T20 upheaval a chance for cricket to introspect
Before a ball has been bowled, the controversial IPL concept has already confirmed that money talks; it speaks a language both players and administrators fully understand.
The huge financial inducements being offered by IPL have resulted in some Australian players locking horns with their Board over possibly missing out on a lucrative contract. This should curtail any future references to the likelihood of player burnout or being overworked, as they've shown on more than one occasion that earning money overrides the need for occasional rest.
For their part, administrators worldwide have shown that they will rise and fall to the whims of the financially powerful BCCI like a kite in the wind.
If however, the administrators view the IPL concept from the angle of "how can this benefit the game" instead of "what is in it for us", they could unearth the solution to some of cricket's problems.
An infuriating knotted length of hose has nothing on the current international cricket schedule but this could be untangled in the process of accommodating the IPL. The Future Tours Program where every nation plays each other, both home and away in a six-year period, has proven to be unworkable. This would be a good time to scrap it and produce an international schedule of mouth-watering variety that is both financially beneficial and meaningful for the players and fans.
As it is currently scheduled, the IPL will continually conflict with the West Indies' international season and the English county program and for this year the proposed tour of Pakistan by Australia. The latter conflict has the potential to create great paranoia in the present and the first two, animosity in the future.
So the obvious solution would be to sit down and find a window in the international schedule for IPL that suits everybody but in the process tidies up the other programming anomalies that exist.
Another of the major early concerns over IPL is that senior players will eventually favour the concept over playing for their country. On the other hand, many selectors are reluctant to blood talented young players and the game needs to be continually revitalised by enthusiastic and talented young cricketers.
If the IPL forces senior players to curtail their international career, the league could fulfil the vital role of being a natural culling process. However, this will only work if the young players coming through are properly prepared for all forms of the game.
India's talented Rohit Sharma is a good example of a modern well-rounded cricket citizen.
He has an excellent batting technique but is also capable of hitting powerful shots and he's well schooled in fielding and running between wickets. He has been tutored properly as a youngster and then provided with an environment that allows him to hone his skills. The fact that he can now adapt those skills to any length of game is testament to his well-rounded cricket education.
If future generations aren't given a Sharma-type complete education and only receive a crash course in cricket then not only will Twenty20 have a bleak future but so also Test matches and the fifty-over game. In the end it is the competitiveness of the teams and the skill of the players that fans come to enjoy and not even the most elaborate entertainment will overcome a shortage of either.
This is an exciting time for cricket but also a critical period in its history. There are now three forms of the game all of which have a part to play in the future but only if far-sighted plans are put in place.
First there was the dilemma of where Twenty20 fitted into the overall scheme of things.
Then came the upheaval caused by the rebel ICL concept and now there is the uncertainty over the effect IPL will have on the game and it's scheduling.
All three of these upheavals have provided cricket with the perfect opportunity to take a long hard look at itself and then set about defining the future. However, a satisfactory path for the game's future will only be unveiled if both players and administrators have financial well being as one of many goals, not the only one.
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