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    June 16, 2008

    The future of cricket, as I see it

    A few days after a Twenty20 Champions League was announced, followed promptly by the ECB's partnership (?) with Allen Stanford for a series of five Twenty20 games where the winner of each game received US $20 million (and the loser got to watch the winner's cheques), it is fairly obvious that the ICC's hold on cricket is being loosened, and big time at that!

    For all their talk about how having three forms of the game is so wonderful, it is hard to see how the ICC can come up with a calendar which accommodates enough quantities of test, 50-over and 20-over cricket. In fact, it is all the more baffling that even after these two announcements, they have not said a word about the impact on their vision for international cricket.

    Instead, what we got was an announcement yesterday about the launch of the ICC Champions Trophy 2008 in Pakistan. Now that tournament is probably the most despised one-day tournament in the world given how it turns up unnecessarily every couple of years, a year before, or a year after the World Cup.

    It does seem as though the ICC is totally oblivious about how the big money flowing in to promote Twenty20 will impact test and 50-over cricket. Assuming that all 3 forms of the game will co-exist, and every year there's one major ICC event lasting a month, it's hard to put up a schedule which accomodates 10 tests per country per year and 30 ODIs, aside from Twenty20 games. So is it fair to assume that in a few years, we won't actually have 3 forms of the game?

    You can vote in our poll on a hypothetical scenario where the ICC allowed you to choose the two forms of the game. Which ones would you choose: Tests and Twenty20, ODIs and Twenty20 or Tests and ODIs?.

    I don't believe there's enough time in the international calendar to support 3 forms of the game in addition to tournaments like the PLPL, TTPL, IPL, SAWEPL, WSPL, etc. Given that aside from England and West Indies, most other countries have overlapping domestic and international cricket seasons, it is highly unlikely that cricketers would be able to play for sufficient lengths of time in more than one such league.

    Brendon McCullum, to pick a random name, could turn out for his IPL team for 3-4 games, scoot off to play 2 games in the TTPL, come back to the sub-continent for 2 games in the PLPL but miss out on the SAWEPL because he has to join his Kiwi mates for a test series against Bangladesh.

    If Lalit Modi had his way, McCullum would have to apply to him for a work permit to play in other leagues. In the event that there was a conflict of interest between choosing which team to play for in the Champions League tournament, McCullum's interest would be over-riden by Lalit Modi's brainwave for the day. In addition, McCullum would need to be careful about who he hobnobs with and if he's caught talking to 'rebels', he can forget his pay cheque.

    I don't think advertisers and sponsors are quite ready to throw away the 50-over game and the 8 uninterrupted hours of audience attention that they get through 100 guaranteed over-breaks, upto 20 wicket breaks and 1 hour of pre-match and post-match analysis. I believe that the ICC will end up kowtowing to 'market' interests and we will have (perhaps in the span of 5-8 years) two forms of the game, neither of which will seem remotely like the way they are now.

    Bangladesh and Zimbabwe would still be playing test cricket, but they'd only play 3-day 'tests' against each other, Ireland & Kenya for 3 years and then move on to 4-day tests. All other test matches would perhaps still be played over 5 days, but there would be radical changes. Over rates would become faster, reaching 100 per day. Teams will be allowed to break-up the total number of overs they receive or bowl across two innings and the winner of the toss would choose from 3 options (1st innings overs faced-2nd innings overs faced): 150-100, 125-125 or 100-150. I'd detailed this out in a post in October 2004.

    50-over and 20-over cricket will be merged and we will have 30-over games split across 3 innings of 10 overs each per team. There would be an alternating pattern to each team's innings (A1, B1, A2, B2, A3 & B3), similar to baseball. Each 10 over inning would have 3 overs of power-play, 2 of them at the start and 1 at the end. Teams would comprise 11 players, with only 7 allowed to bat. Boundary ropes would be around 50 m away from the wicket, enabling even scrawny chaps and no-hoper batsmen like Ashish Nehra to hit sixes. On a side note, there'd be some critics who'd complain that the middle 7 overs are boring. But those same critics would complain about the middle 3 balls being boring even if we reduced games to 1-over per innings! There'd be a Dirty-Thirty World Cup, sponsored by Surf (or pick your favourite detergent brand), held every 2 years.

    Subhash Chandra would have wound up the Indian Cricket League in 2010 and Zee would thus get the telecast rights it wanted or ownership of an IPL team. It'd really seem like a win-win situation for all. Except that 30-year olds like Ambati Rayudu, Tejinder Pal Singh, R Sathish, Shalabh Srivastava and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala would feel so ridiculous that their prime years were spent (wasted?) in missing out on good money in the IPL and not being picked for India because of selectorial squabbles or because they were associated with the ICL. To paraphrase Marlon Brando's superb dialogue in 'On the Waterfront', they could have had class, they could have been contenders, they could have been somebodies. Instead of bums, which is what they became, let's face it!

    Technology would finally be used appropriately in making several line decisions. Someone like Andrew Symonds would never keep getting away with umpiring howlers. Tony Cozier seems so frustrated, he forgets that this wasn't the first time in the last 6 months that Symonds has benefitted.

    For a nation that is constantly hunting for 'the next big wrist spinner', Australia will give up their 5-year search for a half-decent spinner and settle on using Michael Clarke (current strike rate: 45, current avg: 20.5) and Andrew Symonds (current strike rate 83, current avg: 36.5) as their spinners in test cricket.

    Shoaib Akhtar will be banned yet again, this time for using the Prime Minister's helicopter to arrive in time for a World Cup game. His excuse would be that he was helping the PM with campaigning for the general election.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 1:48 PM |
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    By Blogger siva (17-Jul-2008, 8:43:00 PM)  


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