Saturday, 16 June 2012

The curious case of the SLPL

A few years ago I ran a small business as a side project buying and selling computer parts. I had a few people who used to get me to source things for them, and one main supplier, who was one of the cheapest in the country and who gave me a (small) discount.

I was sitting at my parents house looking through my suppliers catalog when one of my father's friends arrived. He is a very successful businessman, who supplies clothing for most of the large clothing retainers in New Zealand. He was looking over my shoulder, and we started talking about what I was doing.

I told him about what a good deal I was getting. A lot of my parts were Korean and when I tried to import them myself I was surprised to find that I was getting them cheaper off my supplier in New Zealand than I could buy them for in Korea. At this point he asked me a curious question: "have you checked if your supplier is making money?"

I didn't really care if my supplier was making money. Provided they were prepared to sell me my product at a particular rate, I was going to buy it. If they were making a loss, that was their problem, not mine. He told me that he always made sure his suppliers were making money. As most of his suppliers were in China, he actually flew over there to talk to his suppliers and make sure the deals he was doing was profitable for both of them. This seemed a very strange idea to me.

A few months later I ordered a DVD drive and they had a free delivery special, so I got it delivered and waited for it to arrive. But 3 days later it hadn't turned up. They were normally very good, so I then tried phoning them to find out what was happening, but there was no answer. I went to their office, but the lights were off, and the doors were locked.

I went online to see if anyone else knew anything, and what I found was not good news. They had put in the policy of the free deliveries, and then the owners had taken everybody's money and headed for the airport. Fortunately they police had put out an advisory for them about 2 minutes before they cleared customs, and they were arrested, but they had already "lost" most of the money. I was never going to see my $38 again, but fortunately it was only $38; two weeks earlier I had spent close to $2000 with them.

Perhaps if I had taken my father's friend's advice I might not have lost that $38. If I had ensured that I was dealing with a company that was making money they would have continued to give me exemplary service.

The BCCI are finding themselves in a similar situation to what I was in at the moment. One of their biggest ways of making money is from meaningful tours to and from their nearest competitive and politically expedient neighbour Sri Lanka.

And yet India are not thinking ahead in their dealings with the Sri Lanka Cricket.

Now to be fair, it's not always a good idea to think too far ahead with SLC, because it's likely to only be a year or so before there is some turmoil and another commissioner is appointed by someone with a political axe to bear. This is how things work in Sri Lanka. However in the case of the SLPL it is definitely in India's best interest to make sure it runs well.

The BCCI need to look at Sri Lanka as a supplier, rather than as a competitor. They supply a team that can create revenue for India. They supply some of the most interesting players in world cricket for the IPL. They supply fans who will happily buy t-shirts and caps from IPL franchises. Now they are looking at running a competition that is at a different time to any Indian commitments, and will keep the cricket fans talking about cricket.

Only the BCCI is talking about not releasing any Indian players for the SLPL.

It is understandable that they don't want to release all of their top players for the competition, as they have to manage workloads and ensure that their most talented players don't burn out. However during the time that the SLPL is scheduled to run, the likes of Ashok Dinda, Rahul Sharma and Shikar Dhawan are all likely to be playing very little cricket. And having them playing in the SLPL could have 3 possible benefits.

Firstly it will mean that they are playing, instead of not playing. Very few players become much better just by playing in the nets. There needs to be a combination of practice and meaningful matches. The SLPL will provide this, as well as experience touring and playing in different conditions. Secondly it will allow the selectors to observe some of these players in non-Indian conditions, playing different opposition. The final, and most important benefit is that there is no chance of it setting off a "trade war" between cricket boards.

If India are to persist in blocking their players from playing in Sri Lanka, there is the potential that Sri Lanka might block their players from playing in India. While Sri Lanka are not in a strong enough financial position to be able to really stop them, the English Cricket Board are, and a move by Sri Lanka could set off a domino effect which could potentially greatly diminish the value of the IPL for the BCCI. It could also risk upsetting the powerful Asia/Africa voting block in the ICC, which allows India to effectively veto decisions that it doesn't like.

The BCCI is not there to run world cricket. They exist to make sure Indian cricket is strong. Most of their decisions that people in the rest of the world have got upset about are ones that benefit India, and so therefore are decisions that the BCCI was right to make. However in this case the best interest of Indian cricket is to look after Sri Lanka. It will be interesting to see if they have sufficient vision to realise that, or if they are intent on just milking their supplier, until they collapse.

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