The Ice Cricket Challenge may not exactly be what cricket really needs
Cricket’s governing body needs to invest more in nurturing the sport in those countries where there is already an important cricket presence such as Kenya, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands, and Canada.editorials Updated: Feb 09, 2018 18:22 IST
It might have been just another regular cricket match. Virender Sehwag scored a four off the first ball he faced. Except that he was batting on a matting pitch placed at the centre of a frozen lake in Switzerland’s Alpine resort St. Moritz. Sehwag was captain of Virender Sehwag’s Diamonds’, who were playing against ‘Shahid Afridi’s Royals’. This is cricket’s latest iteration – ice cricket (and no, despite the venue Yash Raj films had nothing to do with it). Legends (ok, minor legends) of the game – from Andrew Symonds to Mahela Jayawardene and Daniel Vettori to Shoaib Akhtar – played with woollen caps, jackets, and gloves. It was great fun. Or so it seemed. But it’s debatable whether it did much for the game, although the first Ice Cricket Challenge might work as an advertisement for cricket in Switzerland and for St. Moritz in the rest of the world.
Cricket has always been open to experimentation – a trait that has allowed a slow and aristocratic British game to become the razzmatazz-filled Indian Premier League. The Ice Cricket Challenge, apart from being a marketing strategy for all involved, has created a bit of a buzz on social media as well. Experiments such as this could be a good calling card for cricket in countries where it is not currently played. However, it may not be enough. Cricket’s riches have disproportionately benefitted the Subcontinent – India in particular – while never quite trickling down to countries that need far more investment to become better at the game.
The T20 format, short enough to attract fans who enjoy sports such as football, could be the way to make cricket popular in Europe, Africa, South America, even in other parts of Asia. But this will need much more that exhibition matches in popular tourist resort towns. As for all sport, the governing body of international cricket – the International Cricket Council or ICC – will have to commit to increasing investments in nurturing the sport in those countries where there is already an important cricket presence such as Kenya, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands, and Canada.
As for other affiliate nations of the ICC that already have cricketing bodies (Norway, The US, Brazil, etc), the ICC and richer cricket bodies such as the BCCI must take the initiative to set up bilateral and friendly matches to encourage and spur interest in the game. Cricket is currently only played by a handful of countries, which makes even the tag of ‘world champions’ lose some of its lustre in comparison to other sports —chief among them, football.