Impact T20 and IPL
CRICKET or CRICKETAINMENT?
CA R. S. RAGHAVAN
Banking and Financial Analyst
author of “RISK, the Business Driver in Banks”
After winning the first two World Cup One Day Internationals 60 and 50 over tournaments way back in 1975 and 1979, for the first time the name of West Indies figures in both the genders shortest version of T20 World Cup tournament played simultaneously in India and this by itself is a rare achievement by the West Indies. It is a matter of great pride for West Indies, country in general and the Cricket Teams in particular, to have bagged World Cup title, by it’s under 19, Women (debut attempt) and Men, all in the year 2016, thus making it a Trinity Cups for West Indies. West Indies always plays the game by instinct rather than by any calculations and some time they succeed. The final match turned out to be a high voltage match enthralling the audience and left all sport lovers speechless and breathless, as the muscular strength and daredevil approach saw them through the World Cup. Though underpaid by their Board and mocked by the so called expert commentators, their aggressive brand of cricket came to their rescue in the end. One cannot resist the temptation of admiring WI Team, about which Sachin Tendulkar warned Indian cricketers for not taking them lightly on their capabilities.
In the recently concluded T20 tournament, for the first time Score Predictor and Win Predictor have been introduced as two new statistical tools, though it may not be close to the ground reality as cricket is a game of chance and not a game of statistics applying various simulations.
It was really a pathetic sight to see the emotionally charged England team going down on their knees again now, a reminiscent of 1987 at the very same ground of Eden Gardens, then Calcutta and now Kolkata. During the 50 over World Cup final in 1987, in the post 1983 world cup victory led by the great Kapil Dev, by going in for an unnecessary and innovative Reverse Sweep that the then England Captain Mike Gatting, otherwise a solid batsman, England handed over the World Cup by a whisker and Australia lifted the Cup for the first time and that paved way for Australia to become Numero-Uno in the world of cricket quite menacingly.
In 2016, it is a similar irony that England played so well against the West Indies, but lost the cup again by a whisker to West Indies. It is actually a scenario of West Indies won, rather than England lost. It should be said to the credit of West Indies batsman Carlos Brathwaite that hitting four consecutive balls leaping over the boundary line in the last over of World Cup final is not a simple task, by any standard. Like in the 2012 T20 World Cup, Caribbean Marlon Samuels patient brilliance coupled with the present quick fire innings from Carlos Brathwaite in the last over miracle stunned the England quite irreparably. Notwithstanding the fact that it is in England where the cricket game is played professionally for long, England is yet to taste success in any of the World Cup tournaments so far. Ben Stokes almost felt like fellow cricketer Stuart Broad, in brooding over the flurry of continuous sixes suffered at the hands, both literally and figuratively of Yuvraj Singh, long back.
As cricket players have now moved from nation-wide T20 to international mix of players oriented Indian Premier League (IPL), let us dwell into impact of the shortest version game of cricket, which generates hell a lot of money for the players and also administrators, substantially.
Though Indian Team won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, ironically it was India who stood out of the T20 format, initially and refused to take part in the World T20 Cup of shortest version of international cricket.
Four decades ago, Australian Kerry Packer introduced a shorter version called One Day Internationals (ODI) wherein in one single day, as opposed to two innings in five day Test match that was prevailing then. Both the rival teams were tested on a single day performance in the limited 60 overs one inning match, which now stands reduced to 50 overs. The T20 format was invented by the British primarily to attract and woo the Englishmen who were watching football tournament more than cricket matches. The inaugural cup won by India generated much interest opening up the marketing of cricket successfully, through the unique international mix of players with fancy team name in India, under the overall banner of Indian Premier League (IPL).
Though with all the seriousness and genuineness, the cricketing great Kapil Dev started Indian Cricket League (ICL), he was put down not only by the cricket marketing pundits, but also the apex cricketing Board BCCI, the Board of Cricket Control of India. Irony is that not a single yester year player and also the so called experts who were in the thick of action for the cricket game came to the rescue of Kapil Dev.
