Originally published in Mirror – Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad Click Here
After a three-year balancing act, the applecart has finally been upset. The delicate equilibrium between the BCCI, other cricket boards, and players has been disturbed by the Sri Lankan sports ministry’s directive to its players to return from the IPL on May 5. This marks the end of the Nash Equilibrium masterminded by Lalit Modi when he had gotten all cricket boards to buy-in to the IPL.
As per Modi’s formula, it was in every party’s interest to make the best decision taking into account the others’ decision. Hence, boards allowed their players to play in the IPL while enjoying the financial benefits of the Champion’s League. But, a player could play in the IPL only if his board approved, thereby allowing the board to retain control. But, like in any Nash Equilibrium, it didn’t mean that each party stood to maximise from the agreement. In fact, the payoff could be significantly more for a player if he could somehow chart his own course. Some players like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Andrew Symonds tried to do so, but with limited success because it was still in the BCCI’s interest to maintain status quo. The Sri Lankan situation is, however, very different.
Sri Lankan Shocker
The events in Sri Lanka following their world cup final loss came as a shock to everyone. The captain and vice-captain resigned and so did the selectors. The coach talked about distractions for the players. And the former captain hinted at political interference in team selection. Apparently, the team management had fought a bitter battle with the sports ministry over the exclusion of Sanath Jayasuriya and Chaminda Vaas. In the meantime, the Sri Lankan president felt humiliated at not having been treated like Julius Caesar on the day of the finals. He wanted to hit back at India. The ministry wanted to hit back at its senior players. And IPL became a soft target. It may turn out to be not such a soft target after all.
How are the players likely to react? Cartelisation is said to be the best way to break Nash Equilibrium. Sangakarra, Jayawardene, Dilshan, Angelo Mathews, Suraj Randiv, Malinga, and Kulasekara form the core of the Sri Lankan national team. Still, the only way they can win this battle is by coming together. But, the cartel will be broken if even one of them defects. It’s a case of the Prisoner’s Dilemma and one can imagine a whole lot of discussions going on between these players.
The franchise owners won’t be happy about this. The aggrieved owners include a man of significant clout like Vijay Mallya and BCCI boss N Srinivasan. They are likely to support the players’ cartel.
The Sri Lankan ministry would like to form their own cartel with anti-BCCI boards like PCB and ECB. And, they would like to identify the weak link in the players’ cartel and lure him to defect. National captaincy could be a significant incentive and Dilshan could be their target. But, given that the ministry has acted on ego rather than financial considerations, they may be entering the battle with little preparation.
The next few weeks will see a lot of political drama. If Lalit Modi was still around, all this would have been played on twitter. Unfortunately, he is still doing it for Sachin and Anna Hazare from London. Most of this battle is now likely to be fought behind the scenes and we would only know of the eventual victor. My guess is that the BCCI will win again.