The changing game May 25, 2009

Handling Twenty20 domination needs new mindset - Majola

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World cricket administrators must be prepared for change in the near future where they are likely to have to strike a balance between five high-profile Twenty20 tournaments every year and traditional formats like Tests and ODIs, Gerald Majola, chief executive of Cricket South Africa (CSA), has said.

In an interview to Cricinfo a day after the second IPL ended in South Africa, Majola said the ICC's Future Tours Programe (FTP), the current version of which lapses in 2012, is also likely to adjust accordingly.

CSA is a founding partner of the Champions Twenty20 League, a multi-nation club event that will be held in India in October, and is in negotiations with Cricket Australia and New Zealand Cricket to hold a separate Southern Twenty20 league involving domestic teams from the three countries. With the ECB approving plans last month for their own P20 league, and Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman, floating the idea of a second annual season, world cricket will soon confront a future packed with five Twenty20 leagues a year, apart from Tests and ODIs.

Majola believes, though, that there is room for all formats to thrive if there is a willingness to change. "Cricket remains a dynamic sport, and administrators must also be prepared for change if it is needed," he said "There is room for all forms of this great game. With the advent of the IPL and similar tournaments, the FTP is most likely to adjust accordingly."

Majola, however, dismissed as a "misconception" suggestions that Test cricket was in danger because of these Twenty20 leagues. "South Africa and Australia have recently completed a six-Test, home-and-away series with every match going to the wire and producing a result -- there were no draws," Majola said. "All matches drew full houses and the players responded accordingly with exciting, positive cricket. If this vein continues, Test cricket will stay healthy. I am sure it will also gain from the new generation of spectators coming from the T20 arena. Certainly, T20 has produced a lot more adventure in Test cricket and there is definitely a place in both forms for skilled players."

Majola also said that the "enormously resounding success" of the IPL has come as a surprise, given the short span of time in which it was relocated from India. The Indian league also taught CSA valuable lessons, he said, and the most important one was that everyone involved, "from the State Presidency to the car park attendants", need to share the vision for an event of this magnitude to succeed.

Majola admitted, though, that he didn't expect the IPL to be such a success in South Africa. "We always expected to host a successful IPL tournament because we have the expertise, excellent facilities, an equable climate and a cricket-loving public that shows a great penchant for limited-overs cricket," he said. "We also had the full support of the South African government from the outset and this made a huge difference. However, taking all these pluses this into account, we never expected that IPL 2009 would be such an enormously resounding success."

The key ingredient for the IPL's success in a foreign country, he said, was the marketing effort that went into the event. "There is no doubt that the difference between hosting a successful IPL and producing an outstanding one was the expert marketing put into place at short notice by the organizers," he said. "It hit the right note to a public that adores limited-overs cricket and the glamour and glitz of cricketing superstars mixing with Bollywood personalities."

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Indians for new league
  • Top Indian players are likely to feature in the Southern Twenty20 league that is being planned, possibly from next year, by South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Gerald Majola, CSA's chief executive, said. "Nothing concrete has been decided," he said. "It is most likely that Indian players will be involved, just like non-Indian players are involved in the IPL."
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For CSA, the main difference between hosting the ICC World Cup in 2003 and the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007, and the IPL this month, Majola said, was the Indian league's handling of its stadium rights.

"The difference was mainly in the full manner in which the IPL exercised its stadium rights," he said. "The hosting agreement was based on that with the ICC, but the IPL rightly took full advantage - they wanted a clean stadium, including hospitality areas, which put a big strain on the agreements the stadia had with suite renters. We had to make alternative arrangements to accommodate the locals. CSA and the stadia are going to have to bring all our hosting agreements into line so that we do not have this issue again."

During this IPL, there were reports from South Africa about how the organizers had faced problems in getting full access to the sponsors' suites at the grounds after owners refused to step aside, citing separate agreements with CSA. On many occasions, the deadlock was resolved only after the IPL provided separate seating and hospitality arrangements for the original suite-holders.

Yet, the biggest lesson to emerge from this IPL was the need for all "relevant stake-holders" to share a common vision, Majola said. "The single biggest lesson coming out of the 2009 IPL in South Africa is that it is essential that all relevant stake-holders are on board and share the same vision for the event as was the case here," he said. "Everybody got behind this event, from the State Presidency to the car park attendants. People helped each other, even to the extent of the media giving mammoth below-the-line support to the formal advertising and marketing programme. The impact was huge. Everybody felt they had ownership of an extremely exciting event."

Majola said that CSA will now take a careful look at any opportunity to host another IPL. "Having a shorter, second season of IPL has been mooted and CSA would have to take a careful look at hosting one of them if it was offered to us," he said.

Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo