“The International Cricket Council and the powerful cricket boards, as for example – BCCI, ECB and CA – should take good care of the 5-day format because with great powers, comes great responsibilities”
No ballistic sports in the world have gone so many changes like cricket. It is not just a pastime sport of a shepherd boy in the valleys of England, rather, it has become a passion for many. In today’s world, cricket is one of the most popular games in world sports – even though it is still lagging behind the popularity of soccer, tennis, rugby and baseball – back in India and other countries from the subcontinent, it is like a religion.
Since the round the arm action of bowling came into action – the dimension of cricket changed and gradually, it became a profession.
Two rival English tours of Australia were proposed in the early months of 1877, with James Lillywhite campaigning for a professional tour and Fred Grace for an amateur one. Grace’s tour fell through and it was Lillywhite’s team that toured New Zealand and Australia in 1876–77. Two matches against a combined Australian XI were later classified as the first official Test matches.
The first match was won by Australia, by 45 runs and the second by England. After reciprocal tours established a pattern of international cricket, The Ashes was established as a competition during the Australian tour of England in 1882. A surprise victory for Australia inspired a mock obituary of English cricket to be published in the Sporting Times the following day: the phrase The body shall be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia prompted the subsequent creation of the Ashes urn.
Even though the earliest international cricket match was between the United States of America and Canada, on 24 and 25 September 1844 and the tours of national English sides abroad took place, particularly to the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand with the Australian Aborigines team becoming the first organised overseas cricketers to tour England in 1868; the revolution started in Melbourne and the journey of Test cricket started.
The British Raj started to spread the game in their colonies and in the Caribbean and subcontinent; cricket bloomed like a wildflower – personalities like George Headley, CK Nayudu, Abdul Hafeez Kardar and others became the idols of many – the youngsters wished to become a Test cricketer and thus legends like Sir Vivian Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Aravinda de Silva and Imran Khan were born whose legacies were carried by Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and Muttiah Muralitharan – who took the game to the next level and challenged their colonial masters.
Meanwhile, in England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – the Masters of the Game kept on coming.
The Master of the Game – this sounds so deep and heavy and one cannot deny the fact that A Sachin Tendulkar or Shane Warne or Brian Lara is born courtesy of Test cricket.
I have heard many stories in my teenage years about the heroic batting knocks of great Indian batting legend against those speed merchants ruling the roost in world cricket during the 80s and 90s – and then I watched on YouTube and kept on wondering how fascinating the battle was back in those days!
The batting heroics of the Indian greats were very good bedtime stories for me and my generation of cricket fans.
I loved that era of the contest between bat vs. ball and still, wait for those to happen whenever the contest in white clothes takes place.
The birth of One-day International Cricket gave cricket a new life and the commencement of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1975; truly gave cricket its global nature.
Everything was going fine until a few greedy people started thinking that this game needed further changes and started promoting the shortest format.
The beauty of this game was lost.
Cricket’s downfall started with the revolution of T20 Leagues
Back in 2003, after the ICC Cricket World Cup in South Africa, a shorter format tournament in England kicked off. It was taken as mere entertainment and nothing else. A couple of years later, T20 became a part of the international calendar – up to that, it could be accepted, but promoting it with the intention to gun down the longer format was not acceptable as a cricket fan for me.
India won the inaugural World T20 in South Africa with a team that was not expected to do anything – India never took this format seriously until Misbah-ul-Haq played fatal scoop and Sreesanth took that catch at fine-leg: a couple of businessmen thought of twisting this game.
Since then, the idea of T20 Leagues in the subcontinent gained enough momentum and when the Indian Cricket League showed its ugly face in 2008 and divided world cricket – one could sense, something was not going right.
In 2008, the Indian Premier League (IPL) had finally launched its business model with its state-wise franchises when India had better domestic tournaments and promote the game.
BCCI smelt cash – they became crazy like hell and what England experimented in 2003, they started nurturing it five years later.
