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This danger is for real

Updated on: 11 May,2023 07:56 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ian Chappell |

Long-term contracts could eventually lead to players only representing their Indian Premier League franchise in different leagues while refusing a contract with an individual country

This danger is for real

Rajasthan Royals’s New Zealand star Trent Boult (centre) celebrates the dismissal of Royal Challengers Bangalore stalwart Virat Kohli during an Indian Premier League game at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on April 23. Last year, Boult spurned a central contract with the Black Caps to reportedly spend more time with his family and concentrate on franchise cricket. Pic/AFP

Ian ChappellNobody can be blamed for not fully envisaging the future, but cricket deserves censure for not properly planning the path of different formats.

The administrators had ample time and opportunity around the beginning of T20 cricket to draw up a stable blueprint for the game’s future. It should’ve included a way forward that allowed for a variety of formats to prosper without involving inbred cannibalism. 

Instead, the IPL shrewdly established itself as the premier of franchise cricket, whilst obtaining an exclusive window for the competition. It didn’t hurt that they also ensured Indian players were well compensated for exclusively supporting the league.

The IPL now subtly dictates cricket’s future as it spreads its wings to purchase international franchises. Meanwhile, the players have far more financial clout than ever before and substantial control over their future in the game.

The administrators could never have imagined that the 1977 World Series Cricket (WSC) revolution would eventually transform player power.

Until the arrival of WSC, if players were unhappy with a controlling body’s remuneration they basically had nowhere else to play. Now a player can tell his home board to jump in the lake if he’s unhappy with the money being offered and they can then ply their trade on the world franchise market.

This situation is further enhanced as the IPL franchises expand by buying teams in international leagues like the West Indies, South Africa, UAE and the USA. Emboldened by such success, the IPL is currently looking at investing in individual players by offering them long-term contracts.

This could eventually lead to players only representing their IPL franchise in different leagues while refusing a contract with an individual country. The lack of foresight by administrators has handed the players a financial bonanza and allowed the IPL owners to prosper.

There is a danger that IPL franchises—therefore big business—will eventually dominate cricket reasoning and T20 will become the accepted way of the future. 

While spectators happily pay to watch T20 and sponsors and media outlets are willing to pay substantial money for rights to the game, it’s important cricket maintains a balance. The game needs well-thought-out variety in its scheduling, but this is not the priority of big business. 

As the WSC revolution leader and businessman Kerry Packer said, “Never let a media organisation run your sport.”

India dominates cricket—with help from the highly successful IPL—and the BCCI is seeking a much bigger slice of ICC’s financial pie. There is no doubt that India is THE cricket powerhouse, but the game needs to prosper overall rather being subservient to a sole nation. The game can’t afford many major nations to 
be underfunded.

Cricket had the opportunity to appoint a viable body to oversee the game whilst also compiling a sensible playing schedule. Instead, self-interest and political power-broking prevailed and this has allowed the IPL freedom to flex its mighty muscles.

No one can blame the players for accepting large financial rewards as they only have a short career in which to capitalise on their earning power. Likewise, the IPL recognised a weakness in the market and is now taking full advantage. This weakness was exacerbated by the administration’s lack of foresight in past years.

If the administrators had engaged the different stakeholders in the game, they could have better planned cricket’s future and the finances could now be more evenly distributed. By canvasing the various ideas of players, the administrators, the sponsors and the fans, cricket could then have produced a sound roadmap for the future and ensured the game’s popularity expanded accordingly. 

As it is there’s a danger that too much wealth will finish in the hands of too few and T20 leagues will dominate the cricket schedule. 

Cricket needs variety in the different playing formats to satisfy customer needs. There’s a danger this will be overlooked and the game’s delicate equilibrium upset if big business thinking prevails over cricket common sense.

Clayton Murzello’s Pavilion End column will be back next week
Sydney-based former Australian captain Ian Chappell is one of the most influential voices in the game

The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper

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