Open sesame

So it had everything: agriculture [Ross Taylor], industry [in the form of some frantic running between wickets; Duminy alone ran 25 of them], art [Duminy again, in a bravura display that yet again reminded us that good batsmen can more times than not be more effective than the pure sloggers; Uthappa, who after the ball stopped jagging around played some pure cricket shots and played them well] — the curtain raiser had them all. A houseful crowd got to see 364 runs made in 40 overs in a game that had enough twists and turns to trick out a Dan Brown novel, and there was none of the stasis you find in the mid overs of an ODI.

A friend called from Chennai late last night with his own eureka moment: “You know how you are always rabbiting on about the need for reform in ODIs? While you weren’t watching, the format went and reformed itself  — it’s now called T20”.

A touch extreme, but he just might have a point; if club-based cricket catches on in the CL the way franchise cricket clicked in the IPL, the reformers just might end up with nothing to do but strike out most bilateral ODIs from the calendar, and focus only on a biennial world-level tournament in the 50-over format, while T20 becomes the main moneyspinner.

A word in passing: I didn’t get home in time for the opening ceremony, but the other half told me it was fairly spectacular. Well, whatever — there is nary an image in the morning’s papers or slide show on Rediff, Cricinfo and similar websites, which tells me Lalit Modi’s ridiculous rules restricting the use of photographs remain in force.

Flush with his latest triumph, the “brainchild behind the IPL” won’t grasp just how short-sighted the policy of media restriction is. An initiative of this kind can gain immeasurably from buzz, and imposing all kinds of regulations on the media is not the way to get it — a truth that will likely dawn on him as this competition, and the IPL, moves out of the initial phase and seeks to consolidate.

On another note, a Tristan Holme piece has some input on the financial side of the tournament.

Twenty20 cynics may scoff at the suggestion, but the proof is in the numbers. $2.5m is up for grabs at this tournament – more than Durham received for winning the County Championship this year – and even teams who don’t make it beyond the group stage will pocket $600,000. Add to that extra sponsorships such as the Cobras’ sponsorship deal with a local mobile phone company and the effect this tournament could have is undeniable.

The increasing flow of money into cricket should be welcomed so long as the dangers are recognised. If a healthy proportion of it is set aside for the promotion and development of the game then all the better. Organisers insist that the way revenue is split here should prevent a gap opening up between rich and poor in the same way that football’s Champions League has ruined competition in domestic leagues. Each national board receives $500,000 per franchise representing them in the Champions League Twenty20, so the hope is that that money will be filtered down to clubs who haven’t qualified.

Yet when Somerset and Sussex are guaranteed $600,000 each and the ECB have just $1m to share among the other 16 counties there is an obvious disparity. The biggest concern is that the gold rush in domestic twenty20 leagues will lead to franchises over-extending themselves financially and coming up short.

I don’t know so much — since when was sport the last bastion of communism? Teams and individuals that do well earn, those that don’t, don’t — period. You don’t see the cash-rich tennis, golf and soccer tournaments setting aside a “healthy proportion” of their profits for the “development of the game”, and I don’t think that is a consideration for the Champions’ League either.

It’s simple: “cricket” doesn’t develop, players do. And players will have an incentive to develop their skills only when there is money in the game. The more leagues like the IPL and CL develop, the more opportunities it provides for recognition, money.  In turn, that success will inspire initiatives like this — and over time, as youngsters find the incentive to consider cricket as a career, the trickle up effect will kick in.

In the meantime, the ECB for example gets to pocket a cool $1 million for doing nothing for 16 days. It will, we are told, share that money with the clubs that didn’t qualify for the CL — but why should it? Strikes me, the availability of sizeable prize money is a good incentive for those clubs to get their game on, and seek to qualify. That in turn will heighten the domestic competition, which is good for bringing spectators in. Meanwhile, that $1 million annually [likely more as the tournament expands] pumped into “development” will go some distance.

Modi makes that point with some force:

“From this year itself the tournaments in countries like Sri Lanka, New Zealand and West Indies will become more competitive. You’ll see players who were not participating in domestic tournaments who will now take part and do well. Before, once players graduated from their clubs, they became international players and if at all they went back to their clubs they hardly played a few games. But the rules of the Champions League are that you have to play for your club, and your club must win to participate here. You won’t get a chance to be here unless you’ve not played for your club.”

