“Star has invested money in NZC and they want the maximum returns. They are very much aware that more than the Test matches, which starts at 3.30 am in Indian Standard Time (IST), ODIs and T20Is will attract more eyeballs. Hence, sponsors will be more interested in investing in the limited-overs games. That’s why the number of limited-overs matches is significantly higher”.
We have all grown up seeing cricket primarily being a red-ball sport. When a kid goes to a cricket camp for his first ever training session, he gets a red ball to learn his tricks. Till now, playing at the Test level is being considered as an ultimate goal for any cricketer.
Well, it seems this is going to change very soon. A transition period has started in this sport and in the near future cricket will be dominated by the white-ball, thanks to commercial reasons. The BCCI’s decision of not playing a Test series in its upcoming tour of New Zealand is a classic example of this treacherous new trend.
According to the Future Tour Programme (FTP) prepared by the ICC (and accepted by the BCCI) for the five-year period between 2014 to 2019, India are supposed to tour New Zealand only once, in January-February 2019, and on that tour, Virat Kohli’s men will not be playing a Test series. Due to the time-zone differences, the Indian board believes Test matches in New Zealand are not commercially viable and that’s why they have taken this policy decision.
In hindsight, on a separate tour at the start of 2020, India will go back to New Zealand and play two Tests – as part of the new Test championship – three ODIs and five T20Is. This particular tour comes under the 2019-2023 FTP.
So, basically, India are playing only two Test matches in New Zealand across two full tours in ten years. Whereas under the same time-frame, the Blackcaps will be featuring in eight ODIs and 10 T20Is against India at home — a decision, which I am sure is influenced by the host broadcaster, Star Sports.
Remember, towards the end of the last year, Star acquired the rights of New Zealand Cricket (NZC) for three years. For the New Zealand board, which was still recovering from a $9.3 million financial loss of their last season, the timing of the deal had a lot of significance. Though the exact amount yet to be disclosed, but according to the Chief executive of NZC, David White, financially, this is the biggest broadcasting deal they have ever done before.
Hence, it is a clear case of money dictating terms.
Star has invested money in NZC and they want the maximum returns. They are very much aware that more than the Test matches, which starts at 3.30 am in Indian Standard Time (IST), ODIs and T20Is will attract more eyeballs. Hence, sponsors will be more interested in investing in the limited-overs games. That’s why the number of limited-overs matches is significantly higher.
Furthermore, Star currently has the broadcasting rights of India’s home matches as well as the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL). They spent INR 16,347.50 crore ($2.55 billion) to acquire the IPL rights for next five seasons. Also, later this year, the rights of Indian cricket will be up for grab and Star is one of the strongest contenders. So, for obvious reasons, the BCCI’s policy decision of not playing a Test series in New Zealand next year, is in favour of the broadcaster.
Though, this is not the first time the Indian board is neglecting the purest form of the game. In India’s ongoing tour of South Africa, initially, there were four Test matches scheduled. But, they curtailed the Boxing Day Durban Test from the itinerary and added one extra ODI, due to an ego battle with Haroon Lorgat.
This is BCCI for you.
Meanwhile, it is crystal clear that in this era, broadcasters will be the final authority while taking decisions regarding scheduling and for obvious reasons, Test cricket is not their priority. So, the future of the oldest form of the game is not in safe hands.