Even though I feel that the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy is redundant at this point, the tournament is a test for 50-overs cricket. Is there enough public interest left in this format, are the media buyers picking up enough advertisement spots, and will the event make a healthy profit? These are questions that will throw up interesting answers that will be a pointer to the future of the game itself.
With the first ball to be bowled just two days on, there is little media hype of the kind that usually envelopes an international cricket tournament. There is little doubt that Twenty20 has eclipsed One-day cricket. How deep are the scars? We will begin to know soon. Recently, the comparative valuation figures for One-dayers and T20 raised eyebrows. It is reckoned that not long ago a One-day International (ODI) involving India generated revenue of around $ 6 million from title sponsorship, telecast and in-stadia advertising. After the advent of T20, this figure has nose-dived to a million dollars.
An Indian Premier League (IPL) T20 match, on the other hand, was valued at $ 8 million, while a T20 World Cup match raked in $ 5 million. The anomaly is staring at us in the face right here. A much higher valuation in a domestic tournament than a World Cup! It does not make sense. Scratch the surface and the reality appears for those who can see it. It only confirms that the financial boom that cricket is witnessing is fueled by the great Indian middle-class with rupees to spend. For this huge mass of people, IPL is just the latest reality show, the newest tamasha. It is not just cricket for them, but a terrific evening’s entertainment for a month and a half, by the end of which they have had enough of the good thing, lapped up the razzmatazz, glitz and glamour, bet to their hearts’ content and in the process seen something on the field that resembles the game of cricket. They are left satiated, and they are not true cricket fans. And the media buyers have spent all their big bucks, with little in the bank for other things.
If that is it, so be it…..for the time being. Cricket makes the money and the real show, Test cricket, and the sideshow, One-day cricket, go on. The moot point is: are these two formats of the game making losses? Can the game go on without these two formats, and with only T20 day in and day out? Until just a year and a half ago it was being preached that the One-dayers would wipe out Test cricket. Now it is being professed that it is the One-day game that will die. Two decades ago, if we had let the ignorant media, cricket illiterates and moneybags have their say, Test cricket would indeed have been history. Not only did that not happen, today there is little danger of One-day cricket being obliterated. Just wait for the World Cup in a year and a half.
The fact is that a 50-overs Champions Trophy match is expected to raise $ 3 million. So how much does the ICC stand to make from the jamboree? A sum of $ 45 million, perhaps more, is not bad for a fortnight’s exertions. As we have discussed earlier, the need of the hour is the right balance in the bouquet of cricket, not just roses but also carnations and lilies, and in the right measure.
While ICC is holding its event, it is also time to ponder a few aspects of the game that need addressing. One is about awarding a boundary when a fielder’s person or gear is touching the ropes and the ball at the same time while the ball is still inside the boundary. Four runs ought to be awarded when the ball, and not the fielder, touches or crosses a boundary. This criterion is alright for a sixer, not when the ball is on the ground.
Secondly, once the batsman crosses the popping crease with his bat or foot before the ball hits the stumps, he cannot be run out unless he attempts another run. This notion of the batsman being given out for not being grounded at the point of impact of the ball on the stumps, even if he is inside the crease, is idiotic to say the least. The idea is to cross the popping crease, nothing more.
Finally, with so much already on umpires’ minds, not to mention the intense scrutiny, why are they still burdened with the task of counting the deliveries of each over? Can’t the official scorer just post this information on the scoreboard? It is simple things that need addressing, with no need for sweeping changes, my dear armchair expert.
(THE LITTLE BIG BOOK OF WORLD CUP CRICKET BY INDRA VIKRAM SINGH AVAILABLE AT http://www.a1books.co.in/. PAPERBACK, 656 PAGES).