As Saudi Arabia sets its sights on entering the world of cricket by launching the richest tournament in the sport, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has made it clear that top Indian cricketers will not be permitted to participate. The kingdom has been steadily increasing its involvement in the world of sports, with recent investments in Formula One, Newcastle United, and the LIV golf circuit. However, it seems that the BCCI is determined to maintain its control over Indian cricket talent.
The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the BCCI has been growing recently, with ‘Visit Saudi’ becoming a major sponsor for the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL). Additionally, Saudi oil giant Aramco has sponsorship deals with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and BCCI. The kingdom’s goal is to become the No. 1 tourist destination for India by 2030, and tapping into the cricket industry could further strengthen ties between the two nations.
While the BCCI is not opposed to IPL franchises investing in overseas T20 leagues, such as those in the UAE, South Africa, USA, and the Caribbean, they remain firm in their stance against allowing Indian players to feature in other domestic competitions. This is due to concerns that it would diminish the IPL’s brand value.
A top BCCI official, speaking to The Indian Express, explained the board’s position: “No current Indian players will be taking part in any of the leagues, but as far as franchise participation is concerned, we can’t stop them…It’s their individual decision.”
IPL franchises are known for their international involvement and are reportedly eager to explore ownership opportunities in other countries. Despite the BCCI’s refusal to allow Indian cricketers to participate in the Saudi-backed league, they may still offer technical knowhow in organizing the T20 league, giving IPL franchises another market to invest in.
However, a franchise official voiced concerns about Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure, questioning whether they have enough stadiums to conduct a league of such magnitude. As plans for the Saudi-backed cricket league continue to unfold, it remains to be seen how the BCCI’s decision will impact the future of this potentially game-changing venture.