Politics May 29, 2009

Cricket crunch will kill this great sport

Cricket is in danger of overkill, and the IPL and its imitators in other countries are playing a major part


The ICC looks to have lost control of the governance of the game and its ordered global development © Getty Images
 

The drum beats of the World T20 are beginning to sound. The last gripping tournament already seems a distant memory. World cricket has been transformed in these last two years as has the political situation in Pakistan. While the English media talk of this world tournament as little more than a precursor to the Ashes series that will follow, Pakistan cricket will view the next few weeks with the utmost importance.

My hope is that the World T20 will restore some perspective, some romance and fascination. We do now have a glut of fixtures and contests, and this development has been too fast, too haphazard, and driven too much by greed. Worse still, the ICC looks to have lost control of the governance of the game and its ordered global development. Cricket's administrators and television companies have lost sight of what is important.

By comparison, football has bowed to some degree to similar pressures but it has managed to preserve a sense of theatre and surprise. FIFA, for all its stifling bureaucracy, manages to enforce a rigid order which means that no national association is bigger than the sport's governing body. Cricket has suffered the rule of the English and Australians, and now sits at the mercy of India. Such individual force is a bigger problem in cricket than football. No country should be bigger than the sport.

Cricket's world is smaller than football's, a few nations playing repeatedly against each other, a few players reliving familiar combats. A glut in football can be accommodated by the sheer number of top-level participants. A glut in cricket removes the thrill and surprise of the game, and ultimately removes viewers and spectators.

Take this week's European Champions' League final for example. Despite the volume of matches played this year across Europe, Barcelona's contest with Manchester United carried the excitement of the unknown, and the delicious taste of a sporting treat--indeed, doubly so for me and my fellow supporters of Liverpool.

Cricket is in danger of overkill, and the IPL and its imitators in other countries are playing a major part. We require a formula that preserves the novelty of encounters. The familiarity of combatants will breed contempt among viewers.

I am a fan of T20 and to my surprise I enjoyed last year's IPL tournament. I have been unable to watch this year's tournament because my concern is that Pakistan and its cricketers are being systematically marginalised by certain elements of the international cricket community. The removal of Pakistan's champions from the planned T20 Champions League tournament is further evidence to support that view. I find it hard to watch tournaments from which Pakistan's players have been deliberately excluded.

The final responsibility for this disorder in world cricket must rest with the ICC. The game we love is being devalued. This is not the fault of T20 or cricketers. It is the fault of administrators, television moguls, and businessmen, to whom short-term financial returns matter more than a long-term vision of a successful sport. This is the cricket crunch that will lead to a collapse in viewers and eventually funding. Who will put the brakes on this mismanaged juggernaut heading for a crash?

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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