Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Indian Premier League – An English reaction

Browsing the web I was intrigued to find that an Indian domestic Twenty 20 competition should dominate headlines in England – but then this isn’t just another Twenty20 competition.
With headlines like ‘ECB must stop Twenty20 becoming road to India’ and 'Cricket in turmoil as IPL puts future of Tests in doubt', the doomsayers are plenty for a country already renowned for their ability to whinge and complain.

Quotes such as:
Money has done a lot of talking. Couldn't be better? Don't believe it. The game is hurtling towards a crossroads and not only might it struggle to know which way to turn, it might also have little choice in the matter. One country, India, is setting the pace and plotting the direction.
India is dictating where world cricket should go. This has been a fear of English cricket for a long time and for years before the IPL. A group of countries should never dictate terms and this is what the subcontinent will do. Heaven forbid that a core group of countries (India and the subcontinent) dictate to other countries (England and Australia) what should happen in World cricket.

This train of thought continues:
Vibrant though the game might be in three countries – England, Australia and India – there are profound concerns that most of the power, influence and, crucially, money will all belong to India.

Cricket is a democratic game and no single country or group should every wield power over the others. This will be akin to a key group of countries dictating and determining the direction of the world game. Not in a game like cricket.
Of course this was never a worry in the 80s when England and Australia dominated World cricket. When Lords was the seat of all cricketing power and the head of the ICC was ruled by the colonial rules of the game. When the subcontinental ‘colonies’ towed the line and were but mere pawns in the game.

There is even thought so far to thing that the IPL will foresee the end of test cricket:
Test cricket, the blue riband version of the game, is under impending threat. In six of the 10 countries where it is played, it is virtually unwatched most of the time by live audiences, while in a seventh, Zimbabwe, it has not been played for almost three years and may never be again.
Obviously this is the fault of the IPL and Indian cricket. Let’s evaluate the health of cricket in the test playing countries.

  • Zimbabwe – even in the healthiest of conditions Zimbabwe cricket is the least of the worries for the former Rhodesia. I doubt any damage the IPL could do could surpass that already done.
  • West Indies – leave Test cricket, any cricket is struggling to stay afloat in the former powerhouse of world cricket mainly due to their own undoing. If anything, the IPL may revive some interest in the game. Of course, the money involved could never be compared with but if nothing else young West Indians may revert back to cricket in a hope to get to the IPL and in turn produce some stars for West Indies cricket.
  • Bangladesh – I would venture to guess that when they could most Bangladeshis would watch their team – be it Test match or One Day international. The game may not be thriving but then cricket is in its infancy in Bangladesh. With no Bangladeshi players involved in the IPL, the impact on cricket in Bangladesh may be as great as a couple of Bangladeshi players lifting their game to be picked for the IPL – surely that couldn’t hurt their test chances.
  • New Zealand – In this rugby mad country, cricket is merely an interruption to proceedings. Except for a group of cricketing tragics, cricket does not form the core sporting appetite and will never have the following that it garners in other parts of the world. While there have been several defections to the rebel ICL league, the IPL mainly has retired cricket stars and with the seriousness afforded to Test cricket in New Zealand as it is, the IPL’s impact may be a major as making a few of the players a bit heavier in their bank balance.
  • Sri Lanka – Any form of cricket is followed with a passion in Sri Lanka and with their recent test win in the Carribean things can only look brighter for the longer form of the game. As with most subcontinental countries, the passion for cricket in Sri Lanka is such that the IPL will never eclipse thje love for the national game.
  • Pakistan – Heading down the Zimbabwe route, the fact that cricket even rates a mention is a surprise and the only escape from the harsh realities of the country. With the recent ban of Shoaib Akhtar the road for the revival of Pakistan cricket seems rather long. Any damage the IPL does will be far outweighed by the damage already done to the national game from a combination of the Pakistan Cricket Board and current and former players.
  • Australia – Cricket will always be strong in Australia and the pride in the national team can never be overshadowed by anything as trivial as the IPL.
  • India – Any cricket be it trivial will be swallowed by the Indian cricket fan and the appetite for cricket knows no satiety in that one form of cricket will never overshadow another in India. While the IPL may be hugely popular, the intensity of an India-Australia Test series can never be outmatched by an IPL game.
  • England – English cricket is a game run by those from a bygone era with gentleman donning their whites and sipping their tea with a crumpet or two. The launch of Twenty20 cricket was in fact in England where it was treated as a circus predating the real proceedings. The traditions and roots of colonial times are never to be questioned. With all due respect to English cricket, crowds are not drawn to local games due to the quality and formats used. A revamp may be required in English cricket, but the IPL is not even remotely the instigator for this change. At least with the IPL, English players may get a chance to play cricket rather than sit in the rooms while the rain pours down…

The fear of the unknown and something new (especially from the former colonies and the east) has gripped English cricket. Kerry Packer’s World Cricket was viewed differently as it wasn’t stemmed from the East.

The basis for the fear is ‘a local competition that draws international players from Test playing countries for sums of money’. Inconceivable? I can think of one such competition that has been running for years with no impact to the global game – County Cricket… but then that’s English.


monty said...

i was once listening to More Fm here and i heard the words " Lucrative Cricket League ". So i called them up and had a talk back on radio and asked why do you call it Lucrative, is it because none of you players will ever see this kind of money in their lifetime, or is it that your country cannot afford to pay this much to any of your players, i got minimal response.

Prasanna said...

While the money is a huge factor for the fear induced in the 'non-IPL' countries as it were... I doubt the reaction would be as extreme had this been the brainchild of English cricket. Granted, only India can afford the exorbitant amounts being thrown around the game but surely saying the IPL will destroy Test cricket is akin to saying the English Premier League will destroy football - after all I can't see too much difference in the models for both leagues. Or maybe they are just worried that it will damage Test Cricket in their countries - but to be quite frank I don't think anyone could make it any worse!

Aditya Prateek Anand said...

Good competition about competition. Looove to see what happens next.

Nick said...

Hi Prasanna
The fear for me (in NZ) is more around the idea that IPL contracted players will not be released to play for their countries (like happens in league or football). Currently it's happening the other way around (IPL players can't go back and play for NZ), but it's more likely in the future that a commercially valuable player won't be released due to insurance worries, or because the IPL team have a conflicting game time.
From Nick

partha said...

fairly speaking english premier league runs football in europe
there are more than a 20 football leagues but it has not affected the game actually it is improving football by bringing new talents from unknown places like the vise IPL will definitely improve cricket