Sport Industry Column

Where is cricket headed?

2011-08-23 07:30
Tony Irish
Comment by: Tony Irish

Many sports fans would be surprised to know the scale of international cricket and that, in many respects, it ranks second only to football in following around the world. Much of this is due to the huge public support base in India and it follows that India is dominant from a commercial point of view.

At the moment, and despite the controversy around cricket administrators, professional cricket in SA is pretty healthy. There is a good Proteas team, six competitive franchise teams, many young promising players, a healthy financial position and more money coming into the game over the next three to four years than ever before.

But where will the game be in five to ten years time? This depends largely on strategic decisions taken now by the ICC and by the various country boards, administering the game, including Cricket SA.  Currently there isn’t enough unified strategic thinking within the game on important questions, and there needs to be more.

1. Will Test and ODI cricket survive?

Whether or not these two formats survive is a very important issue for players because (a) most players still believe that Test cricket provides the ultimate measure of cricketing skill, (b) the Cricket World Cup (which is ODI format) is still the pinnacle of all ICC events and the one thing all players want to win, and (c) whether or not Test and ODI formats survive will determine whether or not domestic four day and one day formats will survive. 

If the ICC introduces proper context for these formats in the form of a genuine Test championship and ODI championship in which countries compete equally in the same number of matches and which can be easily understood and followed by the fans then these formats have a good chance of survival. They would also however need to have the best players in the world playing in them so the financial rewards for players to play these formats must be there. 

If proper context and the financial rewards are not there then one, or both, of these formats may well find themselves on the endangered species list in five to ten years time, perhaps sooner.

2. What volume and schedule of T20 cricket?

Because of the popularity of T20 cricket there is a tendency to play more and more of it. Like anything if you give people too much they will eventually lose interest. There should be some control of the amount of T20 cricket played and each country needs to benefit from it. At the moment only one country, India, benefits from the IPL and this takes a big chunk out of the cricket playing calendar meaning other countries have difficulty using their best players over this time.

If the countries don’t control and co-ordinate the scheduling of T20 cricket then the same level of interest in this format throughout the world may not be there in five to ten years time.

3. Will players go the 'freelance' route?

If the best players in each country start to go the freelance route and prioritise T20 cricket over playing for their countries in all formats this will have serious implications for cricket in all countries, except perhaps India.

All countries (except perhaps India which has the IPL) make the vast majority of their revenues from international cricket. This revenue funds professional, amateur and grassroots cricket. If the best players aren’t playing international cricket then revenues earned from international cricket will drop significantly.

Each country needs to find ways of retaining their best players in international cricket or cricket in its current form will suffer in five to ten years time.

4. Will India continue to dominate world cricket decisions?

Because of the economic power of Indian cricket many global cricket issues are swayed by India, or decided in India’s favour.

The other countries need to find a way of dealing on a more unified front with India in order to address the balance in the making of decisions which affect all countries.

If this doesn’t happen then the future of would cricket in 5 to 10 years time will be more about what India wants than what all countries together want.

There are solutions to these challenges and everyone in cricket needs to work towards them together for the best interests of the future of the game.

Ending on a positive note, it is encouraging to see the ICC being prepared to review its current governance structures. One hopes that there will be a positive restructuring of its governance, which will promote good global cricket decisions and strategy, and help to answer the important questions dealt with above.

* The Business of Sport Column is produced in partnership with the Virgin Active Sport Industry Awards 2012. Now in their second year, the Awards have officially opened for entries; an annual opportunity for the rapidly evolving South African sports market to be recognised for its work. Click HERE for more details...or follow us on Twitter: @SportindustrySA

Read more on:    icc  |  ipl  |  tony irish  |  business of sport  |  cricket

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