The format allowed exploitation of the unmanned areas in the ground. Though the format is of shorter version, while all the players were allowed to bat, only few were allowed to bowl and the question of run alone matters, unmindful of wickets lost by the team to score that many runs. As far as players are concerned, huge money attracted them primarily though rubbing shoulders with international greats, without being a part of the national team, was an additional unquantifiable value addition to them. Young batsmen were really fascinated by the quick money and fame in the shortest version, which does not make a player complete and comprehensive personality in cricket. Hitting to the fence is the main mantra and the poor bowlers are the victims. This made the bowlers to restrict their capability to have a long spell of continuous bowling, both physically and mentally. Thus, figures such as 32-27-5-0 achieved by the spinner Bapu Nadkarni, in 1964, with a record continuous 21 over remain an unsurpassed historical data. Bowling just four overs in a T20 match, a bowler can earn more than 10 times the money he would get for bowling in a day for the Test match or One-Day International (ODI).
Why Team A with 189 all out be declared winner over Team B with score of 188 for no loss in the allotted 20 overs? Just for entertainment and money involved but not the qualitative cricket.
Cricket is a beautiful game and even in a Test Match spreading over five good days, there are instances of one team snatching a victory from the Jaws of Defeat as also another team losing a match from a very comfortable and winning position. During the last decade or so, this 50 overs have been truncated to just twenty over a piece, but in co-terminus without reducing the number of wickets to be taken by the opposing team. In fact, truncation is so much that two matches between four teams can now be played on the same pitch in a day, compared to two teams playing a match with no absolute results some time, even after five full days play. There were players like the one who scored just 36 runs in the allotted sixty overs, but remained unbeaten and now there are players who score the full 36 runs in just one over itself, evidencing inflationary trend in runs, akin to monetary inflation witnessed during those intervening period of four to five decades.
While all the players are allowed to bat and only few bowlers are allowed to bowl to take all the wickets in 20 overs or else face the music of mad hits from Tom, Dick and Harry kind of batsmen. If there is a mechanism to declare Team A with a score of 189 runs all out from all the eleven players put together, in 20 overs, bowled by only five bowlers normally as winner over the Team B with the score of 188 runs without losing a wicket, from just two players, the same is not fair and do not display equity, in the treatment of players, though the teams may have equal chances, at the start.
Therefore, the least that could be done is to make all the ten players in a team to bowl, of course excluding the wicket keeper, just 2 overs each and factor or reckon the wickets lost by a team or a maximum cap of 4 or 5 wickets in the brief version of the game, through some weightage concept, while declaring the results. All the players, except wicket keeper, should be allowed to bat two overs each to be bowled by the opposite team 10 players. A combination of average run-rate maintained and wickets taken by the team over the opposition team should be the deciding factor.
Though, IPL games have very many positives such as boost of economy, monetary gains to less known players, opportunity for youngsters to interact with as well as pick up from seniors with international expertise and entertainment value, there is no doubt it kills overall cricket quality and also puts the bowlers at the mercy of batsmen, in an unfair manner. It is so batsmen oriented that batsmen do not mind losing wicket as they are in the comfort of many players down the line to play but with the conscious knowledge of facing the bowlers only for twenty overs or for that matter 10 batsmen together need to face a maximum of 120 balls only, leave alone the wide, no ball, etc. Under the circumstances, like Rule based mechanism of Duckworth Lewis rule in a rain affected match, concept of combination of runs scored and wicket lost through ten players should be evolved in IPL / T20 matches, for a fair treatment to all the players concerned.
In order to remove the batsmen oriented and biased approach, it is suggested to set a run cum wicket combination concept to the team batting second. That is, continuing the example given, if team A has scored 189 for 4 wickets, the Team B should necessarily score 190 runs without losing more number of wickets so as to be declared as winner. If team B loses 5th wicket or could not score 190 runs within the four wickets loss, team B should be declared as loser irrespective of whether the overs are completed or not and without calling other batsmen to come and play when some overs are still left to be bowled by the bowling team A. Simply throwing bat around the field for sixes and fours, by all the batsmen when only few recognized bowlers are allowed to bowl is actually a one sided affair and a biased one, without there being a balanced approach.
