites in the draft. Indeed, the KSCA has provided a “selector” for each team, but when the career of the selectors is in the hands of KSCA officials, they will obviously turn to their KSCA “mentors”. Does it really help the “uninfluenced” local kids, the talented local kid with no sponsor who needs that much-needed boost to take it to the next level?

Perhaps this new system will create a level playing field for a team in the long run, but there is concern that when there is no sense of belonging there will be little incentive to spend on the game. and long term players.

Worse, the citizens of the city will not have a sense of belonging because there will be no players from their city nor a sponsor from their city; there will be nothing for them to feel the connection that instills a sense of team loyalty. There will be no feeling of ‘our team’ if we don’t have ‘our’ local boys playing.

Luckily for Mysuru, Mysore Warriors are sponsored by NR Group, our own town’s business house, who made sure that there were at least 4-5 local boys in the Mysore Warriors team. This year there are two; we wonder if they will even be in the playing XI. But how much time will someone invest in a team if they don’t own it? Because if brand building is all they want, they’ll divert their advertising dollars elsewhere, right?

The playful and festive quotient brought by the franchise model is essential. While this does indeed benefit the franchise, it also benefits grassroots cricketers immensely. If the franchise model was that bad, the IPL teams would be owned by BCCI and not Reliance and Jindals.

Hopefully this new draft and sponsorship model doesn’t turn KPL into another routine KSCA tournament on its schedule, or worse, make it obsolete…again.

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