Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Prognostication: Cricket Tomorrow

The 20-20 world cup has concluded - and has revealed an entirely new and much more exciting game of cricket. An entirely new business model of the game seems to be on the verge of taking root - despite what a few snobs (the so-called "purists") say.

With this further shortened version of the game, it is quite likely that second rung tournaments will get more interesting. This has already happened in England and South Africa - where first class cricket has more or less undergone a revolution. Cricket can now compete with the likes of football in Europe - because the shorter version keeps intact Cricket's inherent reliance on strategy and intellect - and just adds a lot more entertainment.

England, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia. Small countries. Where Cricket is more of an after-thought than a religion. Now let's scoot over to the commercial hub of the game. The Sub-Continent. 1.5 billion cricket crazy people. A place which gets full stadiums for boring rain threatened ODIs. A place which is serious about its entertainment.

Here's what I see happen to cricket in the near future: (5 years?).

A local cricket league that makes lots of money takes root in the Sub-Continent. Perhaps the ICL or perhaps BCCI. This League also includes teams from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Pakistan is also invited by the business concern - but political concerns (some overzealously "partiotic" delsional nut like Bal Thakeray's goondagiri (sic)) might make that a little difficult. And it makes money. Matches are played by cities and states- just like they are right now. Only they make a lot more money.

Since there aren't so many Australians around (their entire population is slightly more than that of the Mumbai Metropolitan area) - I expect that they either materialize in this league as a couple of clubs from Australia or they distribute themselves into local Indian teams like Indians currently do in British county cricket. That's because there's not much money in playing for local leagues in Australia - unlike there will be in India. Economics, after all, conquers all.

The Australians, the south Africans the British, the West Indies - initially will be star players. The will play a lot better than the Biharis, the Andhras - and the Mumbaikars. But in time, as India's economy grows - and as getting into local cricket becomes more lucrative - with more opportunities and all - I expect cricket to become a serious career option for young Indian boys. I expect more Indian cricketers to emerge who are as disciplined as the Aussies are right now.

And ten years down the line, I expect that the ICC will more or less dissolve - except for a few ceremonial games. I expect economics to shift criket to India.

Unless, the Chinese and the Americans start liking cricket. And that's unlikely to happen.

What I have claimed here is just based on common sense, little else. The only thing that could make this not happen is massive political instability in India slowing down the country - again, unlikely - the communists notwithstanding. Or an inherent genetic inability to perfrom in sports among Indians - a theory that seems untenable, judging by the occasional spurts competence shown by our current "selected" cricket team - and by the sheer talent of the occasional cricketer. Let's players select themselves, not some "selectors".The current system reeks of authoritarianism.

As far as cricket is concerned, the future belongs to the sub-continent. Because there is no incentive like money. And there is no engine of growth like the free market. And ironically, money there is (for cricket) in the subcontinent (though it is still one of the poorest regions in the world otherwise).

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