It is an axiom of life that change is always difficult to accept, especially one that challenges the basic rules of the game. Unlike many other sports, which have been subject to mere cosmetic changes, cricket is a discipline where the introduction of one-day cricket in the sixties and now the even more truncated version, T20, have altered its basic structure.
The first World Cup took place in 1975 and was a roaring success, despite traditionalists scoffing at it. But gradually, one-day cricket came to stay and when India won the 1983 World Cup, it captured the imagination of the sub-continent and many feared the end of Test cricket.
But intelligent control by the administrators saw to it that Test cricket, the preferred choice of the players even now, survived the onslaught and the two were happy together till England, worried by dipping public interest in their domestic cricket, introduced the T20 version.
England and its cheerleaders, who profess a great desire to maintain the traditions of the game, were also the originators of the one-day format to attract crowds to their grounds.
The irony is that India, which is now at the centre of the T20 revolution and is leading a rebellion against cricket’s structured order, did not show any interest in this third format initially, happy as it were with the hefty earnings from one-day games. The fear was that T20 would not generate enough money through TV broadcasting rights as the format was not long enough for advertisers to exploit its commercial value.
The fallout of India’s unexpected success in the first T20 World Cup changed that outlook as TV revenue broke all records.
The Indian Board, worried that the Zee TV-owned Indian Cricket League, which had started a tournament on city-based loyalties, would reap the benefit of this popularity, started its own version, the Indian Premier League. In just two years, it has become such an astounding success that many fear not only the end of Tests but even one-day cricket.
The second version of the World Cup begins in the backdrop of a very intriguing situation where the T20 format itself is getting divided between country-to-country contests and club-based clashes, where the IPL has taken the lead. There are some observers who feel the World Cup may not be able to match the intensity and popularity of the IPL, which could lead to the Indian Board getting more emboldened to challenge the ICC’s already loose grip over the control of international cricket.
Needless to say, world cricket is in a spin and no one really knows what would be the fallout of this T20 revolution.
There is little doubt that cricket is in a far greater turmoil than most are willing to admit, with the IPL’s money power clubbed with its popularity, threatening to gobble up all other formats of the game.