Dean Kino, head of business and legal affairs for the Champions League, said one positive fallout of this competition would be to give context to domestic cricket. “It increases the passion of grassroots cricketers to be involved for their states and provinces. If you look at the interest in the KFC Twenty20 Big Bash in Australia and the IPL over the last six months, you will see that the result of going to the Champions League has been hugely stimulating. At the domestic level it will drive young cricketers to the game and that will build on domestic cricket and make it stronger.”

Right. India Abroad duty, today — blogging will necessarily be desultory. Later, peoples.

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18 thoughts on “Open sesame

  1. off tangent but reading your post reminded me of what troubled me while watching the IPL inaugual ceremony.
    The 2 marquee teams were from K’tka and AP both deluged in the “Joy of Giving” week and yet nary a mention of it by Modi and co even tho the opening was in the capital of K’tka. Not a minute’s silence to express solidarity with the loss of countless lives, not a word of donation of the days proceeds – from organsiers, broadcasters and at the very least the 2 teams themselves. AK-RD-VVS are all thinking men – how then did this come to pass – not even a donation box at the grounds ?

  2. @Prem: OT
    Why this much interest in a contest that has no connection an aam admi other than the fact that it is cricket of some kind. I am asking because you have been harping about lack of context in both the tri-series and the CT. Precisely what context do you see in a bunch of mostly unknown clubs playing a series ad nauseum? Why is this more meaningful?

    I find CLT very close to what use to happen in grounds in Madras in my child hood – you go to the ground; if you have 11 members, get a match with another who has 11; otherwise, you form 2 teams or more of 11 members by loaning/borrowing members appropriately. Then you play a game or games. I am sure your experience would be similar.

    It was no doubt fun but doubt if the 2 old men & the dog who were watching even cared about the context.

    Just saying …

  3. Any thoughts on the fly camera wire which gave life to JP Duminy and possibly changed the course of the match?

    • That happens… If the ball hits the helmet behind the keeper then the batsman is awarded 5 runs!! There are instances where fielder could have limited that to 1 run.. But thats rules.. Soon there might be a rule which states ‘Ball Hitting overhead cameras will be counted as 6 runs for the batting team and 1 wicket to bowling team” Justice to both the teams 🙂

  4. @prem – i don’t think the rich prizes in T20 is the problem. what will become the problem is the disparity between the T20 cash and the monies available for “regular” cricket. counties, clubs etc might just focus on T20 champs league glory at the expense of the other formats because they are not as lucrative. they might just try to value short term success one year instead of long term consistency.

    imagine a club overreaching itself financially to sign a bunch of freelancers to make a bold run for the champs league cashcow but eventually failing. would that club be able to survive? you might say that the club deserves to suffer for such greed but is the idea of losing some of these entities sustainable? also is their enough interest in other countries for some benefactor to jump in and make an investment? will we see something similar to the saudi / russian invasion of the EPL as indian money rolls into foreign clubs?

    either way it would be interesting because last nite the proverbial horse bolted. there is no going back.

    • Sunny, for a club to focus on CL “glory”, it has to win the domestic competition, no? Which in turn means the domestic competition will get more intense, as there is something substantial to play for.

      Clubs cannot do as you suggest, because there are various qualifications regulating who can play. And the bottomline is, the survival of a club is linked not to some vague notion of how the game is played, but to the financials. You make money, you survive.

      So you will end up with a situation where the pastoral structure that exists now will give place to hard competition, both on the field and in the marketplace. And competition ramps up quality, it doesn’t dilute it. Yeah, a few half-assed clubs will fall by the wayside, but that is good actually.

      • let’s put aside the money matters and look at the pure cricketing aspect of it. if clubs start to focus all their energy on T20 (domestic + champs league) at the expense of the other formats, what sort of cricketer will we have in near future? will the laxmans and martyns be forever lost and we will have pure sloggers like afridi and symonds…the drives and flicks losing their status to powerful hits to clear ropes? will clubs and consequently the youth academies filter out the “stayers” while the “sprinters” are promoted through because of the T20 cash bonanza? or will the extremes be quickly weeded out and we will normalise towards multi-dimensional cricketers who can bridge the gap? you know…more lara and duminy instead of gilly and gayle.

        i prolly sound like a hopeless romantic in all of these but it will be a shame if we end up with cookie cutter cricketers because of the financial gulf between the formats.

