Everything's for sale
Predicting the future is difficult. In cricket, the clairvoyants use many forms of futurology: divination by wagon wheel, by pitch map, by manhattan. And it's still nigh-on impossible. But not totally so. So, if you want to place a few heavy, cast-iron bets on the cricket, here's the second of our three-part series. You can read part one here.
Despite the world game undergoing its Great Schism - India and T20 on the one side, England and the reversion to timeless Tests on the other - there is, on both sides of the divide, a common thread: TV rules everything, which means a profusion of new gimmicks (because TV men assume that the game itself isn't interesting enough). Thus:
1) In the drive for "interactivity" and to make the game user-friendly, swathes of kidult gamers who last saw daylight in 2003 are now "allowed" (i.e. hoodwinked) to vote on bowling changes and moving the fielders. $2 per SMS. Bargain.
2) Entertainment despot-entrepreneur Simeon Scowl of X-Factory fame launches a new talent show in India, Zero to Hero Honda Superstar, in which he takes one budding cricketer all the way to the national 1-on-1 team. The lucky winner will get to field in an unimportant part of the field and sit quietly at the back of the dressing room, perhaps making the tea when asked. Scowl told the assembled reporters at the media launch that he knows exactly what he's looking for: "a certain je ne sais quoi".
3) Ever at the marketing cutting edge, Australia's Big Bash (season six) sees umpires replaced with glamour models wearing specially designed bikinis kitted out with devices to hold jumpers, caps, shades and other garb. Feminists go berserk. Shane Warne has to be stretchered from the field when a "yumpire" asks him the positively pornographic question, "Are you coming round or over?"
4) The belated American T20 league admits celebrity cricketers:
- Usain Bolt becomes the fastest man to one professional run;
- Daniel Day-Lewis, told by his skipper he's going to play as a pace bowler (on account of his height), gets into character by spending a season with Ham CC where he insists he's given the "new conker" and, when challenged about it, is hounded for being "temperamental";
- Michelle Pfeiffer is Day-Lewis' new-ball partner, prompting rumours of a Caddick and Gough-style rivalry;
- David Blain is picked as a specialist floating slip, although he does not allow anyone else near the cordon while he's there;
- This means that Niles and Frasier Crane - Freudian Slips who always keep their eye on the ball - have to play for another franchise;
- Sixteen-time World Darts Champion Phil "the Power" Taylor is drafted on account of being the best finisher in the business;
- Coldplay are desperate to play but rules are rules and three behind square are still not allowed;
- Heidi Klum, Claudia Schiffer, Kate Moss, Elle Macpherson, Adriana Lima and Linda Evangelista are drafted in to field at fine leg and/or long leg.
5) There are also advancements in technology as drop-in stadiums are introduced. An egalitarian, meritocratic tendency in Australia then leads to the creation of boundaries that retract and contract according to the "punching power" of the batsman - a sort of handicap system based on how far they hit it. At the most architecturally advanced grounds, the stands also ebb in sync with the boundary. When Kieron Pollard and Chris Gayle bat, the crowd are so far from the square they need binoculars. It's expensive, but it's fair.
Hand in hand with TV gimmickry comes the even more rampant commercialisation of all forms of the game.
By 2018, all players are contractually obliged to say a particular sponsor's name depending as to which guard they take: "Mitsubishi middle-and-leg, please"; on one leg; Toyota two; Sony centre, etc.
Players will also have to incorporate the sponsor's name in their appeals (much as a decision cannot be given without an appeal, so, in the future, an appeal will not be valid unless it incorporates the sponsor's name): "How-is-BP-that?"
Much as happens at traffic lights at major road intersections, BCCICC will sell franchise opportunities in ball polishing: corporate high-rollers and top-dollar merchants come on as the cherry is being tossed around and give it the sugary sweet once-over…
Scott Oliver tweets here