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Test cricket in need of desperate makeover

The good side of cricket's reality is the market delivers money, and decides the value of players, sponsorship and TV rights.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2010 01:44 IST

The good side of cricket's reality is the market delivers money, and decides the value of players, sponsorship and TV rights. That is the reason Dhoni has some wealth, Tendulkar isn't poor and other stars are comfortably above the poverty line. Cricket's capacity to create cash does good: the IPL offers astonishing rewards, Ranji players earn decent money and retired first-class players receive monthly pensions.

Still there is the less known side to this reality — the riches of cricket touch only a few and not everyone is required to deposit vast amounts as advance income tax. The handful super-rich (members of the national team) strike gold but for those who fail to make Ranji sides, cricket is an uphill struggle. They have no jobs or reasons to stay in the game.

In other countries the situation is far more grim as, unlike India, money is scarce. English cricket is reeling under a severe crisis because T20 has lost its shine. Regular cricket isn't doing much better either — Test matches featuring Bangladesh and Pakistan have been financial disasters.

Understandably, there is concern, even gloom, in cricket circles. Counties have suffered big losses, the market is in no position to provide cash and the government, committed to genuine austerity and budget cuts, refuses to offer a lifeline.

In this scenario, the big Test centres are hardest hit because they have massive bills and bank loans to repay. The Oval invested almost 30 million pounds in the last five years to create modern facilities, but is now looking to stage cultural/entertainment events to stay financially afloat.

At another level, apart from financial health issues, cricket faces other fundamental challenges. Test cricket, for long the premier product, is in desperate need of a makeover, a point proved decisively by the last game in Sri Lanka where Suraj Randiv, the poor off spinner, in his debut match, bowled 73 overs and conceded 222 runs. The flat pitch ensured the batsmen partied, bowlers got whacked (as described by Dhoni) and the game was of interest only to statisticians and batsmen who lucked out.