        • @ Sunny

          Your argument is about people with technique more than people with style… Agreed.. But did u see yesterday’s match? Who won the match.. a person like JP Duminy.. Who is technically good and has ability to hit hard… Almost all his shots were pure cricketing shots than slam-bang cricket.

          T20 is not just for people like Afridi… Rahul Dravid was more successful than Symonds or Afridi in IPL I and II…

          Even Afirdi realized this and changed his approach towards the game. With a moderate approach he was able to contribute to Pakistan’s T20 WC Win!! Afridi did acknowledge that boom-boom is not the best way in T20… Respect and Domination in mutual co-ordination is the only way out!!

  5. It was a great game today.( took a day off from work) really enjoyed it.We could see the intensity & fire back in the players. See, I am not a fan of 50-50.( to watch even the highlights were boring ) .No point following India matches either because we don’t have a batting order that can last 50 overs. We saw this in the T20 WC also. So It is better we play 20-20 only.R.Jadeja or Dravid will make sure we last 20 over’s at least.
    This current Indian team reminds me of…few years ago, the US basketball team was comprised of professional basketball players whose combined talent had never been matched. They went into the Olympics and lost to teams with inferior talent. One thing if you have noticed, we used to win matches when Dhoni batting aggressively and that same aggressiveness rubbed on the other team mates and combined they used to perform. But now ever since Dhoni turned defensive the whole team looks confused. YP was the first casualty. If you look at our current set of batsmen VS,GG,SR,YS,YP,MSD,VK ..they are all aggressive players by nature. This Indian team needs an aggressive captain who bats or bowls aggressively.Till that time watch 20-20 or Poker..better.

  6. A major reason for the success of the franchise model is the unpredictability. Over the years ODIs became predictable. Australia (and to some extent, South Africa during their peak) invariably won every game. Teams do not compete on an even keel. Either the structure at Pakistan is a complete shambles, or India (until recent years) continue to be undermined by politics, (ditto Sri Lanka). At no point do you get a tournament where about 80% of the teams can beat any other team.

    The IPL does that. Deccan and Bangalore after a poor first season, reached the finals in its second edition.

    Imagine a world if cricket functioned with franchises all evenly matched because they have a pick of a share pool of players around the world. Say there were 30 franchises around the world, with the world divided into 5 conferences of 6 teams each like (you have with NFL, MLB, NBA) Assume instead of T20, it was ODIs and Tests. And the year was split into 6 month seasons. (Assume the first half of the year was the ODI season and the second half for Tests) Teams play each other in a conference home and away and the winners of each conference proceed to playoffs, ultimately resulting in a World Series.

    Every year you have a draft pick of global talent.

    International cricket could be undermined, sure. But I would propose marquee series that would make people genuinely interested when they happen.

    However, if you can have 30 teams that gel together with enough talent to challenge each other then, I think it’s great for the sport.

    These suggestions are completely outlandish, and far from the finished article in my view, but hey, I made this up on the fly. 🙂

    Feel free to bash me for my shortsightedness. 😉

    • Why is international cricket sacrosanct? There is any interest left in Davis cup whereas the grand slams still generate lot of passion.

      If franchisee cricket – like the T20 leagues, we could have test and ODI leagues too – can provide quality cricket at the cost of less quality international cricket, I do not see a reason why the latter should be promoted despite its flaws.

      Also, if this new cricket order can help reduce overdose, I am for it too. Currently, I have little enthusiasm left for the game. I feel watching another game is like working with Clark’s tables or logarithm (pardon my Sujatha – I flicked your lines here).

        • I don’t think they should be sacrosanct. I’m saying, if limiting the international fixtures to perhaps, one Ind-Pak series and an Ashes series a year makes them more cherished, and heightened in enthusiasm, then it’s great.

          Otherwise we might as well relegate internationals to once every four years like the Olympics. If that means we get the franchise model which provides higher level of competition then I’m all for it.

          The reason I plumped for ODIs and Tests over T20 competition is because those two formats will work in a franchise system — and are better indicators of technique over T20 — because there are stakes in every game. Every game Test or ODI is a part of a season that culminates in a Championship.

      • Precisely. The apologists for the “traditional” game harp on some vague notions even they don’t believe in, and don’t seem to realize that this particular horse has well and truly bolted from under them.

  7. Decent contest between bat and ball in IPL 2 followed by similar cricket in T20 WC has turned the tide against 50 over contest and I am one of the late converts to the shorter format.

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