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Twenty20 – Sustainable Cricket?
This week has been a bad one for our favorite new game. It seemed that 2008 was the perfect time for the T20 format. The first season of the IPL, the Stanford Millions tournament in the West Indies, and of course the T20 World Cup, was won, fittingly, by India. But 2009, especially this past week, has shown a true test of ‘Hollywood Cricket’.
The man at the center of it all is American entrepreneur Allan Stanford. Back in 2008 Stanford rolled into the home of cricket, Lords, with a basket full of money, and made fast friends.
His inaugural tournament, at a stadium named in his honor in Antigua, saw a team of West Indians, playing the best county side in England, and England’s only cricket team. From the get go the race had the real feel of a farce. Why are West Indian players playing for a team called Stanford Superstars? Why would a national team enter a tournament that was established as a franchise? The answer was of course the mighty dollar…yes $20 Million or so.
The first sign of trouble should have been that the game of cricket was being sold to a man who professed to have no interest in the game itself. But the money bound the Indians of the West, and for some reason the Poms, jumped into bed with the Texan. Another sign of the problems with Stanford was the shocking picture of the billionaire walking with English women in a competitive game.
However, even as the players showed that things were starting to turn sour, the lure of the mighty T20, and the dollars it brought with it was too much to resist.
When word came out last week that Stanford’s millions actually came from fraud, it should come as no surprise. Suddenly the egg on the face of the cricket officials was so visible, that even they could not remove it. Much has now been written about the incredible lengths to which the game will go, to attract corporate investment. The cash cow of T20 was once undisputed. Now, of course, the Stanford Million will be stopped, and reports indicate that many West Indian players have been talked into spending their money earned in Stanford’s marketing fraud, so they don’t even have dollars to show for it. .
Another hit for T20 is the surge in players coming out of the upcoming IPL tournament. Earlier Australian stars Mitchell Johnson and Michael Clarke have reconfirmed their disapproval of the tournament, and now Ricky Ponting, who was the underdog for Kolkata Knight Riders, is out. With a packed cricket schedule, this is becoming more and more a warning to players who are wrangling money and national interest. In fact, speaking of juggling, what can we say about the English cricket team, who heard about their impending fortunes after being allowed to participate in the IPL, then were bowled out for 51 by one of the weakest teams. the world. Of course, players now feel that juggling is becoming difficult. Money that seemed to be easy is now something else.
T20 came very quickly. Of course it survived in the English county for a long time, but that we had the world cup and the opening tournament as soon as the game started, it’s amazing. I wonder about the actual longevity of such a short game. The game is really coming out, but there are few places of cunning or intrigue, players either break and get the limit, or break and get out. If one of the main objections against ODIs has been the same, the same is only amplified in T20. For every ‘David Warner’ moment, there are thousands of parallels. Smash…Six…Smash…Out.
As money dries up around the world the only real incentive to participate in the game will also diminish. So far there is no real result in the International T20’s once as we have seen between Australia and South Africa and New Zealand, this summer. The game is almost International Friendlies, as the main attraction of the game has been the IPL and its economy. But, as I said, if the dollars dry up, or are lost in fraudulent cases like Allan Stanford’s, then the authorities will not only think about the true purpose of the game, but they will also have to question their own. making decisions before jumping into bed with any gung ho businessman is a buck.
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