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CLOSE-IN: T20 is changing the face of cricket

CLOSE-IN: T20 is changing the face of cricket

The Indian Premier League has all the cricket-loving followers glued to it every evening. This cricket entertainment has captured the hearts of the public. The close-finish matches have the ingredients that make it even more interesting. The T20 cricket extravaganza is not scripted and therefore it brings in the excitement of unravelling a mystery.

Each of the 10 franchise-based teams have a professional look to them, not only on the field but off it as well. The sides are so equally matched that to predict a winner at this stage of the IPL tournament is a very difficult ask.

Teams are still experimenting through permutations and combinations as to what would be the most effective side for them to field. One has to understand that the IPL has players from all over the world and from every corner of India as well. To get them to play as a unit and gel together, taking into account their different cultures, habits, languages and food preferences, is a huge task.

It gets even more difficult for players to deal with the professional support staff, most of whom are themselves in the process of understanding their scope of work and delivery. The cultural aspect of marrying it all together and getting players to showcase their skills and perform to finish as winners makes the IPL such an interesting tournament.

The two teams that have shown far more consistency than the rest are Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Mumbai Indians (MI). Both of them seem to have a structure that brings out the element of success even when they seem down and out. The aura that seems to emanate from them, one feels, is their powerful owners and the positive force and interest that they put behind their squad. Furthermore, Mumbai and Chennai have been very important centers of Indian cricket and therefore, they have an aura to live up to.

Unfortunately, the hard work and preparations by the franchise all go awry, when the major mega auctioning of players comes about every 3 years. Although, each IPL side does have the option of retaining 4 of their star players, dissolving the squad of 20 other players is quite unsettling for the franchise owners. In the three years, humungous effort is put in by the coach, and support staff and to rework on a new set of players is frustrating. It disrupts the system that has taken many moons to put into place. It also affects the loyalty and empathy that one would have derived from a long possible association between the players and the franchisees.

This disruption has a cascading effect on every aspect of the franchise operations. A new set of advertising and marketing material needs to be produced involving the new crop of players. Commercial sponsorship and signage are reworked upon. The process is a complete transformation of getting a new side in place on the park as well as in all the activities off it.

At the end of the year 2024, the mega auction will be held for the new 3-year cycle of the IPL. One gathers that the meeting to discuss the details is being held next week. All the franchise owners have been invited along with the core group of the BCCI Governing council involved with the IPL.

This is just the stage to take a more mature approach towards the retention of players by the franchise owners. The auction may be a glamorous television and media event to capture eyeballs, however, the system gets flawed because the buying of players makes it more like a fish market. One is, at times, amused to see franchise owners celebrate their purchase along with their astute think tank, for an unimaginable price. The celebration, one feels, is more on winning the bid rather than the player.

The BCCI have to come forth with a more tangible solution by which a franchise that has put in such a lot of effort in the formation of their squad should be able to retain the majority of their players. The retention regulations should also allow the owners to have the 1st option to purchase any of their International and domestic players.

The most confusing part of the IPL at present for a layman is to remember the players and the franchise they play for. The chopping and changing that has taken place in the last 17 editions of the tournament has made it impossible for one to name the squad. Fortunately, the loyalty to a franchise team for a die-hard follower has continued and apart from a few star players, they are more concerned with following the fortune of the team rather than the individual players.

One realizes that the team and franchise-based ownership that prevails in Football, Basketball, Rugby, Baseball and other sports around the world is far more progressive than the IPL. However, the gradual move towards it is what will benefit and make it into a world-followed property.

A cricketer will then be able to truly access his market value, similar to Messi and Ronaldo in football.

The BCCI at present may be able to control and protect themselves from outside forces who are interested in exploring the growing popularity of T20 cricket. However, in the end, “Money Talks” and once the big corporate giants of the world come into play, T20 cricket could become a huge money spinner in the making.

The T20 World Cup’24 and the T20 Cricket in the 2028 Olympics will be just the precursor to it.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal)


Tags: Cricket IPL 2024