I’m an avid cricket fan. But of late, the volume of matches has meant that it’s impossible to keep up with the game. Notably, the increase in T20 games and club games (thanks to IPL and CLT20). Tournaments with multiple teams are of course more exciting to watch because there is always a prize at the end of it. Whereas in bilateral series, the question that crops us is, “What’s the point?”
Football is a global game that thrives on the Club level. Because players move around and create interest in either their destination or origin countries. Cricket has managed this to some extent with County cricket previously, but the number of players from overseas countries (read India!) were always too few to elicit sustained interest. Yorkshire became a known name to young cricket lovers only when Tendulkar played for them for a year. Ask most fans (not the hardcore ones, of course) which county Murali Karthik plays for and chances are (despite his recent unsportsmanlike behaviour making the news), not many would know.
Since the IPL began, Indian cricket fans have enjoyed global stars at home and while commercial success of the league is still not confirmed, the format is working. Born out of the IPL’s success are leagues like the Big Bash in Australia, BPL, SLPL and I’m sure more PLs are on the way! So why not make this the basis of world cricket? Why this insistence on hanging on to a World Test Championship (still in ether, btw!) and meaningless bilateral Test and ODI series? It’s not the T20 that is causing viewer fatigue, but the meaningless Tests and ODIs.
Now, before you get your long-range guns, let me assure you that I love Test cricket and ODIs (especially since India is the reigning world champion!) but I yearn for context of the matches. The calculation of the standings for Test team and ODI team of the year are about as easy as trying to understand how the Duckworth-Lewis system works! If there can now be a defined season for Tests, ODIs and T20, perhaps fans will also be better prepared to watch and enjoy the different formats. Right now, it’s all being thrown at us and we’ve got to make sense of it!
And yes, there is a point to this rant!
- Play Test matches for 3 months of the year. Non-stop. The goal should be that each team plays at least 3 others (split into two groups) at home and away twice. Top four after this should play a semi-final and then a final. We can have winners at the end of this. The Tests played would be more than what is played right now.
- Play ODIs & T20I for 4 months in the year. Don’t club this with the Tests, though! Yes, player fatigue and travel need to be figured out, but can’t a world league be set-up where every year 2-3 venues host this? Commercial considerations also need to be figured out, of course.
- Play T20 for 3 months. IPL, CLT20 and other global club competitions can be given a dedicated window. They are making money, offering enjoyment and have top players. So why make then feel guilty for being successful?
By the time (if ever) anyone in power and with decision-making ability reads this, I may have given up on cricket and shifted to football. At least there’s context to the matches there!