I love cricket. However, every year at around the time of the Indian Premier League I try my best to avoid every cricket website, every cricket news story, every cricket TV station, and almost everything else to do with cricket. This might seem strange in light of my
aforementioned affection for the game. But the reason is simple: I hate the 20/20 game.
Call me a snob if you will, but I find it difficult to truly appreciate a game that is mostly about hitting a cricket ball farther and more often than your opponent. The 20/20 game involves precious little nuance and not much of the ebb and flow that can make the test game so intriguing. There is hardly any place for defense when batting, or any of the subtleties that is the hallmark of good bowling. It is an inferior game.
And while I accept that the excitement it generates and its brevity could serve to lure new fans to cricket, I believe the cricket schedule is getting much too crowded for it’s own good. The IPL seems endless; there is an Australian Big Bash competition, an English 20/20 league, and now there is a Bangladesh Premier league as well. Where will it end?
It is only a matter of time before even more cricketing nations jump on the 20/20 bandwagon, sparking a bidding war for the best talent available. Pretty soon, it appears, a substantial number of the major players will be playing 20 over cricket somewhere in the world while their and national teams will be forced to field 2nd or even 3rd string teams.
It has already begun to happen. I have seen the West Indies struggle to take test wickets in the Caribbean while a supposedly unfit Jerome Taylor was charging in for his IPL team half-way round the world. Chris Gayle’s destructive bat has not been available to the West Indies since the 2011 World Cup because of a dispute with his board, no doubt fueled by the fact that he is regularly and lucratively employed elsewhere.
If other cricketing nations are not already experiencing similar problems, they soon will. I know that the no-objection certificate is supposed to prevent this problem, but we have already seen the strained relations between players and their boards that this can produce. And is it really right to try and force professionals to play for their national teams when they want to be engaged elsewhere?
And you can’t really blame the players either. An athlete’s career lasts only a few years, and injury or loss of form can make it even more fleeting. A player cannot reasonably be faulted for trying to maximize his earnings while he can. After all, it could all end tomorrow. And considering he would have dedicated many years to honing his talent for the game, he probably would not have acquired other marketable skills. What happens to him then? Should he not try to secure his future as quickly as he can, given the uncertainty of an athletic career?
I do not know how the danger posed to the traditional game by its 20/20 version is going to be resolved. It seems to me, though, that the ICC has got to find a way to seriously streamline the cricket calendar if it is to preserve the viability of the longer forms of the game. Twenty/20 cricket is here to stay and there needs to be a way for all forms of the game to co-exist. And they better act with haste too, or the great test game will not be long for this world.