Archive for June, 2008

Cricket undergoing a period of metamorphosis

The phenomenon of globalization has affected national economies, industry sectors & people all across the globe. It was only a matter of time before it affected the cricket fraternity & today we are seeing cricket under the influence of that transformation.

A bit of trivia indulgence takes us back to the Packer phenomenon, which dealt with rights, social & financial uplift-men of players  In terms of a metaphor we can describe the Packer era as the” INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION” in the world of cricket.

On the other hand the T20 phenomenon and the launch of the ICL & Stanford league is a metaphor of globalization & privatization of the sport and it is for public sector units (read BCCI & ICC) of the sport to acclimatize to the new change or perish.

The BCCI stance to leagues like the ICL has been like the iconic stance take by Ford motors which once shoved products with the approach of “you can have a car in any color as long as it is black”; how relevant that iconic positioning holds today for Ford is anybody’s guess. Similarly the BCCI needs to look at the change in order the sports consumption pattern is undergoing & change its approach towards two areas; first private entrepreneurship in the world of cricket & the basic product dynamics of all three forms of the game.

ICL which started the city league format has seen its innovative format being replicated around the world. With it’s first off the blocks advantage today the ICL has built a formidable resource base in terms of player pool, facilities and support staff and it is for the BCCI to take a stance of either a synergistic approach or antagonistic position. The BCCI needs to understand that with a tight international calendar and large player pool it needs to outsource some portions of its domestic cricket to a private body so that majority of  Indian domestic players receive the best of financial & social benefits.

It is a logical business solution of outsourcing & as a sports organization which prides itself on its financial success; it baffles me as to how the messiahs of modern sports management (Lalit Modi & CO) do not see the benefit of doing the same.

The rich representation of the ICL players in what is probably the oldest cricket league in the world (English County), was as an eye opener for cricket pundits who so far took the bait that ICL was a league of second rung and retired players.

The ICL is in the growth mode & with every tournament has thrown up a stronger player base (look at the progression in its foreign player signing since its inception) & therefore it is logical for the BCCI to bring the ICL under its fold to capitalize on the ICL resources.

Some may say that with IPL the BCCI has proved its might, but on the other hand the IPL has opened a Pandora’s Box which has seen countering polices adopted by old guards (ECB& PCB) against the shift in power. The result is initiatives like Stanford-ECB tie up or a proposed Pakistan Cricket League.

It would be a catastrophic mistake to rest on the inaugural IPL laurels.  New leagues and initiatives will mean new challenges for the IPL in forthcoming editions. Also one needs to understand that the IPL has monetized its product financially to its full potential. This is at least for the next couple of years till they add new teams & increase the IPL calendar. On other hand, Stanford & ICL are in the growth mode; two years is a long time and things may just take a U-turn if the BCCI stance remains static.

The second point that ICC needs to address is the product format of especially its two longer formats of the game, One day internationals & Test cricket.

If they still rest on artificial assumptions that test cricket is the supreme format of the game (based on ex- players opinion) then they will be in for a rude shock. The arrival of T20 format is like the introduction of private news channels in the world of single state broadcaster or private telecom operators in the ruling times of BSNL & MTNL.

This area has been identified by astute readers of the game like Jaideep Ghosh (Cricketnext.com) & Harsha Bhogle (ESPN Star). Jaideep has thrown light of having a 125 over format in tests,(Ref:  www.cricketnext.com).  Harsha has dwelled on the introduction of two innings format for the one- dayers.

It is time for the ICC to consider these opinions with utmost seriousness; after all it survives  in the modern competitive sporting scenario with mass sporting disciplines like soccer , Formula-1 & rugby to name a few.

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IPL ego set to rock domestic England cricket

This is what happens when a country/ organization muscles its economic power to gain monopolistic adventures. The IPL commissioner in his unwarranted wrath against the ICL proclaimed that no county would be allowed to represent England’s domestic structure in the proposed T20 Champions League; represented by an ICL player. This has thrown light on two areas; one the large representation of ICL players playing county cricket & second the actual prowess of the ICL talent pool which shows that it is not a retired player’s league as perceived by cricket pundits & ICL critics.

Finally why is the BCCI making a big fuss about a league that can happily coexist within the parameters of international cricket, at the same time financially benift domestic & international players.

