November 22, 2009

Why we need a truly global Champions League

Spreading the reach of cricket can best be achieved by expanding the Champions League, cutting Tests down to three days each, and using the franchise model effectively
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A recent MCC survey has unearthed the not-so-startling-news that only 7% of Indian cricket fans favour the Test version of the game. This follows close on the heels of news that Ireland intends to apply for full-member status of the ICC.

At a time when Test cricket is in serious need of an upgrade, the addition of another second- rate team isn't the answer. The competition already has two teams, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, who shouldn't be qualified for Test cricket, and the former champion West Indies outfit is floundering.

There is a way forward for Ireland and other second-rung cricket nations, but it involves a radical shift in thinking and massive changes to cricket's scheduling. These aren't traits generally associated with cricket's staid administration.

The Champions League was such a hit that expanding the competition has merit. This would involve regional tournaments in burgeoning cricket regions like Europe, the USA, Japan, China and parts of Asia, from which teams would qualify for an expanded Champions League as it progresses towards becoming a genuine global tournament.

The major problems with the game, apart from not having an effective worldwide ruling body, include the imbalance in financial strength among the major cricket-playing countries and the heavy workload placed on star players because of the narrowness of competition.

Currently there are only four countries producing a surplus of potential international cricketers on a regular basis: India, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan. Those countries then have a problem finding meaningful employment for the surplus after enticing young players into a life of professional cricket by offering them a stint at an academy. Until the advent of the IPL, the only choice for such disillusioned players was a stint with an English county or league team in the off season to boost earnings received from playing at home. If these players also had the opportunity to compete in an expanded Champions League, where they could complement skilful locals from budding cricket regions, then a truly global competition is possible.

The easiest part is producing the players. The difficult part is getting cricket administrators to think globally and in the best interests of the game. Nevertheless, there is a precedent, as it took a broad vision to come up with the Champions League in the first place.

Ensuring a viable global competition would require the major cricket nations to adjust their international and domestic playing schedules. This would require an alteration to the international scheduling priority, where currently quantity far outranks quality. There would also have to be careful thought given to rules and regulations, especially as they apply to player transfers, because the countries that are adept at developing young cricketers must be compensated for their efforts.

A truly global Champions League would help broaden the game's revenue base, as well as advertising and television opportunities. It would also result in more meaningful employment avenues for a larger group of players and eventually lead to increased competition in international cricket

Then there would be the not-so-minor matter of current television contracts and commercial agreements. Renegotiating these contracts would require a certain amount of goodwill and trust on both sides. Nonetheless, it's amazing how adaptable commercial partners can be if the proposed product has the potential to be vibrant, create viewer interest and make money.

The franchise system, which has been so successful in the IPL, could be utilised in partnership with local associations in regions where the game is not so well established. Apart from having the potential to greatly increase the number of exciting cricket matches and breed new stars, a truly global Champions League would help broaden the game's revenue base, as well as advertising and television opportunities. It would also result in more meaningful employment avenues for a larger group of players and eventually lead to increased competition in international cricket.

To free up some time on the international cricket calendar, Tests could eventually be reduced to a duration of three seven-hour days played under lights. A Test World Championship would be a great place to trial this innovation. It would be a step back to the future, as Test matches in England were three-day contests right up until the late 1920s. With the modern game now moving forward at a frenetic pace, this is a feasible way of allowing players more rest between engagements. Also, by reducing the style-of-play disparity between the various forms of the game, it would be easier for players to flow from one version to another.

It's radical and it'll take a "let's bail out Wall street"-style hardsell. However, it might just be a way of broadening the fans' appreciation of the game and eventually provide a path to Test cricket for teams like Ireland.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Alexk400 on November 25, 2009, 0:25 GMT

    Bad idea. Change for the sake of change is problem. It is like sachin's bad idea.

    Ian chappell is good most of the time. Not this time though. 7 session per day? or we play 15 man team?. How do you expect fast bowlers bowl that many overs without losing quality.

    What i want though something that should make TEST result oriented and remove boring draw unless it is truly draw. May be limit Max number of overs per side (include both innings).

  • Apata on November 24, 2009, 22:04 GMT

    If you decide which team scores more in their alloted overs in each innings then the team in a commanding position would just not declare their innings and would try to accumulate more runs. To have sell out crowds just have India play in your country or get Britney Spears to sing between breaks. That should serve the purpose

  • SirJR on November 24, 2009, 20:14 GMT

    I'm in for making the game bigger and more appealing for a broader range of people but not at the expense of the current test format. This format ensures that the most skillful players are playing the game and can reallly be the way to decide which country is the strongest cricket nation. I hope the hunger for $$$ doesn't kill the game we love, just like almost everything else in the world today.

