As cricket stands at the crossroads, undecided about how to handle the surging popularity of T20, it faces a series of challenges. Most of these boil down to control.
The ICC is perceived as a powerless and directionless body, which has failed to act decisively on international scheduling, drug testing or match-fixing. Contrast this with the firm control FIFA exercises over every aspect of football.
It is hardly surprising that administrative fires are raging in cricket boardrooms. In India, the IPL controversy continues to simmer and Pakistan maintains its rich tradition of lurching from one crisis to another. Shahid Afridi, who has not played Tests for the past four years, is their Test captain.
In Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, pay disputes are as common as water shortages in India. West Indies cricket, in a downward spiral for long, is so hopelessly divided that the Trinidad Prime Minister had to issue an appeal for unity.
England is professionally administered but the counties are on a collision course with the ECB. The latest flashpoint is over the absence of top stars who are busy meeting England commitments. Kevin Pietersen has not played at Hampshire for the last five years.
Elsewhere too, with big money on offer, players are encouraged to abandon country for club. Recently, Kieron Pollard refused to tour with the West Indies ‘A’ team. Instead, he chose a T20 county contract.
The success of T20 clearly demonstrates that the golden era of 50-over games is over. The problem with T20’s speedy growth is it monopolises energy, money, sponsorship and attention. The India ‘A’ team, touring England at present, is suffering a massive attention deficit, to an extent Cheteshwar Pujara’s double ton has gone almost unreported.
Cricket needs balance, control, vision and leadership but each country has to discover its own path.