A glance at number of players who face an uncertain future in regard of their county participation:

  1.  Derbyshire                  – Wavell Hind
  2. Durham                       –Dale benkenstien
  3. Essex                          –Not affected
  4. Glamorgan                  –Jason Gillespie
  5. Gloucestershire          –Not affected
  6. Hampshire                 –Shane Bond, Nic Pothas & Ian Harvey
  7. Kent                           –Azhar Mahmood, Justin Kemp
  8. Lancashire                 –Stuart Law , Lou Vincent
  9. Leicestershire            –Paul Nixon
  10. Middlesex                  –Not affected
  11. Northamptonshire     –Nicky Boje, Klusener
  12. Nottinghamshire    –Andre Adams
  13. Somerset                –not affected
  14. Surrey                     -Saqlain Mushtaq
  15. Sussex                    –Murray Goodwin, Mushtaq Ahmed
  16. Warwickshire          –not affected
  17. Worcestershire       –not affected
  18. Yorkshire               –Naved ul Hasan

 

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An incomplete T20 champion’s league

The IPL was launched as an initiative of the BCCI to capitalize on the big potential that Indian cricket possessed at the domestic level. However the so called proposed champion’s league a logical forward integration of the T20 format for the global cricket fraternity is either a cricket structure launched in a hurry or is a convenient way of side stepping a majority number of players & nations under the fold of the so called global cricketing fraternity.

It is time the ICC takes charge of the situation! How else can one explain a global championship league which does not encompass the West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand & Sri Lankan cricket? How can one ignore the players from the two pioneer leagues who started the T20 phenomenon in form of the Stanford league & ICL?

It’s a moral question that the ICC needs to answer.

After all both the Stanford & ICL leagues have built up an impressive cricket resource in term of players, support-staff and facilities that will benefit global cricket in the long run.

The ICC has so far not raised any objection in regards to the ICL. It has simply not recognized a tournament because of a BCCI dictum, which somehow defies logic as it is a domestic tournament which has tried to make a commercially viable project with second rung Indian players and former international stalwarts. So why on earth would you want to discourage someone whose resources in terms of support-staff, training & player remuneration takes care of an area long neglected and not in your core area of commercial benefits.

Therefore why not include the ICL top teams in the T20 Champions league so that a larger base of Indian players benefit out of it.

Another pertinent point is what happens to the T20 format introduced last year with all the Ranji teams. Will it be abolished by the BCCI; if not then it is the two top teams from that championship that should represent India at the champions’ league!   After all despite all its success the IPL could not encompass all the first class players playing in India. Therefore the BCCI has to make its stance clear on the future of the t20 tournament with its Ranji teams. However if they only want the IPL to exist as the single domestic T20 competition in India; will these Ranji players be deprived of any opportunity to play the T20 format of the game?

For the sake of these domestic players who missed out on the IPL it is important for the BCCI to continue with its last year’s format of the playing the T20 format with its Ranji teams. If not then the BCCI honchos are answerable to the general public for their valid reasons of scrapping the T20 format at the Ranji level.

I also feel that Stanford league would feel hard done; after all it was started with the objective or reviving the cricket structure in the Caribbean Islands. They also have an ICC approval so why exclude them from the T20 Champions league. Pakistan is today one of the best T20 sides in the world, they were the finalists of the recently concluded T20 world cup and they have been excluded from the Champions league!!!!!!!

Hopefully the ICC understand its responsibility and reconsiders the present format of its Champions league rather than follow a structure provided by the IPL honchos ; who in reality are only a sub set of the BCCI fraternity.

So logically an ICC initiative in terms of a global T20 champions league should encompass all the major nations, leagues & importantly players from across the world without any barriers.

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Chennai the new nerve centre of T20 cricket in India.

The mushrooming of league cricket in India especially the Indian Sub continent in form of the ICL & IPL brings new dynamics the game is perceived and viewed by the fans.

Till now serious cricket was confined to only international matches or domestic competitions. Most other formats that were tried in form of super sixes tournaments or super 8s was confined to purely off-season entertainment cricket, therefore restricting the growth of cricket.

To its credit the ICL pioneered the city based format and stressed on the game being played with utmost seriousness by its players. The fact that they created 8 competitive sides with the right mix of domestic and international talent saw to it that level of cricket was at par with International standards.

