The essence of the game of cricket is undergoing a phenomenal change. The royal quiet sport it stood for is turning into a commercial center of activities like never imagined before.
Cricket as a game in the very early days was seen as one that characterized the values of life, played in the spirit that included teamwork, healthy competition, respect for the opponent and players.
The game of cricket gradually became a sport that brought a kind of national pride and therefore winning became an important ingredient in the final outcome. Emotions of the fans and followers turned cricketers into warriors fighting a battle for supremacy.
However, the very ingredient of the rules and regulations and the culture and character that cricket stood for overcame the cruelty and rough behavior that had hidden itself in many other sports.
The two major changes that have engulfed the cricketing world is the T20 format of the game and women’s cricket. Both are seen as glamorous and one that can be easily followed. They have that amateur touch that makes the sport more uncertain and human.
The performance of the Indian women’s cricket team in the recently concluded Commonwealth Games was a good example of a team on the verge of victory but overwhelmed by the pressure to achieve success.
A silver medal was a creditable achievement. However, the way the women played the sport was most admirable. Every team that participated played hard, but the harmony between the cricketers was so wonderful to see.
India’s women cricketers have unfortunately fallen at the last hurdle at three of the major world cricket tournaments in recent years. It is only time and one victory in the future that can catapult them to be the best in the world. One was amazed at the catches that were taken by India and the improvement in their fitness and battles. The Indian women’s side only lacked the mental belief of a winner, a trait that used to be evident in the men too until they won the 1983 World Cup.
One wonders why men’s cricket was not part of the Commonwealth Games. Mainly because the matches were played in Birmingham in England. Cricket as a sport is popular among the Commonwealth countries. This would have been just the precursor to the T20 World Cup to be played later in the year. Matches between countries on a big platform would have been much more interesting than the plethora of cricket encounters taking place around the world.
The only reason one can give for excluding men’s cricket from CWG was because of the crowded cricket route and the finances involved.
The T20 format has now taken the cricket world by storm. The mushrooming of cricket leagues in most of the cricket playing countries is the change that will revolutionize cricket in a big way. The franchise model that each will set up will change the topography of cricket. Cricketers are the backbone and core ingredients of their operation. Participation and financial advances are an essential part of that.
The best international artists will be drawn into multi-million dollar contracts. The game on and off the field will be like a roulette table. Cricket will become a den of gamblers which will be very difficult to control regarding illegal betting and activities.
This is the difficult wicket that cricket will face and that the councils of all cricket-playing nations, led by the International Cricket Council (ICC), must address very seriously.
Right now, the smell of money and the ring of the till makes one excited about the prospect of franchise-based T20 leagues. One can already see the competition between the Big Bash in Australia and the competition that is played in the UAE. Cricketers will naturally bless the one that is most fruitful for them.
The challenge that might arise would be to get international players to adorn their national colours. Even if they do, will they be mentally and physically in a state to perform at their best?
The famous American Management guru, Clayton Christensen’s theory of ‘Disruptive Innovation’ seems to be the way the managers, marketers and organizers will have to think about their respective cricket leagues.
The Indian Premier League is currently one that has established itself as the leader. Innovative thinking will be necessary to keep their own.
‘Money as they say makes the world go round’, good cricket is in that phase when one is not sure where it is going. The swerves, swings and turns where one can see it in direction can see that the game is forever disturbing.
It could lead to franchise-owned teams from around the world playing against each other. One wonders whether Test cricket and cricket encounters between countries will have the same importance as they do now.
When the international stars of the game are absent from their respective countries, the essence of playing against the best is missing. Competitions then become a farce.
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