Only this time it is the BCCI and not Kerry Packer
The game of Cricket has some big decisions to make in the short to medium term in Australia (and probably across the World, come to think of it). The Sheffield Shield has ceased to be relevant. That’s a fact. BTW, it will always be the Sheffield Shield, not the Pura Milk Cup or some other sponsored variation. Just like it will always be Lang Park and not Suncorp Stadium and St James Park and not Sports Direct Arena. I understand why the naming rights are sold and the commercial value of the same but surely the brand of a ground is eventually so damaged there are negative side effects for a team selling the naming rights of their stadium. Surely Endeavour Field, Ronson Oval, Caltex Field, Shark Park, Toyota Park and Remondis Stadium is a cautionary tale that should never be repeated. Likewise, confusion reigns when Telstra or ANZ decide to change the stadium they are sponsoring. Rant over. I’m glad I got that out of my system.
Back to the Sheffield Shield. Crowd figures are dismal and coverage is patchy at best. Consequently, players who are drafted into the Australian Test, ODI or T20 team are virtually unknown, not by Cricket aficionados but certainly unknown by the rank and file. One Day Cricket is also starting to struggle in Australia. Cricket for so long the only sport of Summer is now competing against Basketball, Football and Baseball. However, in Australia, Cricket’s major competitor has and always will be the beach. Hard to compete against the beach. Will T20 come to the rescue?
First a history lesson.
World Series Cricket
Cricket wasn’t in a state of disrepair in the 1970s. In fact, Test Cricket was surging in popularity, however, the best way of describing the game was under-exploited. In Australia, the Australian Cricket Board had given the Government owned ABC the rights to broadcast Test cricket over a long period of time. The commercial stations were hungry for Australian based content (for a variety of reasons) but despite outbidding the ABC by a fair margin, the commercial television stations were unable to buy the rights to Cricket. Kerry Packer was not to be put off. Packer was able to strike with amazing secrecy, securing the signatures of the Australian and West Indian Test teams and enough players to field a strong Rest of the World team captained by Tony Greig, the current English captain. World Series Cricket revolutionised the game. Coloured uniforms came in. One Day Internationals became in vogue and eventually the Australian Cricket Board came to the party and the game of Cricket changed forever. Test cricket was and still is the centre piece of the game for both players and Cricket purists but One Day Cricket became the game for the masses. Cricket became much more accessible. Increased crowds, increased revenue for the players and the game in general prospered. There was only upside.
Cricket on the Wane
Despite the popularity of One Day Cricket, eventually the goose that laid the golden egg started slowing down. Despite a number of tactical iterations in the first 20 years, One Day Cricket eventually ceased to evolve and become more predictable. Initially the Test Team was the One Day International Team for each country but progressively that changed as well. A number of One Day specialists emerged. Some flourished in both forms of the game but some players like Dean Jones, Simon O’Donnell, Peter Taylor and Michael Bevan emerged as specialists in the One Day game. Every country had their One Day specialists. Initially this wasn’t an issue. It made the game more exciting. Eventually the teams were quite different. Key Test players were rested towards the back end of their careers and young players tended to be blooded in the ODI arena long before a Test cap came their way. In Australia, the ever popular Tri-series became harder and harder to sustain. With the programme becoming heavier and heavier it went the way of the Dodo. Somewhere along the way the One Day game lost relevance. Some blamed the attention spans of children in the digital age. Some blamed the crowded market place. Whatever the reason, it became harder and harder to sustain interest through a whole Summer of Cricket.
T20 – Shift of the balance of power
Then along came T20. T20 was first played in England in the 2003 season, however, it really exploded in India. For so long the balance of power in Cricket circles was certainly not India. England was the traditional home of cricket and epicentre of the game and Australia wasn’t far behind post-World Series Cricket. The Indian Premier League changed all of that. Based on the franchise model so popular in the United States, the IPL exploded on to the scene in 2008 with fists full of dollars that caught the attention of the cricketing world immediately. Player power or more accurately the under-payment of players had been the real driver behind World Series Cricket and once again player power has been the primary driver behind the success of the IPL. The established Cricket world has had to make way for the BCCI and IPL and not the other way around. Every Cricket playing nation has a T20 competition now and players circle the globe playing in a variety of teams across a season.
So will T20 come to the rescue or will Cricket slip slowly into obscurity? I think I have to break this down pros and cons style. That’s the way we roll on the Westside.
- It has brought innovation back into the game of Cricket. Players wouldn’t dare use the ramp shot in Test Cricket and would probably only use it sparingly (if at all) in One Day Cricket but when only 20 overs are available to a batsmen an innovation like the ramp shot is not out of the question.
- All big hitting all the time.
- Faster scoring rates.
- Faster over rates.
- This has in turn improved Test Cricket. Scoring rates in Test Cricket are higher than they have ever been. Do we need the fifth day anymore? That sent a shudder down the spine of a thousand Cricket tragics.
- Rule innovations.
- Innovations in television coverage.
- Different statistical analysis becomes relevant.
- Reaches a different audience. Can be played after work on a Business day so a whole new group of people can attend games.
- Greatly prolongs the careers of some players. Freddie Flintoff is playing for the Brisbane Heat this year after 100 years in retirement. Shane Warne could still be playing if he wanted to.