  • SatyajitM on November 24, 2009, 13:19 GMT

    @eyballfallenout, I don't think the ODI series AUS v IND recently was meaningless. You wre probably not following them. Even Ian agrees "India vs Aus is never meaningless". But I do agree that in general we do not need 7 match bilateral ODI series. If it's interesting opponents like Ind vs Aus then it could be 5 matches. In other cases it could be 3. ODI does test certain qualities of players not tested by either of the two formats. Goings by crowd response to recent Ind-Aus series, it can be a crowd puller too. No of tests should be increased and we have to try to get results in most of them by improving pitch quality.

  • Daniel_Smith on November 24, 2009, 13:16 GMT

    The 2005 Ashes was a classic because there were two teams with an equal chance of winning. There was genuine competition between bat and ball. Contrast this with the current series between Sri Lanka and India. All the power lies with the batsmen therefore there is no competition. One sided matches are killing test cricket.

    Test matches are split into three sessions, if you make these sessions exciting then people will want to go and watch. I think the suggestion to have test cricket under flood lights has to be considered, as most people are at work during the day, but we do have CricInfo to keep us up to date!

  • jlw74 on November 23, 2009, 23:58 GMT

    I think Chappelli is on to something with the expansion of T20 to get more nations involved, however not at the expense of cutting 5 day tests back to 3 even though it has been done in the past. Less ODI's and make them more meaningful. Example the 12 ODI nations play each other twice a year home and away that equals 22 ODI'S for the year you finish on top you win something. Every two years we have the Champions Trophy instead and every four years the World Cup. The T20 Champions League could even expand to have a domestic 50 over championship (dunno but its an idea). The cricket world is evolving again in the 21st century but let us not jump the test cricket ship just yet nor right off those test nations who in the history of our great game are still babies.

  • PratUSA on November 23, 2009, 18:43 GMT

    Sorry Ian but have to disagree with you on this occasion. What made you think that people will come to watch tests if they were 3 days affairs and guaranteed to end in draws (unless pitch is a minefield or Australia playing Zimbabwe)? Most 4 days games in domestic cricket around the world end in stalemates today. And why would you want style of play to be same among different formats? How about just saying that we must give lethal injection to tests? In my mind too much cricket is the reason why people are missing from the ground and it's not just test cricket. Look what happened in recent T20Is in South Africa. Play less (not shorter games), give every match and series a context and buildup, and people will come to grounds.

  • Nampally on November 23, 2009, 16:55 GMT

    I like Ian Chappell's suggestions for a different format to 5 day Test cricket. Currently, after 5 days of battle, some matches still end in draws. This is what is killing the 5 day Test cricket. There are 2 ways to combat this. 1. Limit the number of overs for each side to say 110 overs/innings to a total of 440 overs in 4 innings. At the end which ever side scores more runs is the winner. This will permit 5 day cricket with slightly reduced overs per day 2. Reduce the Test cricket to 3 days with 60 overs per innings for each side - winner being the highest scorer. Just reducing the Test cricket to 3 days without any result is meaningless. Both 3 day or 5 day cricket with over limits will produce brighter cricket with results. They will be basically extension of ODI. The ODI's are very popular because at the end of the day there is a result. Having the Test cricket on a similar basis will meet the original intent of both the Test Cricket and the Popular ODI version.

  • pragmatist on November 23, 2009, 15:36 GMT

    Sorry Ian but you're way off on this one. Three-day Tests would kill the game. I would also take issue with the number of countries capable of producing international players, which I think is just wrong. And was the Champions League really a hit? I heard of tiny TV audiences and empty grounds.

  • shahid on November 23, 2009, 15:27 GMT

    This is an excellent idea from Chappelli. I think cricket should follow the football system. The bilateral series should not be played any more. There should be a premier league tournaments in every cricket playing countries at the same time like football. then the top teams from major cricket playing nations should then play the champions league. As far as test matches are concerned, they should be played on one off basis, in a way that the top ten test playing countries should play against each other once in an year. The top team would be the eventual champion. T20 should be played at the club or franchise level while tests and 50 over cricket, amongst the nations. Thats how cricket should be played every year with world cups of both 50 overs and T20 every 4 years time.

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