NEW DELHI: The Indian Premier League (IPL) looks set for a drastic change in format next season, with teams likely to be divided into two groups to prevent cramming too many matches in too few days.
With 10 teams instead of the current eight, continuing with the current format would have meant playing 94 matches instead of the current 60, a prospect that was giving organisers the jitters, given the fact that the tournament would still have to be restricted to about seven weeks.
To get over this problem, BCCI bigwigs have informally discussed two alternative two-group formats for the league stage in their last meeting on May 17 and sources said the board would discuss the issue with the IPL’s governing council in June.
One suggestion is to split the 10 teams into two groups, each of which will follow the current home-and-away round-robin system. The top three teams from each group would then advance to a Super Six stage, where each team will play the three teams from the other group, at home and away, to determine the semi-finalists.
This would keep the total number of matches to a manageable 62. There is, however, a huge downside, which is making the proposal unattractive to franchisees — the four teams which do not advance to the Super Six stage end up playing just eight league matches and just four at home.
The other proposal deals with this downside by drawing upon the National Basketball Association (NBA) model, which has a format that ensures all teams play each other in the league phase despite having divisions. The 10 teams would still be broken up into two groups. However, while each team would play the other four in its group twice, once at home and once away, it would also play each team from the other group once. The top four teams at the end of this process would then advance to the semifinals.
Thus each team would get a minimum of 13 matches, even if it does not go beyond the league stage. Also, every team would play every other team at least once, thereby doing away with the possibility of two popular teams never clashing, a scenario that the organisers and broadcasters would clearly like to avoid.
The five matches of each team with those from the other group, the proposal suggests, could either consist of two home matches, two away matches and one on a neutral ground or three home matches and two away matches in one year followed by two home matches and three away in the next year.
If either of these proposals is accepted by the IPL governing council, it will be put up for the franchisees to discuss followed by ratification at the BCCI’s working committee.
If everything falls into place, IMG, which has been involved in conceptualising and running the IPL, will be forced to work on a league structure that could suit a 52-day window next year.
Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, an IPL governing council member, had told Times Now recently, "We can look at this (the problem of too many matches in too little time) and see how we can reduce matches. I think there is a need perhaps to review that. But it will be very difficult now to reduce the number of teams.
THE 2 NEW POSSIBLE IPL FORMATS
– The 10 teams will be split into two groups, each of which will follow the current home-and-away round-robin system. The top three teams from each group will then advance to a Super Six stage. Only 4 matches for those who don’t qualify.
– To placate those who don’t qualify and hence play less games, the BCCI might borrow an idea from the NBA in the US: Divide 10 teams into two groups, with each team playing the other four in its group twice – once at home and once away – and also playing each team from the other group once. Ensures at least 13 matches for all teams.