BCCI promoted IPL and the rest followed – all tried to emulate IPL and established their own T20 leagues and ultimately that led to top cricketers shunning their national duties and give more importance to such leagues that have disturbed the rhythm of cricket.
Sadly, in today’s era, cricket is shown as a form of mere entertainment in which there is no message for a young cricketer to learn from it – an absolutely wrong way to promote cricket for the coming generations.
Today, there are many teams who play cricket only for the financial security of their players and one of them is the West Indies cricket team which is completely opposite from its prime era team and the reason for its failure in cricket is very clear which even the former West Indies fast bowler has believed.
“Many West Indies players are not interested in playing for West Indies. When you are earning 600,000 or 800,000 dollars for six weeks, what are you going to do? I don’t blame the cricketers. I blame the administrators. West Indies will win T20 tournaments which aren’t cricket,” said Holding said.
To be honest, whatever happens in T20 Leagues cannot be termed cricket by any means!
From the Big Bash to Sri Lanka Premier League to Bangladesh Premier League to Pakistan Super League – focus on earning more rather than improving the quality.
We have many cricketers these days – but can anyone show us a Sachin Tendulkar, Kapil Dev or Sunil Gavaskar?
Not at all – yes, not at all!
The longer format is played but as soon as the IPL is around everything is stopped.
We all know what happened in England before the start of the Manchester Test.
T20 Leagues are a curse
Not only did these T20 Leagues have hampered the rhythm of cricket but they have brought with them a huge amount of controversy as well.
Match-fixing, spot-fixing and illegal betting has been promoted hugely through such Leagues and there have been a lot of cases related to social disturbances have been reported.
Surely, no one ever heard of such social anomalies before the launch of T20 leagues.
The 2013 Indian Premier League spot-fixing and betting case arose when the Delhi Police arrested three cricketers, Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, on the charges of alleged spot-fixing. The three represented the Rajasthan Royals in the 2013 Indian Premier League.
In a separate case, Mumbai Police arrested Vindu Dara Singh, Priyank Sepany (diamond dealer)and Chennai Super Kings Team Principal Gurunath Meiyappan for alleged betting.
In July 2015, the RM Lodha Committee suspended India Cements and Jaipur IPL, owners of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals respectively, for two years.
Additionally, Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan were cleared of all the charges after they were found not guilty by the Patiala House Courts.
However, in January 2016, Chandila was given a life ban from all forms of cricket by the BCCI.
Even though in March 2019, the Supreme Court lifted the life ban imposed by BCCI on Sreesanth – law is blind, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) had its first brush with controversy in 2012, before the tournament had even begun. Mashrafe Mortaza, one of Bangladesh’s leading fast bowlers and captain of the Dhaka Gladiators, reported to team management that BPL matches could be fixed using a potential spot-fixing approach by a fellow cricketer. According to Gladiators media manager Minhaz Uddin Khan, this information was relayed to the BPL. Furthermore, an ICC ACSU officer was already in Dhaka to examine the situation.
Later, in BPL 2013 additional allegations about match-fixing emerged. The alleged match took place on 2 February, between the Dhaka Gladiators and the Chittagong Kings teams.
The 28-year-old Ashraful was allegedly paid about one million taka (US$12,800) to lose the match. However, according to local media, the check he received was returned for insufficient funds. He was also allegedly involved in fixing another match 10 days later against the Barisal Burners: his team lost by seven wickets.
Test cricket is the best format
Test cricket is the best format of the game and the technique and temperament of a cricketer are fully tested in this format, and surely, just a 20-over match can’t decide who the best in cricket is! But, the over-promotion of these T20 leagues is putting the future of the 5-day format in danger, which cannot be tolerated each and every day for the sake of a crazy money train named the T20 Leagues.
The International Cricket Council and the powerful cricket boards, as for example – BCCI, ECB and CA – should take good care of the 5-day format because with great powers, comes great responsibilities.