Cricket has always been a perceived as a Gentleman’s game. A game which the English elitists played with technique and etiquette in their all whites. A game which lasted 5 days with breaks at lunch and at evening for the englishmen to enjoy their favourite beverage of tea.
Basically a game, where playing mattered more than winning or losing. But those were pre-competitive times. Back then, Sports was not a profession, a career, a livelihood.
In the more recent times, thus, the game has been shortened to make way for competitive tournaments, firstly to 60 overs, then to 50, which has finally paved the way for Twenty20 cricket. All of this only to make the game short, crisp and entertaining, just as the crowds like it.
Today, we have so much to do, we like everything compact and entertaining. Movies have become shorter; a piece of news is as good as its headline, reading anything longer than a paragraph is avoided by most. ‘To the point’ is the mantra of the age. We don’t feel, we don’t observe, and as Nike tells us, we just do.
No wonder, the length of cricket is shortening to make more and more people involved in the game, which will ensure generation of more funds. A 3 hour evening match- a good enough time to rejoice after a stressful day at work, a good enough topic to discuss at the next stressful day at work.
But, what next? Is shortening the game period the only adjustment the game needs to maintain and increase its popularity?
India, a country with a billion strong population, is referred to as an example of unity in diversity, where Cricket serves as one of the major forces, if not only, of that unity. It is unofficially the national sport of the country. It is also the nation of the most famous club cricket league, the IPL. With brands, glitz and glamour merging with the country’s passion for the game, the league has almost become a summer festival since its inception 8 years ago.
With its monumental budget and grandeur, the IPL created a sudden phenomenon, which changed the way Cricket is played. Catches became Karbon Kamals, Sixes became DLF Maximums; the dilscoops and switch hits, the slower bouncers, the superhuman boundary catches- every run mattered- every little effort counted.
And with that came a pool of unknown heroes- the DHAWANs and the NARINEs- the talented players suddenly flourished with all the limelight they always dreamt of- sharing dressing rooms with their cricketing legends. They started understanding the level the International Players play at- started receiving world class facilities that they lacked and the strong gap between domestic and International Cricket started diminishing- the resullt? more opportunity!
Other countries started following the trick. Bangladesh started BPL, the West Indies initiated CPL, Australia already had their KFC Big Bash, which now started attracting a lot more attention- Pakistan, Sri Lanka- and then even the Champions League started with the best teams from these leagues
All good right? So why not have more of this? Why not increase the time period of these leagues slowly? Why not give club cricket the maximum focus? Look at football- different players from different nations, which might not have a good national team get the chance to play in top leagues with top players, just like they deserve to.
Had it not been for this format, the world would have missed out on players like George Best, Shevchenko, Ryan Giggs and so many others. The club system will definitely require a larger pool of players obviously. A certain Chris Gayle cannot go on playing in Royal Challengers Bangalore, Jamaican National Cricket Team, Jamaican Tallawahs, West Indies Cricket Team, Somerset County Cricket, Sydney Thunder, Highveld Lions, Dhaka Gladiators and Lahore Qualandars all at the same time!
And this demand will be met with proper scouting from all over the world by the respective clubs. Who knows? Maybe the next bowling legend is away javelin throwing in Russia!
The result? Globalisation of the game, what else? The Maria Sharapovas will finally know the Sachin Tendulkars (and also the list of banned drugs, we hope) and also start playing it.
As more and more clubs form, they will be enrolled in divisions, which will again have its chain of supremacy depending on their success and all of them will be under one system.
From a socialist point of view, this will obviously bring down racism much more. Just look at the impact of IPL- without it, could Symonds and Harbhajan have played together after their infamous Sydney row! Could anyone have imagined the Eden Gardens cheering for Shoaib Akhtar as he overtrumped Virender Sehwag before the IPL?
If cricket is your sport, why not want it to grow big? Bigger than a nation, a religion; because a lot of time has passed and even though it is estimated to be the second most popular sport in the world, only 10 nations take interest in the game. Surely, it is time to look in different directions!