May 14, 2014

England and the IPL: a thaw will come

It's clear now that T20 cricket will not exist in isolation from the rest of the game, and the sooner the ECB realises it, the better

Players like Eoin Morgan, who have experienced big-time franchise cricket, are now more naturally accepting of risk © Getty Images

Given the imminent referendum on independence, there are plenty of Englishmen schmoozing the Scottish nation at the moment. Few have done a better job than Alastair Cook's one-day team, who last week emerged from their first Moores II fixture in credit. They did everything right: splashing across the sodden outfield with a smile, making sure that the crowd saw some cricket and easing to an expected but needed win in the kind of truncated, chaotic game that they have often specialised in losing.

An era of glasnost has been declared. There will be, we're assured, a new openness around the team, an atmosphere that reflects the pride and joy that comes from representing your country. Fans and media are the declared beneficiaries.

There remains one distant border where this fuzzy light will not shine, however, and that is the IPL. If the hand of friendship is being extended there, it's being extended on the quiet, far from public view. A cold-war chill persists publicly, perhaps hardened by the presence of the establishment's own Voldemort, Kevin Pietersen, in Delhi. One of the many irks that led to his estrangement was his ardent advocacy of the tournament.

That was attributed to money, and only a fool would deny its role, yet Pietersen's sharpened cricketing instincts also recognised other values: the chance to deliver under pressure in front of hysterical crowds; the opportunities it provided as a learning experience and an information exchange; the way it was driving the patterns and techniques of the sport forwards. To be isolated from the less attractive elements of IPL cricket was also to be isolated from its benefits. The other day Chris Gayle tweeted news of a dinner he'd had with Pietersen, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh. Maybe they didn't speak about cricket at all, but maybe they did too, and imagine what a conversation that would have been.

It's clear now that T20 cricket will not exist in isolation from the rest of the game. Rather, its attitudes and concepts are feeding into wider thinking about the way international cricket is played. The career of David Warner will prefigure many more. It is hard, for example, to see Darren Lehmann dismissing the notion of Glenn Maxwell as a Test match cricketer. This future is arriving quickly, too. AB de Villiers and Kohli embody the ideal: batsmen rounded in every discipline, able to ratchet up and down to the demands of format.

And where do England stand as it happens? They appear trapped between old and new. Moores' first one-day squad was deeply traditional, a team equipped to win in England but almost nowhere else. It was a strategy with some merit for last year's Champions Trophy, but the next World Cup is in Australia, where the emphasis will be on power and risk. The team that wins will certainly be unafraid to lose: chance is inherent in pursuit of fast starts and big totals.

It's more than just a mindset too. Players like Aaron Finch and Warner and Maxwell, Kohli and Dhoni and de Villiers have evolved a mentality that places a new and different value on their wicket. Their acceptance of risk has become a natural thing.

These subtle shifts have yet to fully infiltrate English thinking, although they are visible in players like Alex Hales and Craig Kieswetter and Eoin Morgan, who have had experience of big-time franchise cricket. They sense the pulse of the modern game.

England are unfortunate in being the only nation whose domestic and international calendar is impacted upon by the IPL. The problem has seemed intractable, but another force will soon be applied. At the moment the IPL is the only free-to-air cricket on television in the UK, thanks to the foresight of Lalit Modi (who also, let's not forget, put the tournament on Youtube). It has built a slightly different audience, albeit not a huge one here. That is to change from next year, when the tournament has been sold to BSkyB, which is the ECB's rights holder, and as such, the board's paymasters. Perhaps Sky will want to see some English stars getting screen time in those full and screaming stadiums. If so, a rapprochement may not be as distant as it currently seems.

If England want a genuine coming together, an actual new era rather than a philosophical one, then an acceptance of the benefits of the IPL should be a part of it. In reality, it is an acceptance of the rest of the world, of the speed at which it moves and the truth that it cannot be controlled, only embraced.

Jon Hotten blogs here and tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ashok on May 17, 2014, 18:50 GMT

    Just like every Sport, Cricket has evolved & has now become a Business. I remember the days when Eden Garden Stadium in India or Melbourne attracting a crowd in the range of 100,000 for Test matches. But times have changed & this has become a Era of TV or online viewing of Cricket or any sport. NBA, MLB , WHL & NFL are sports popularised in the North America & Canada to such an extent that literally millions of fans are attracted to it. It was on these sports that an Indian, Mr. Modi, modelled the IPL. It was slow to take off but now it has reached a level where players will be expected to perform or be excluded. It is no longer a Bang-Bang Cricket but a skilled sport. So although I am a keen Test Cricket Fan, I admire these Skilled IPL Cricketers. I see T20. ODI & Test Cricket all co-existing each having its own unique fans. All 3 Formats are here to stay. Cricket in any format is a very skilled sport. Hats off to Mr.Modi for introducing IPL to the World - A touch of Business Genius!

  • Ashok on May 17, 2014, 18:23 GMT

    With increasing popularity & acceptance of IPL as a form of making a living , the England's Cricketers will soon be flooding the IPL. As a young University student, I was a fine Cricketer representing my University in the All India varsity Tourney. My Father gave me an ultimatum to focus on studies & quit Cricket, even though I & my University reached all India Semi Final. I quit Cricket & managed to become a very successful professional. That was over 4 decades back. These days IPL has offered opportunity for all young men to make a choice & many Indians are opting for Cricket. In England Professional Cricketers existed but their wages were poor until last 2 decades. IPL is offering even higher wages- in $ Million range for just 2 months of about 18 matches- lasting 3.5 hours each. Guys like KP, Kallis, & many more SA, OZ, NZ, WI & SL Cricketers are in it. England Cricketers will be competing to join IPL within next 3 years lured by lucrative pay packet & easy access to Fame!