A combination of run rate of a team together with the number of wickets taken or run rate factoring wicket lost should be considered as the target to be achieved by team batting second, instead of a mere absolute run scored by the team batting first.
At the cost of genuine cricket and consumerism, entertainment value in cricket is enhanced and money spinner game is encouraged, rather undeserving. Money appears to have taken precedence and preference over other value aspects in cricket.
The success of IPL is more in terms of money and entertainment than cricketing values. It generated revenue coupled with placing astronomical money on the players, more on past laurels and future expectations than the current potentials besides drawing many non-cricket oriented persons into the scheme of things. Immense benefit it provided to the upcoming players is the chance to rub shoulders with world-wide cricketing giants with established credentials in the same breadth, pick up some nuances along the way and sharpen to meet the challenges of competitive play. Short boundaries, extra thick bat, field restrictions, all out status for all the test / ODI / T 20 versions, without making all the 10 fielders to bowl, etc., are too batsmen oriented that it promotes crude cricket instead of qualitative cricket. Ass all the bowlers are allowed to bat, all the batsmen are not allowed to bowl. Where has gone the Mumbai (Bombay) School of Cricket? The then Bombay boasted itself with quality players like Vijay Merchant, Vinoo Mankad, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Padmalkar Shivalkar, Eknath Solkar, etc., which quality of players are very rare now a days, even from Mumbai. I P L ensured that quality cricket is the victim of quantity of money and entertainment. It is now a perfect Cricketainment.
Players beyond a particular age of say 22 or so only should be allowed to be bid or to participate in IPL format and under 19 players who have represented the nation need not be considered for IPL /T20 tournament as the players should know the nuances of bowling and batting in different conditions.
As a cricket match, particularly the T20 and IPL formats, is decided purely on the runs by all the players allowed to bat and not on the number of catches taken or wickets knocked down, there appears to be no point in field restrictions and making only few person to bowl at all the players of the opponent. Let all bowl, let all bat and let all field anywhere on the ground. Boundary line circle should only be the restrictions for the fielder.The undue advantage given to batsmen and the biased toiling of bowlers should be done away with. Amassing runs, at any cost with even at unfair restrictions on bowlers/fielders alone should not be allowed to decide the winner. In order to suit maximum run scoring team as winner, tweaking other aspects of cricket is actually suicidal, equivalent to same side goal, though it may serve as some sort of entertainment – (Cricketainment).
How it is justified for T20 and IPL owners to own the world class cricketers for 2 months or so at an astronomical prices, when the respective cricketing Boards, which nurtured the players to become the world class, do not get anything in return. Players cost, met through advertisement revenue, is ultimately met by the consumers only. Corruption by itself poses problems, but the IPL scheme appears to be fuelling it unnecessarily as big money is at stake. In the past, BCCI official has become the victim of unfair practice in the administration.
Fantastic fielding, amazing catches – particularly near the boundary, fearless batting, quick running between the wickets etc. are a treat to eyes. The adage of “A run saved is a run saved” is getting transformed into “A four saved by the side fielding first is actually equivalent to a sixer need to be scored while chasing a target. The shorter version is so much batting oriented that the tact and skills required by bowlers to try and experiment in varying climatic conditions in Test environment are quite lacking. But false estimation to select a player to represent the country in the longer format, based on IPL / T 20 matches would prove to be suicidal.
Even players of the caliber of Sachin, Lara, Sangakara, Kallis, etc., had to practice hard before getting into the mode and mood of Test Matches. With the onset of IPL matches in mid-April, in close proximity to the recently concluded T20 World cup events, Indian players who are slated to play nearly 18 to 20 Test matches in longer version till March 2017, may find it really difficult to handle.