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Familiarity due to T20 leagues shouldn’t kill national teams’ identity, feels former England captain Michael Atherton

Speaking at a discussion at Sourav Ganguly’s book release at the Lord’s, former England captain Mike Atherton agreed that world cricket has seen a shift from West to East for cricketing education.

cricket Updated: Jul 10, 2018 21:26 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, London
Michael Atherton,Sourav Ganguly,IPL
Members of Chennai Super Kings pose with trophy after wining against Sunrisers Hyderabad's at IPL cricket T20 final match.(AP)

Not long ago, County cricket was the destination for professional players seeking top-level first-class cricket. Especially for the subcontinent players, it was a must-have experience as it helped in completing their cricketing education. They got a taste of professionalism and were exposed to challenging conditions as well as the world’s best players.

In the last decade, there’s been a steady shift the other way. Being part of the Indian Premier League has become an ambition for most top cricketers. There’s big money and cricketers learn to handle nerves for the pressure to deliver is massive.

Speaking at a discussion at Sourav Ganguly’s book release at the Lord’s, former England captain Mike Atherton agreed that world cricket has seen a shift from West to East for cricketing education.

“Very much so, it is an ambition of all the young England cricketers to go play international cricket in India for various reasons, for the passion, the support and also the Indian Premier League for all the reasons mentioned. We had the most number of cricketers going and playing this year, a dozen or so. I was there for 10 days and bumped into a few of them and they were having a fine time. For the first time, they had missed the start of the English season. One couldn’t imagine it in our times.

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“Who would have thought it a few years ago? It’s remarkable how it has changed, the ambition to go there (to India) and play.

“If I look at my own case, I have played 100-plus Tests and I have played one Test match in India. That wouldn’t happen today, the draw of India for all kinds of reasons — cricketing, commercial, that draw is there.

Atherton’s only Test match in India was in 1993. After that, England toured India only in December, 2001. Atherton had quit international cricket a few months before that.

“I toured India in 1993. I played one Test and was ill in the other two. Then we didn’t tour India till 2002 (late 2001), that’s amazing and that couldn’t happen today. That’s a sea change,” said Atherton, who played 115 Tests.

Since then, India has become the most influential cricketing nation. The IPL, which began in 2008, has changed the face of the game. Now, a series with India is coveted by all cricket boards since the revenue lies there.

“I looked at the Future Tours Programme. The England and India players are going to be sick of the sight of each other soon because there are so many Test matches, so that’s a reflection of how it has changed,” said Atherton.

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Due to the proliferation of T20 leagues like the IPL, the game has also changed in the way that the exchange of ideas between players from various backgrounds and countries has increased. Atherton, however, said he wouldn’t want various teams to lose their identity for whatever reason.

“I agree that there is an exchange of ideas (Kumar Sangakkara had mentioned during the discussion), (but) I hope the national teams don’t lose their identities. You don’t want everybody playing the same way, (like) after what happened to Australia in South Africa, you would say (to Australia) ‘play like New Zealand, be nice and polite’. I wouldn’t like to see that.

“I like the fact that the game has great variety around nations, different conditions, different approaches. That is a part of the beauty of the game. It would be a shame if we lost that.”

First Published: Jul 10, 2018 21:26 IST