Cricket – where is it going?

Posted by batman on Jan 18th, 2009
2009
Jan 18

PowerPlays, SuperSubs, FreeHits and other frills

I don’t care if this new “batters powerplay” has introduced a whole new dimension for the viewing public – “its just not cricket“. I dislike any form of powerplay, and I’m really pleased that much vaunted supersub disaster was dropped before too long. I don’t mind all of these gimmicks in Pro20 – like on-field microphones, heartrate monitors, free hits and the like. By all means, try out these things in domestic competetions, and let Pro20 be a playground – but please, please – don’t corrupt Test and ODI cricket.

Can you imagine tainting the other “purists'” sport – golf? Let’s make every golfer have to tee off with a 5-iron on at least one par 5. Or how about forcing the players to swap their putter with their playing partner – all in the interest of making it more interesting for the spectators. Or how about making the Formula One cars have to race towing a trailer, or a caravan? Imagine what that would do to spectator viewing interest. How about making the tennis players play one game per set with their “wrong” hand, or else make them tie their shoelaces together, or make them carry a backpack while playing? Imagine how much the spectators would enjoy that!

These suggestions are obviously very much tongue-in-cheek – yet cricket is actually implementing some of these steps. Come on cricket – how about going back to your roots – back to the original game. When two equally matched teams are competing, you won’t need tricks and illusions to make it attractive to the viewing public. By all means let Pro20 be your glitz and glamour spectator special, but please, please keep Test and ODI cricket pure!

Strength vs Strength

When cricket provide close encounters, as South Africa vs Australia has been this summer, or India vs Australia, or the classic Ashes – the whole world sits glued to the screen. Many of these games go down to the wire, and both teams have wins, and both have losses. Who needs Pro20 if we could have more 438 games?

But cricket becomes boring when for example Australia post 350-plus in their allocated 50 overs, and then watch Bangladesh, Zimbabwe or sometimes West Indies make no effort whatsoever to chase the score, but rather use this opportunity as 50 overs of batting practice, and end up with 140/7 after a most tedious afternoon.

Would it not be possible to have something like they do in other sports – for instance a premier league where the top eight teams of the ICC play against each other, and a B league – where perhaps the next eight teams will play each other. Every six months or year, the bottom premier team and the top B league team swap places, or at least have a playoff. Admittedly it would be difficult to implement with tours scheduled possibly years ahead, but nonetheless.

Again, no disrepect intended, but games against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe aren’t really worth watching. However a B-league with teams like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland, Holland and Kenya might make for some interesting viewing – and I’d certainly rather watch South Africa play the top team of this league, than Zimbabwe on an off day (or year)!

World Cup training ground

In all of the other major sporting disciplines, players or teams need to earn enough points to qualify or be eligible to play in their premier events. In golf there are the four majors, in tennis – the four Grand Slams. Not so in cricket however! For some or other unfathomable reason – (unless its all about making the event as big as possible so as to maximise profits) – teams that are not good enough to play international cricket make up half of the field for the World Cup. If there are sixteen teams playing (four teams in four groups) there are 24 games before we get to the SuperSix round. Of these 24 games twelve are mismatches – like South Africa vs Holland, or Australia vs Bahamas. No wonder people lose interest way before the end of the tournament. They say it is all about “growing” the game and providing “lesser” nations with international experience. I’d love to be invited to play in The Masters at Augusta, or at Wimbledon – in the interest of “gaining experience”!

No, the World Cup is rather where the cream of the crop should come together to determine the best of the best – it isn’t a training ground. I would far rather see the tournament start with the top eight teams (ICC rankings as at a specified date) that regularly play international cricket, and then all of these teams play all other teams other for points. At the end the top four can go into a traditional knockout stage. Ireland, Kenya or the Seychelles have no place at a Cricket World Cup – with no disrespect intended to these countries. If my memory serves me correctly the first World Cup South Africa played in after re-admission was played along these lines – and was by far the most memorable for me. This last one in West Indies lasted about two months – and was about one month too long. Too many games were just insignificant!

IPL Pro20 and other pay-for-cricket options

I love my cricket, but in all honesty I didn’t watch one single game of the IPL – there were just too many games, I didn’t really identify with any of the teams and it all just smacked of $$$.

A lot of people I know feel the same – in fact it wouldn’t surprise me if the ONLY people that followed it would be the bookies, and the people dealing with the bookies.

I don’t like the fact that some bloke with more $$$ than sense can come in and “buy” world cricket. I was really pleased to read of the failure of the Stanford series.

I don’t like the fact that young up-and-coming cricketers (from all countries) have as their primary goal is to land a lucrative IPL contract, instead of aiming for the honour of representing their country. It would be a tragedy when IPL gets the first choice, and Test/ODI cricket gets the “leftovers”. I don’t have a problem if its the other way around however – Kevin Pieterson is a prime example – IPL can have him!

Pro20 has a place in world cricket, but it must remain a small place. One or two games can be played between two countries, ideally between a Test series and the ODI series. It should always be about having fun, entertaining crowds, and experimenting with new players. Pro20 must NEVER become bigger than Test or ODI cricket.

One upside is that ODI’s have become “bigger”, with higher run rates being chased, and higher scores achieved. But on the downside many of the purist strokes are becoming yesterdays news, making way for big, powerful blokes coming in with treetrunks in their hands, and “hacking” the ball to the boundary fence. I would hate to lose those classic shots, like Herschelle Gibbs’ lofted cover drive, or Sachin Tendulkar’s sublime wristplay as he flicks the ball off his pads. It would be a pity to lose all of that!

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