  • Jay on May 15, 2014, 19:04 GMT

    I have said this a hundred times before on Cricinfo and will continue to say it again. I LOVE T20 and ODI cricket, in that order. I don't like Test cricket but I do acknowledge its place in the world. I strongly feel test cricket is dead outside of England and Australia. In fact, all tv ratings, ticket sales across Asia etc confirm that fact. Nobody has time to watch test cricket any more. No offence to anybody but it seems even in England, only old/senior citizens come to watch test cricket. That's my observation for a long time. I am a firm believer of change in all aspects of life. Cricket too is undergoing a huge chance, that is T20. The IPL offers the best of T20 cricket. You have players from various backgrounds come together to play as a team for a single purpose and goal. Not to forget the kind of income on offer to players. It has made the cricketer a valuable person. All I am saying is that the benefits of T20 cricket outweigh the negatives.

  • Ray on May 15, 2014, 14:28 GMT

    @aniltjoseph: I'm not sure how saying that "I have misgivings about T20" i.e. I don't enjoy it, equates to running down the IPL? I agree with you; it is well packaged and marketed. Obviously, I also agree that (Test) cricket is not a truly global sport, but I don't think that T20 will establish itself as such either: Time will time.

    Why bring football into the discussion? The correct comparsion is between T20 & Tests. @Cpt.Meanster suggests that Test cricket is on its' deathbed. This may be true in India - others are better placed to comment than me - but, it is clearly not the case in England or, dare I say, Australia.

    This is not directed at you, but I just get a bit fed up with some posters telling me what I have to like, and passing their opinion off as fact. Of course what I have just written is only my opinion (-:

  • Jai on May 15, 2014, 12:26 GMT

    "Here's an idea: How about I promise not to mention my misgivings about T20, and you keep quiet about Tests? Deal?"

    Brusselslion: Oh what we would give for that! Instead we are inundated with articles, comments and posts about how only Test Cricket is 'real cricket'. How T-20 is like comic strips, junk food, death metals, quickies and what have you compared to the timeless beauty of Srilanka scoring 762/5 on a flat-track in front of absolutely nobody.

    I wish more would adopt your spirit and stop calling T-20 fans immature, shallow, entertainment-seekers.

  • Cricket on May 15, 2014, 10:01 GMT

    @siddhartha87 Agreed. Each format has its pros and cons and honestly, I think they feed into each other well. Test players can bring their experience, calmness and ability to tough it out to T20's high octane topsy-turvy games. T20 teaches players to play in pressure situations and/or in front of huge crowds with expectations and can use this to play better in Tests. ODI's combine both the formats a bit so they are a nice segue. There are other ways in which the formats co-exist (fielding standards come to mind) but the point is that there is really no harm in accepting them all. That has been ECB's problem. They give precedence to Tests, which is fine, but they haven't really done much in that format. Other countries like Aus, Ind, SA have embraced all formats and encourage players to get experience from everywhere, making them more complete as athletes and have thus enjoyed more success than England.

  • Anil on May 15, 2014, 9:47 GMT

    @brusselslion, while I agree test cricket is definitely the most supreme form of cricket, I don't think it has succeeded in truly globalizing the game. You have mentioned that the first 4 days of the Lords test have been sold out. But to put things in perspective, we are talking of filling a mere 30,000 capacity stadium in a country, where even pathetic low quality Hull City vs Stoke City football matches can attract larger audiences. Fact is that T20, even though an inferior format, is needed to increase viewership, sponsorship and to spread the game. I agree that test cricket is paramount, but I fail to see why you have to run down the IPL, which is brilliantly packaged and marketed.

  • Jonathan on May 15, 2014, 9:16 GMT

    @Facebook User, and anyone else who has said much the same thing: sorry, I didn't mean to generalise, or suggest that all Indian fans have the viewpoint of Cpt.Meanster. Just that there seem to be a lot of them on this site, and that they seem to be quite vocal. But I agree that it's unfair of me to tar you all with the same brush. Sorry again.

  • siddhartha on May 15, 2014, 9:01 GMT

    I think all form cricket should co -exist.In terms of intensity I love test cricket and anyone who loves to watch good bowling (fast bowling specially) will prefer test cricket to t20.

  • Ray on May 15, 2014, 8:47 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster: Everyone is entitled to an opinion no matter how flawed the argument is.

    " Test cricket is on life support..": The first 4 days of the India Test at Lords have sold out. Very little availability at the Oval. Lords have found it necessary to put up information on their website about tickets for NEXT SEASON'S Ashes Test (presumably, they are doing this for a reason rather than just to pass the time?)

    "(T20) can be globalized and be taken to countries where the sport isn't the native past time" Precisely where is this explosion of interest in cricket taking place?

    "T20s can be played at night and brings players from various backgrounds together into clubs/franchises. Test cricket can NEVER do any of that." What absolute tosh. Why not?

    "Five long days of boring, sluggish cricket is not what I would like to see" Then don't go/ watch!!

    Here's an idea: How about I promise not to mention my misgivings about T20, and you keep quiet about Tests? Deal?

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