- Star players can play in the T20 franchises of any country. IPL, Big Bash League and the Natwest T20 Blast are some of the competitions that Chris Gayle et al can now ply their trade. Guest stints don’t have to be for long either. The competitions are compressed so players can be signed for weeks and not months and still participate in their country’s international schedule.
- Some critics thought that T20 would be a game for batsmen only but star bowlers can also impact games.
- If you thought the ODI side was different from the Test Team you should see the T20 teams running around.
- Overuse of the word ‘Maximum’. Actually that is probably a Pro.
- Puts additional pressure on the international programme.
- Purists say that the abbreviated forms of the game has ruined the techniques of players.
- Some players are opting out of the international game.
This is simply a case of Cricket changing with the times. Test cricket is still relevant and a place must also be found for One Day Cricket as well but the balance is important. Sport is a consumer product now and unless Cricket moves with the times it will become less and less relevant.
Long live T20 and whatever comes next.
What was sweeter than Jelly Bread?
- The Dubs. On a record breaking winning spree. Doing it with a different player stepping up every night. Having the Splash Brothers helps and their defence is locked down all the time.
- Test match cricket in Australia. Understandably, a sad and subdued start to the Cricket season, however, great to see Test Cricket again.
- The Black Caps in UAE. Unbelievable comeback in the Third Test.
- College Football Playoffs. There was always going to be a top tier conference snubbed with only 4 playoff slots but given there was only 2 last year and nothing before the BCS I think it is a little premature to be talking about an 8 team playoff series.
- Michael Clarke’s back injury.
- India’s fast bowling attack on Australian wickets.
EPL Tips Match Day 16
Burnley vs Southampton – Southampton 2-1 (They have come crashing down to earth against better competition (the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen warned me to jump off their bandwagon but I couldn’t bring myself to do it – and I suffered the consequences) and Burnley are no easy beats at Turf Moor but I expect Southampton to bounce back this week)
Chelsea vs Hull – Chelsea 3-0 (First loss of the season at St James Park for Chelsea. I wouldn’t like to be Hull this week)
Crystal Palace vs Stoke – Draw 1-1 (Too hard to call this one. Draw is a likely outcome)
Leicester vs Man City – Man City 2-0 (City will miss Aguero but too many guns to lose this one. They will be looking to eat further into Chelsea’s lead as well, if possible)
Sunderland vs West Ham – Draw 1-1 (I don’t expect the Hammers to stay in the Champion’s League spots but they certainly deserve to be there at this stage. Tricky trip to the North East to navigate)
West Brom vs Aston Villa – West Brom 2-1 (West Brom are desperate for a win and this may be their week with Villa in town)
Arsenal vs Newcastle – Arsenal 2-1 (Arsenal started at glacial pace against Stoke last week and will be smarting. On the other hand Newcastle out-Chelseaed Chelsea. I think the Geordies will be a different proposition away from home. Interestingly their third choice goalkeeper has superhuman strength and has built a castle according to Wikipedia, that bastion of accuracy)
Man U vs Liverpool – Man U 2-1 (The early season hand wringing from Man U fans seems a distant memory with Man U looking to make it 6 League wins on the trot against an under pressure Liverpool. Should be a fascinating match up)
Swansea vs Tottenham – Draw 1-1 (Crucial game for both teams but again the draw is a likely outcome)
Everton vs QPR – Everton 2-0 (QPR will miss Charlie Austin and Everton will be too strong at home)
I’ve adopted the scoring system utilised by Mark Lawrenson on the BBC (a correct result (picking a win, draw or defeat) is worth ONE point and picking an exact score THREE points) and even though he wouldn’t know me from Adam we are going head to head all season long. It’s on like Donkey Kong (unless I get a letter from his lawyer or Donkey Kong’s lawyer and then I’m tipping against myself again).
Playing catch up this week so updates from the last three Match Days.
Match Day 13 – Me – 5 (3 from 10 with 1 perfect score) and Lawro – 8 (6 from 10 with 1 perfect score)
Match Day 14 – Me – 8 (6 from 10 with 1 perfect score) and Lawro – 9 (7 from 10 with 1 perfect score)
Match Day 15 – Me – 3 (3 from 10 with no perfect scores) and Lawro – 4 (4 from 10 with no perfect scores)
Season so far – Me – 109 and Lawro – 108 (Lawro uses my holiday break to close the gap)
Fantasy Premier League
Transfer of the week
Sergio Aguero (Man City) for Diego Costa (Chelsea) – This is another injury move. Moving one Blue Chip on for another. I think Diego Costa will jag a couple against Hull as well.
My team this week
Forster (Southampton), Bertrand (Southampton), Ivanovic (Chelsea), Baines (Everton), Jedinak (Crystal Palace), Sigurdsson (Swansea), Sterling (Liverpool), Sanchez (Arsenal), Chadli (Spurs), Berahino (WBA) and Diego Costa (Chelsea) with Jakupovic (Hull), Austin (QPR), Duff (Burnley) and Wisdom (WBA) on the bench.
495,801 from 3,382,771.
Hovering around in the top 500,000 of the World. Nothing to write home about.
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 titled ‘7 things the ABL must do to rule the Universe’