ISPL taps into familiar yet unexplored pool of cricket talent

A total of 18 lakh players registered for ISPL's player auctions and it demonstrated the tennis ball cricketers' zeal for the sport.

The inaugural season of the Indian Street Premier League (ISPL) kicked off on Wednesday, March 6, at the Dadoji Kondadev Stadium in Thane with Majhi Mumbai emerging victorious against Srinagar Ke Veer in a thrilling encounter in the first match.

Under the leadership of captain Yogesh Penkar, the Amitabh Bachchan-owned team displayed an amazing synthesis of teamwork on the pitch. Penkar lit up the arena with his powerful strokes as he demonstrated his batting prowess with a scorching half-century and was named Man of the Match.

Cricket being India’s go-to sport has been played across venues and avenues, which has enabled the sport to propel in the country over the years.

The game of cricket is played in streets, gullies, public grounds, etc., and primarily with a tennis ball. Everyone begins with the tennis ball, as playing with a leather ball can be expensive and injury-prone as compared to the former. Leather ball cricket couldn’t function without a proper cricket kit and season-ball-authorised playgrounds.

The veteran cricketer, Robin Uthappa, opined on the monetary difference between tennis and leather ball cricket, “In today’s day and age, cricket is not a cheap sport to play, it’s an expensive sport to pursue. So tennis ball cricket, in that sense, can be an affordable and go-to avenue for anyone.”

With tennis ball cricket venturing into the arena of professional cricket through the induction of ISPL, tennis ball cricketers could consider taking up the sport as a full-time career. All six teams combined spent INR 4.91 crore in the first-ever ISPL auction, which displayed multiple corporates’ interest in a tennis-ball cricket. With ISPL, the organisers have undeniably tapped into a known but unexplored segment of cricketing talent.

The core committee of the league is headed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) treasurer, Ashish Shelar, the former Indian cricketer, Sachin Tendulkar, and the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) president, Amol Kale. The former Indian coach, Ravi Shastri, is the chief mentor.

Bringing Indian actors as team owners helped with the influx of eyeballs from across the country. The esteemed list of team owners includes Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan (Tiigers of Kolkata), Ram Charan (Falcon Risers Hyderabad), Suriya (Chennai Singams), Hrithik Roshan (Bangalore Strikers), Amitabh Bachchan (Majhi Mumbai), and Akshay Kumar (Srinagar Ke Veer).

Commenting on the presence of Indian celebrities as owners, Saif Ali Khan, said, “The idea of having celebrities is to give publicity to the team and the competition altogether. For this particular inaugural season, a lot of celebrities have turned up and we hope to generate some excitement and interest for ISPL moving forward.

A total of 18 lakh registrations were done for players auctions and it demonstrated the tennis ball cricketers’ zeal for the sport. Every passing season of the competition will see opportunities to be presented to more and more cricketers. In addition, the players, franchise owners and stakeholders are likely to receive hefty ROI as ISPL transcends over the years.

Commenting on getting the ISPL in front of the masses, Uthappa, said, “Organising ISPL right before the IPL and it getting telecasted, it’s nice to see that. The film industry and cricket coming together is the perfect amalgamation of something that really works in our country, and that needs to be tapped into when you see the potential of something that really can add value to people around cricket.”

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