An ultra-successful opening ceremony, people shaking to the rhythm of the swaying cheerleaders, the exhilarating contests on display and most of all, crowds pouring-in like thunder clouds dumping rain on a peak monsoon afternoon, all point to just one fact -the Indian Premier League is fast gaining fame and reputation. It may not be all that good a piece of news for the administrators of the game, except for a so called Lalit Modi and his band of men, ranging from bureaucrats to Bollywood celebrities, who already have their hands full with moolah and ever mounting popularity.
So what does this mean? Cricket is standing at the cusp of two generations, one comprising the traditionalist Test age men, who would continue to support the puritan form of the game even if all their arguments fall on deaf ears, while the other, of slam bang cricket playing young men for whom money matters more than the game itself. Although the former has so far been successful in trying to keep the essence of the game alive, the biggest question here is what will the face of cricket be like, after the older generation players decide to call it a day and the game passes into the hands of the boys.
There is a serious risk of cricket turning into a mere money making exercise with business minded people and not the true lovers of the game at its helm. But who exactly is to be blamed for this. If you say that T20 cricket or its inventors are the only ones responsible, this may not be entirely true. Twenty20’s takeover of the game, which eventually has lead to Test cricket becoming a threatened species was a slow process and was equally contributed to by the ICC.
Just a few years back, cricket started to lose its charm with boring matches that would generate very little or no crowd interest at all. A tri-series between India, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe where the quality of cricket on display was well below international standards or a Test series between Australia and Bangladesh did nothing, but contributed to the coffers of the cricket’s highest governing body.
T20 provided cricket with a much needed spark, a ray of hope that was welcomed with open arms by one and all, not realizing the fact that it will eventually put a question mark over the very existence of the game. Leagues like IPL were quick in realizing the limitless potential of this newest version of the game and grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
By the time the ICC woke up from its slumber, it was too late to rein-in the T20 monster that had by then taken the entire world by storm.
There is no denying the fact that T20 is the only format that will help the game to reach the unexplored corners of the globe but at the same time Test cricket, which still is the supreme form, has to be preserved.
Believe me, watching a bunch of guys mindlessly pulling agricultural shots to get the maximum runs on the board will only churn out mediocre cricketers, who will not be able to keep the spectator’s interest alive.
A situation where there is conflict between the private leagues and international cricket is better avoided or it may lead to division between the cricket world with ICC and Test cricket being the eventual losers.
International cricket will have to be limited to just top quality contests played during a separate window. The fewer number of matches played between the top ranked teams will not only avoid conflict, but will also keep the spectators interested. Test playing nations can also be divided into separate tiers according to their ranks to ensure that the young nations are made to work hard before being given a chance to play in the top league.
The time is now, but the ICC will have to act fast if the highest form of the game has to be preserved, even if it is simply for the traditionalist’s sake.