It was inevitable. After the dud series in Zimbabwe, India showed up in Sri Lanka to play the Asia Cup. That there are only three other countries worth playing against surely doesn’t bode too well for Cricket. But that’s a discussion for another time.
India’s Asia Cup campaign coincided with the FIFA World Cup. And once you saw the sheer scale, impact and enthusiasm of it, the Asia Cup felt more like the ICL in its wane when the IPL hammered it out into the dark ages. Messrs Ronaldo, Kaka, Messi, Tevez, Vittek, hell even Landon Donovan against Mahela, Sanga, Dhoni, Raina, Shoaib, Afridi… ! The FIFA World Cup felt like a carnival. The Asia Cup was a funeral.
Sure cricket has its superstars and they act like superstars too. But the look like superstars on a world stage. It’s not even worth discussing that the FTP format for cricket is a failure. Test matches, bilateral ODI series, tri-series and whatnot is being played without much consequence. It’s all well and good to hang on to tradition, but soon, it starts to seem pointless.
One can argue that the EPL, Serie A and other Eurpoean leagues are repetitive but the reason they work is that there’s a winner at the end of it all. And there’s a contest every game. The ICC’s four-year points system effectively takes out the zing of the annual World Test Championship prize. From the ICC’s FAQs:
The table reflects all Test series completed since August more than three years ago. All Tests series completed prior to next August will be added to this table, so by then the ratings will be based on a full four years of results. Then, in August, the first year of results will be dropped, so the table will then cover the past three years of results.
This pattern is repeated each August, with the oldest of the four years of results removed to be gradually replaced with results of matches played over the following twelve months. This means that once a year the positions could change overnight without any new Test Matches being played.
Quite simply, why not have a winner each year? Start a championship in January, end it in December. Team with most points wins. Simple. Of course, that would mean that events like the Boxing Day Test and the New Year’s Test become inconsequential in that series and Australia may have to end a series in December and start a new one in January. Oh, what a quandary!
- Can’t all teams keep aside four months in a year for ONLY Tests?
- Can’t there be three parts to the year – one for Tests, one for ODIs and one for T20s? Yes, this is short-sighted given that there may be more versions of the game in the near future (England plays 40-over domestic tournaments while Australia is set to start with a two-innings one-day format), but the answer to that is don’t make plans for the next 10 years! Restrict your plans to maybe 3… it’s possible.
- Can’t clubs have a more significant role to play globally? Can’t India’s top 5 clubs play top 5 clubs from other countries (including Associate and other members)? That, to me, seems to be one way of improving quality and reach of cricket. If not, we will perhaps never see South Korea play Paraguay for a cricket world cup.
Cricket has some great positives over football. Use of technology, for one. Cricket also does better, I think when you think about fair play on the field. The ICC Match referees and umpires can be anal at times, but overall, they would fare better than football referees. So what is holding back cricket from becoming truly global?
Next year’s Cricket World Cup will be played over a month and a half. The first 3 weeks will have truly ridiculous match-ups. All teams will play the other in their group once. India essentially plays two big matches – South Africa and England and then have Bangladesh, West Indies (yes, they are officially in this league now!), Ireland and the Netherlands. It’s as good as making India’s footballers play the Oranje! No-contest!
And these kinds of farce match-ups will continue until the ‘minnows’ are treated as such. Today, in football, it’s possible for Ivory Coast to play Brazil and be counted because their players have the exposure of playing with and against the best. The mixing of players is only going to strengthen the game and not weaken the country. England complains of these kinds of activities because of injury. But as someone rightly said, “If a sportsman is afraid of injury, he should sit at home!”
Most of what I ranted about may just as well be under consideration or a fair bit of hot air out of me. I just hope something changes. It’s no surprise that the next wave of Indian fans are more interested in football than cricket.
If not, it won’t be long before the IPL – despite all its shortcomings and limitations – emerges and cricket’s true global representative.