With V B Chandrasekhar’s death bringing to the fore problems of the Tamil Nadu Premier League, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association will now be forced to find solutions.
On 26 May this year, five Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) teams a letter to the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) seeking changes to the T-20 cricket league it has been conducting annually since 2016.
The issue was almost forgotten until former Test cricketer V B Chandrasekhar’s alleged suicide on 15 August.
A dashing batsman during his prime, Chandrasekhar had ended his life reportedly due to financial strain, particularly in running his TNPL team VB Kanchi Veerans.
Chandrasekhar didn’t seek any change from the TNCA and he was not among the franchise owners who sought changes. But his suicide has brought to fore the problems and issues faced by TNPL franchises.
TNPL has helped a few players such as Murugan Ashwin, and Varun Chakravarthy, who was picked by Kings XI Punjab for Rs 8.4 crore this year in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Apart from this, there is not much for TNCA to gloat over TNPL, especially given the grievances of the franchises.
According to the five franchises — Tuticorin Patriots, Lyca Kovai Kings, Siechem Madurai Panthers, Ruby Trichy Warriors and I Dream Karaikudi — players’ availability, profitability and certain aspects of the game were hurting them.
The franchises said they were concerned over the viewership for the league and the television rating points.
This year, the franchises claimed that they were unable to find a single sponsor as Indian and IPL players were unavailable.
They also expressed concern over outstation players not being allowed to play in TNPL, quality of umpiring, and matches being played in remote places like Tirunelveli and Natham in Dindigul.
The franchises said that in 2016, they were told that three outstation players would be allowed to be registered with each team and two of them could play in the eleven.
This hasn’t happened even in this year’s T-20 league.
Another aspect that hasn’t been fulfilled is the franchises being denied a share of the gate collections and other income from TNPL, based on the IPL model.
Some teams incur expenditure to the tune of Rs 5 crore. There are other costs too. The franchises are unable to recover these expenses.
Besides, the teams have to pay franchise fee to TNCA. For example, Tuticorin Patriot, the highest bidder, has to pay a fee of Rs 5.21 crore, while VB Kanchi Veerans of Chandrasekhar had to pay Rs 3.48 crore. In all, TNCA gets Rs 33 crore as franchise fee from the TNPL teams.
Experts say that there were reasons for people to support TNPL in 2016 and the following year as Tamil Nadu’s Chennai Super Kings was banned from IPL.
On 4 June, TNCA reacted sharply during a meeting with the owners of TNPL teams over their grievances. Its officials told the media that the association gets Rs 33 crore as franchise fee, Rs 12 crore as broadcast fee, and Rs 7 crore as sponsorship fee.
The TNCA shares 80 per cent of the telecast and sponsorship fees with the franchises. According to its officials, the association gains only a net Rs 5 crore from TNPL after meeting all expenses, including production expenses for the telecast of the matches.
TNCA has said it has even subsidised the fee by 20-30 per cent. However, its explanation has not cut ice with some of the teams, which are now seeking forensic audit of TNPL accounts.
Critics of TNPL say the T-20 league was bound to be a failure since it followed the IPL model. “You can’t have two similar models and expect to rake in profits,” a critic said, adding that one of the drawbacks of TNPL was a lack of gate collections.
“Who will come to watch these local players? If the teams had one or two Indian stars, people might flock to watch them,” the critic, who didn’t want to be identified, said.
Critics also pointed out that some of the big corporates like MRF and TVS have opted not to own any TNPL team and say it was clear that TNPL wasn’t bound to succeed.
“In Chandrasekhar’s case, it is possible that bankers wouldn’t have lent him money since the business model didn’t make much sense,” the critic said.
In Chandrasekhar’s case, there were rumours that perhaps a former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) official was willing to help him out. The late cricketer also had the option to sell his team as he was the only non-corporate person owning a TNPL franchise.
But those who know Chandrasekhar say that he loved whatever he did and cricket was his passion. “His problem was that he was too straight forward and wouldn’t compromise on illegal aspects,” says one of his friends, not wanting to be identified.
“That’s why he came out of Chennai Super Kings despite being a great talent spotter. He was instrumental in suggesting to rope in Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the Chennai Super Kings IPL team,” says the friend.
Chandrasekhar had also been the chief selector of the Indian cricket team, when its ascendancy began. The only problem, if one were to point out, during his period as the chief selector was that he gave a long rope to Sourav Ganguly, say critics.
TNCA doesn’t cover itself with glory the way it has treated V B Chandrasekhar. The late cricketer was unceremoniously sacked as the coach of the state Ranji Trophy cricket team.
“Chandrasekhar and a former Test cricketer, who was then the captain, didn’t agree on the strategy for the team. The captain told his players that anyone listening to the coach will be out of the team,” says the friend.
The late Test cricketer had incurred debts of over Rs 20 crore running VB Kanchi team, according to his friend. But the cricketer has assets including a seven-acre cricket ground on Old Mahabalipuram Road and a house in Alwarpet, one of the upmarket areas in Chennai.
These could have helped him tide over the financial crises, and therefore, the mystery over Chandrasekhar’s suicide deepens. His auditor is yet to reveal details of his account books. Until then, Chandrasekhar’s suicide will continue to be a cause for concern.
As of now, his suicide has resulted in the woes of TNPL coming to the fore. By the time the league is conducted next year, the TNCA will be under more pressure to find a way to make the TNPL teams happy.