One of the surprises emerging out of the league format of cricket is the dominance of Chennai across both leagues.

A UK based company (cricket 20.com), which has carried out a comprehensive study on all domestic cricket competitions across the globe has thrown up a few revelations.

And surprise-surprise, the two Chennai teams Chennai Super kings (IPL) and Chennai Superstars (ICL) stand in 5th and 6th position respectively in the top 10 world rankings for T20 teams around the world.

So does this mean a change in order as far as the nursery of Indian cricket is concerned; a shift from Mumbai to Chennai? I guess it would need more than year one to answer the question.

One glaring fact about both the Chennai teams is in the heavy Australian influence on both the teams. The Superstars has Michel Bevan (Coach) & Stuart Law (Captain) at the helm of affairs. On the other hand it is Kepler Wessels (former Australian& South African player, coach) & MS Dhoni (probably the most valuable player in India) at the helm of affairs.

The calming influence that Dhoni brings at the helm of the national team is what one of ICL’s main find R Sathish brings to the Chennai superstars stable, as deputy captain & captain of ICL-India.

While it has been a masterstroke by both Chennai teams to inculcate the Australian way of cricket into their respective city teams; the domestic players from both sides; Vignesh, Badani, Syed & Kumaran ( ICL ) & Ghoni, Balaji, Bhadrinath ( IPL) have raise their hand to be counted as proven performers at the big stage.

I guess the jury is out, the Chennai sides in both leagues have cracked the T20 code and set the bar in terms of performance level & success achieved, now it is for the other cities to follow suit.

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T20 leagues make cricket a viable career option

Cricket is a dynamic sport that over a century has reinvented itself, making it relevant for its contemporary fans. Whether it was transition from the 8 ball over to a six ball entity; or to restricting a test match to 5 days, the game has evolved over a period of time.

As far as the supremacy and importance of Test cricket goes, it has to be put into perspective that it is the supreme test of skills of a player and not necessarily the choice of format for the consumer (read Fans). The fact that most opinions about the game come from former stalwarts it is logical that Test cricket and its importance get highlighted.

It also has to do with old power brokers of the game come from England rather than the Indian sub continent. The majority patrons of the game in the British Isles has been the pensioners who have only know test cricket format of the game , which is not the case with the sub continent where the consumer is far more younger and encompasses a larger population base as fans of the game.

However what this has done over the years is, it has limited the sport at the international level and the success is enjoyed by elite players and national teams. Unfortunately the success has not trickled down to the domestic players.

When test cricket ruled the roost it used to be an amateur sport played by the elite aristocrats & survived on patronage. Players were under paid and considering cricket as a full time profession was next to impossible for the common man.

It took the packer series to rectify this weakness by introducing the vibrant One day format which caught the imagination of the cricket fan.

Till today one day cricket is the commercial driver of the sport which also compensates test cricket. This format however did not help explore the possibility to market domestic cricket unlike other sporting disciplines like soccer and cricket remained an international level sport.

League cricket conceptualized by the ICL & followed by the IPL has today made domestic cricket commercially viable, in turn making domestic cricket a financially viable option. A player no longer has to live through the uncertainties of making it to the coveted national team to make a successful career out of the sport.

Also the fact that league cricket has increased the commercial gains enjoyed by international stalwarts, at the same time maintaining the intense sanctity of serious cricket at the T20 level.

This has led to stalwarts of the game like Tendulkar & Hayden extend their support to this form of the game.

I think the game is in for a change in order & its survival will not be depend on the relevance of the ICC or financial condition of the various national boards. The change in order means players rule the roost and the majority of future cricket will be the T20 league format with international encounters confined to the realms of a premium event on the international calendar.

The ICL with its resources has the flexibility on taking the first step making league cricket a year long fixture & it is for the IPL to follow suit rather than escape the opportunity on the excuse of an outdated ICC calendar.

The greatest thing about the T20 leagues is it encompasses a larger player pool to enjoy the commercial & social benefits that the game has to offer.

This in turn makes it possible for any young teenager bestowed with cricket talent to pursue it with single determination as a career option.

Viva cricketers, it is after all they who are responsible for making the game an enthralling experience for the consumers (the single biggest patron of the game rather than ICC or cricket boards) of the game.

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