Thursday, 18 September 2008

Twenty 20 has to kill Test Cricket

Australian cricketers are causing a stir by snubbing an earlier tour of Pakistan on security grounds, yet agreeing to go ahead with the Indian tour inspite of the recent bombings in Delhi. Cricket Australia went to great lengths to express "concern" at the security situation in India but there was no mention of any commercial considerations. Andrew Miller was more perceptive in a cricinfo article: "India, once tolerated at best by visiting nations, is now fawned upon shamelessly by savvy superstars who recognize the brevity of their athletic prime and the value of being seen to be seen in such a red-hot marketplace. Pakistan, by contrast, is regarded as India without the assets. A hot, dusty, foreign hellhole where you can't even get a drink, for God's sake - let alone a billion-rupee contract."

Under current ICC rules teams refusing to tour under its Future Tours Programme (FTP) are liable for hefty fines. But amid the IPL and Stanford millions, players have got more power and can exercise more choice. The boards seem to have little choice but to heed the players less dependent on international cricket (A billion dollars between lunch and tea). Miller narrows in on this: "Like the competitively honed creatures that they are, the players sensed a weakness, and they went for it mercilessly. They wanted a break in their never-ending calendar, and quite rightly so, but not one that would jeopardise their unparalleled earning powers. They saw in a little-loved tournament in a little-loved country the perfect combination to bend and abuse. The tournament never stood a chance, and nor does it have any hope of a revival in 2009."

As Cricket Australia and Ricky Ponting, the captain, kept insisting there was no double standard and everything was done on security considerations, former Australian cricketer Dean Jones threw a spanner in the works. Jones implied it was all done not to take on the economically powerful Indian Cricket Board (BCCI): "There is reason to be concerned about security there, particularly in Delhi, where the latest bomb went off. Through my role as an executive director of the Indian Cricket League, I know we have major headaches with security there."

Pakistan cricket is no doubt a loser. The country has yet not had a test match in 2008. But in this incident is reflected the greater malaise of international cricket. The bigger picture is that there are nine test playing countries left since Zimbabwe got ejected. Bangladesh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka are smaller markets and West Indies has already seen the erosion of its powers. Once Pakistan is sidelined as well it leaves the quartet of India, South Africa, England, Australia. While other sports expand their markets and enroll more audience participation, international cricket seems to be headed in the opposite direction.

Some may see this cherry picking behavior on the part of cricketers as a cause of decline for Test and One Day cricket, I just see it as an inevitable consequence of the ascendancy of Twenty 20 cricket. Money is not simply a sign of greed in today's marketplace as the cynics keep pointing out. In this free wheeling commercial era, money is also a scorecard of success. Twenty 20 cricket 1, Test cricket 0.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Test cricket amongst the cricket players is still regarded as the true measure of cricketing prowess.The emphasis between batting and bowling is better balanced and its less of a game of chance.It also extends the shelf life of alot of true cricketing greats.I think players will not be so quick to de-emphasise it.ODI on the other hand now seems to be neither here nor there and the ODI calender will be (and should be) the true loser to 20/20.

Sunir R