I have many problems with the IPL, but my biggest is that it will shove other international series out the window while it settles into the cricket room. For some fans, that’s not a big deal, since there are already far too many stupid series going on (seven matches between England and Australia? Really? Series after series between the West Indies and England?).
Fine. But when you actually get down to cutting series left and right, you face some very difficult choices that are bound to make some countries happy, and others not. Some of the big-league countries — India, Australia, England, South Africa — would be happy to just play themselves, leaving the small fry to themselves (West Indies, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh).
But while that may yield higher fan satisfaction, it essentially makes cricket an even smaller club than it already is. Besides, all sports have to endure some “boring” matches — I usually skip the first four rounds of any tennis Grand Slam, only to tune in once I hear that an underdog has beaten a known, seeded athlete.
We forget that today’s minnows are tomorrow’s top ranks. What was Sri Lanka in the 1980s? For that matter, what was India? Sure, most times Bangaldesh plays Australia (or anyone plays Australia, for that matter), we know who’ll win and who will lose. But there’s always that small chance that fortune will, just this once, anoint the other team.
It’s unfair to expect every series to be humdinger. Some series are bound to be yawn-inducing. And if fans are allowed to dictate the schedule, cricket would die in minutes.
DB, I am preparing a longer series of posts on this, so I’ll try and brief here. Much depends on who you mean when you say “India”, “Australia” etc. Their national boards, their test players, their first class players, their fans? The national boards and their test players are clearly interested in the highest profit for themselves. It is easy for Ponting to say
But Ponting gets paid great money to play international cricket, against the best, week in, week out. Ask Stuart Law whether he’d trade his distinguished but largely under-paid first class career for a decade of multi-million dollar paychecks in a club competition and you might get a different answer.
Similarly, the fans who watch on tv or the fans who go to games? English grounds host, if they are lucky, one test per year. They are all tiny because there isn’t enough games with big crowds to make it worthwhile upgrading them to a capacity that meets demand for tickets (tickets to big games anyway). If a half dozen international standard players were playing there once a week then a 60,000 capacity stadium at the Oval might be feasible.
Also note, cricket already has a tiered system. Some of the associate teams play in one division, and the test teams in another. There is little to no crossover between them. The questions really, are: Should there be promotion/relegation or should the present elite system be maintained? How many traditional-bilateral series can feasibly be played, and by extension, should the tiers be smaller or larger? Or alternatively, should the tiered system be replaced by open competitions (regional/world championships)?
Personally, I have moved away from tiers, I don’t think they can overcome the financial and logistical barriers. Open competitions are a better system, where every national side, no matter their skill, plays qualifiers, and if they are good enough, regional and world championships on a four year cycle, supplemented by bilateral tours in the gaps (which will suit the big four). That sort of cricket is meaningful, because almost every game builds towards a major trophy, instead of playing for a new trophy every few weeks. It is impossible, in any system for everyone to play everyone. The next best system allows everyone the opportunity to play the best. Which is good enough for me.
Like it or not, the IPL is here to stay. My issue is that we get an English equivalent that has half the excitement of the IPL rather than just the counties split into two groups that play each other.
I think the ECB can learn a few things from the IPL…