Those who had seen Javed Miandad in his irrepressible playing prime would’ve suspected a sad, ivory-tower isolation from basic reality in his recent boycott-India exhortation addressed to the International Cricket Council on the grounds of political conflicts in this land. “Pakistan is safe and India isn’t” was the burden of his message. Even Pakistanis might have chuckled at it as the game was getting on with the ICC reduced to peripheral insignificance. And should anyone try putting India out of cricket’s scheme of things, they’re likely to see cricket holding India’s hand and moving out too. Twenty20 is the name of the game, or the currency of it, and it is Indian franchises which have given the country a kind of beyond-the-border power which is perhaps unparalleled in the history of organised, professional sport. Everyone wants their own Indian Premier League, complete with Indian owners with unbelievably deep pockets.
When the Proteas announced their own tournament, scheduled for a January 2023 start, the outfits were owned by Indians also in the IPL. West Asia’s International League, which a great temptation for cricketers here, there and everywhere, is going to have Indian tycoons in the driving seat. The Caribbean Premier has long had Shah Rukh Khan’s team in it, which implies that the Australian Big Bash is the only show yet to come under any Indian influence but, given the intricate ways Twenty20 cricket moves its economic miracles to pull off, it’s difficult to tell reality from the illusion of it. We hear of profound, suggestive mysteries in stray whiffs and then the newspaper report is just a paper packet stuffed with, perhaps, soaps and sanitisers.
Jampacked stands love the good, old heave-ho, players relish the rich pickings for lesser labours, television is all for hours and hours of ads on the screen and it all adds up to substantial takings for everyone in the business. Word is it will be a bit of organisational bother in this world of so many mushrooming T20 competitions when some of them coincide at the beginning of the next year. But avenues will indubitably be explored and stones won’t be left unturned in the aggregate interest of money-making. Whether or not this seismic upheaval will appeal strongly to Indians’ profound patriotism, some immediate problems are being confronted by a few national boards.
With players making a beeline for the leagues, teams realise how hard the going is. Test champions New Zealand have lost their pace partnrship with Trent Boult pulling out of his central contract. But that’s not all there is to it. The Caribbeans, ahead of a series against New Zealand, didn’t really know whom they would line up. New world, new problems. Sitting down on a chair pulled away at the last minute. On second thoughts, it’s just as well that Miandad may be unaware Pakistanis are not being courted for the West Asian gig. Indian teamowners aren’t very keen on them. Or, so they say