Too much of commercialization is killing the charm of cricket
Nostalgia. It sweeps over you in the most arduous days, as you sit sipping a cup of cold chai in the midst of your monotonous routine. It flashes by when a young child delights itself upon being handed over a balloon with the peals of laughter taking you back to your happy days. It catches you when you are busy scrolling through your iPhone X to glance at the photographs that were taken with an old Kodak when the days of reels and films were still in existence. You stop at one particular snap – taken more than 20 years ago as the plate of the piping hot samosas still tingle your taste buds. The day your grandparents had come down for a visit, and there you were squeezed in between their loving arms whilst learning about the nuances of cricket for the very first time.
Test cricket, the beautiful traditional form of cricket is that form which reignites memories of childhood, throwing up more than one memory. The days spent with your grandfather, learning about the history of the sport. The evening spent watching the rivalry between Sachin Tendulkar and Australia and vividly remembering the comeback that India scripted after being pulled down to the mat in 2001. It is the long-winding tours to South Africa and witnessing Jacques Kallis at his best or the Wall Rahul Dravid blocking and stonewalling his way for India’s safety. Then, there is the delightful image of Andrew Flintoff offering Brett Lee a consoling shoulder as one of the fiercest battles in 2005 had just ended. Test cricket was always an emotional format that asked for patience and perseverance from its players, in turn providing them with an unparalleled joy when victory did come calling after five days of ebbs and flows.
Hence, the T20 format that did its best to kill it was looked at with disdain. But as the years rolled on, the newest format did find a way of existing with its predecessors and peace was made. But when the ECB recently announced the proposed 100-ball format with rules that will need tinkering of the MCC laws, all hell did break loose. For one, it seemed an innovation for the sake of it as T20s have lost their initial charm and secondly, the ideas that have been brought to the table are anything but cricket.
The main agenda that Andrew Strauss, the director of ECB, stated while coming up with the idea of a 100-ball cricket was to attract more housewives and children to cricket matches. His argument was that as a T20 game goes on for four hours, young kids often find it tough to make time to view the sport from the stadium. With the 100-ball format ending in less than three hours, it could be convenient for them and in turn would attract newer audiences. The debate does have a few loopholes. Is the ECB keen to only hold 100-ball games in the afternoons, when children are done from school and can attend the matches regularly? Will they be willing to forego revenue from the TV audiences who will find it tough to view in at 3pms in between their busy schedule? Or will the matches shift to prime-time eventually to cash in on as many viewers? My guess is as good as yours.
However, the main reason for the proposal seems the failure of the ECB to cash in on the popularity of the T20 format, something that they had thought of way back in 2003. While the Indian Premier League is the biggest T20 league in the world, tournaments like the Big Bash, Caribbean Premier League and Pakistan Premier League attract more eyeballs than the NatWest T20 Blast. The reason has been attributed to the duration of the competition that goes on for months, which not only makes it tough for viewers forget first-time viewers to keep track but also means that international players often are unable to commit. With more teams and with county matches thrown in between schedules, the Natwest T20 Blast turns into a mess. The matches being aired on subscription channel Sky does not help either and the 100-ball idea seems a desperate attempt by the ECB to set things right.
— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) August 29, 2018
Instead, it would be a better move to sort out the existing flaws that exist in cricket currently, with regards to technology, the D/L method and the coin toss. Despite the usage of technology, the concept of umpire’s call in the LBW still baffles while the soft signal too is in the midst of an uproar. Why use technology if they prove to be indecisive? Once a decision has been referred to the third umpire, the decision given should be independent of the on-field umpire’s call. The coin toss too could see modifications and the D/L method that confuses more than it helps is a part of cricket for a long, long time. The existing cricket fans the world over would prefer if the lacks are polished away instead of coming up with a whole different format where flat tracks will rule once again and one which will have its own issues to resolve.
More importantly, where will the new format fit in the calendar? Yes. A few players who have chosen the T20 league over Test cricket will play but unless high-profile cricketers like Virat Kohli or Steven Smith turn out regularly in the 100-ball cricket, it will fail to garner momentum. But where is the time? The Indian team play the Asian Games four days after their gruelling tour to Ireland and England end. They have been on the road since June and will be thrust into competition once again with literally no breathing space. With growing demands for fitness, players are more focused on resting their bodies for Tests and ODIs, which still remain the top-most priority for some of the best cricketers in the world at the moment. Virat Kohli, in particular, has been scathing in his opinion on the format, urging ECB to focus instead on FC cricket to nurture young talent for Test cricket.
@ICC We supports Virat Kohli no one interested in 100 Ball cricket all interested in Test cricket and ODI cricket. No one watches T20 cricket everyone watches Test and ODI cricket.ICC and BCCI should note this
— Roshan (@rajv20) August 29, 2018
The haphazard way in which the domestic tournament in England is being run is evident in the lack of players who can seamlessly fit into the national team. England is struggling to find a Test opener and their number three slot has been posing problems off late, forcing Joe Root to jump to three from his preferred spot at four. Naturally, the balance has been disturbed but instead of looking at ways to fix this issue, Strauss remains keen on coming up with a format that is away from the traditional, in not only its outlook but also in its rules.
Is it really cricket?
‘The Big Hundred’ will have 15 overs of 6 balls each with the last overextending to 10 balls. Before you stop to say “what?”, there’s more. ECB even planned to make the tournament with 12 players playing in a side before it was scrapped. By constantly muddling with the player’s minds and asking them to reinvent themselves according to the fickle minds of a few administrators, we are moving so far away from cricket that it is getting too difficult to turn back around. Bowlers are getting smashed day in and day out, whilst we enjoy the run fests. The two new balls in ODIs are taking out reverse swing bowling from the LOIs and the Men Who Matter are least bothered, instead of shortening the boundary ropes. But a line must be drawn and it must be drawn out now.
What happens when the ECB decides that the new format has not worked for them again? What when the excitement from the new has faded away? Will 5-over games that are played indoors become a reality? Test cricket has always blessed us with ounces of nostalgia. The cover drives of Kohli against James Anderson on a tough Lord’s ground brought with it a weird sparkle, and here’s hoping the administrators also start revelling in the beauty that Test cricket has to offer instead of running after commercialization of the sport that we all adore immensely.