Cricket crisis

IPL Logo (Photo: Twitter)

When, in 2008, the Indian Premier League got going and la creme de la creme of global cricket descended on this land with curiosity and hope, no country, the hosts excepted, seemed more enamoured of the new gig than England. Blighty bubbled too, saying all the right things. The hacks from London who went around the country, watching the games and noting the changes they happened upon, sought their Indian peers out and seemed scandalised on being told that the financial warp and weft of the merry-go-round was the main thing about the show.

The money in it was big, that was clear, but where it came from, whether all was fair and square and if we knew the identity of the putative benefactors of the franchises with seemingly bottomless purses were perhaps the unfathomable secrets of the narrative, woven much in the same way as writers of crime fiction let a clue or two stay up their sleeve.

That was usually when English writers could be felt to be ruing the time wasted through the chatter. Nanoseconds later, the question was, “Can’t you see how cricket is being revolutionised?” It seldom failed to leave you stupefied. To say it was less about the game than it being only sponged on deepened the disappointment, casting a sombre cloud on exchanges.


The anticipated revolution, of course, ushered in changes big and small in due season, climaxing, for now, as The Times, London revealed recently, with IPL franchises trying to prise half a dozen “top” English cricketers from their board to play only in Twenty20 tournaments through the year for an annual salary as high as Rs 50 crore each. Offers have been made, preliminary talks held and the disclosure perhaps aims only at assessing heads to rise above the parapet to gauge the general reaction: do the bouquets outnumber the brickbats? A hush seems to have fallen.

Scholarly theorising about the game’s evolution, complete with sermons on the rationale behind letting free-market economic principles into sport in the new millennium, is in suspended animation now, with the high-ups at Lord’s trying to pick themselves up off the floor after taking the nasty spiritual toss. Those who’d set the more-cash-formore-cricket juggernaut going might never have thought it would begin to act up once momentum was gathered but there it was: it became something akin to the monster Frankenstein brought into being. If Twenty20 morphs from a peripheral presence, however glamourised, into a worldwide feature with the financial clout to scythe cricket’s traditional arrangements down, there’s a tail-waggingdog crisis ahead.

And if it is England today, how long would it be before Australia, South Africa ~ the whole caboodle, potentially ~ too found the ground slipping underneath them? India, of course, will be inalienably associated in history with the death blow T20s could deal to Test cricket, unleashing forces that it might not be able to control eventually