…And the party continues

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Cricket has not been the same since India’s World T20 win in 2007; it might change again on April 3.

June 25, 1983. A West Indian fan sank himself on to the Lord’s Cricket Ground even as the Indians around him kept rejoicing near the celebrated balcony of the game’s Mecca. The contrasting scenes were foreboding of things to come for the West Indies cricket and famously symbolic of future of the game in India. The West Indies cricket has not woken up since and the Indians’ party has not stopped either.

Similar scenes were witnessed at the Wanderers in South Africa on September 24, 2007. A young Indian team, with scant respect for reputation and tradition, conquered the world. Cricket has never been same since.

Those two days were the gamechangers in world cricket in many ways, the latter more so. Since the Wanderers win, Twenty20 has become the in thing, although the administrators keep harping on the primacy of Test cricket. T20 has superseded the other two formats in terms of everything – opportunity-wise, popularity-wise, monitory-wise.

The launch of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was an inevitable fallout and it may have happened in 2008 even without a certain Lalit Modi. But what was unexpected was the disruption that the twenty20 leagues – now they call franchise cricket – have caused to the game world over.

The Sri Lankan and West Indian players, to name a few, refused to represent their countries so that they can earn a few dollars more in the IPL, many a great player chose to hang up their boots to ensure they stayed fit for the T20 leagues and the last but not the least, India became the unofficial super power of world cricket.

The IPL has led to mushrooming of franchise tournaments in virtual every country. From notorious Bangladesh Premier League to Sri Lankan Premier League, to Big Bash League in Australia to ProT20 cricket in South Africa and Caribbean Premier League in the West Indies to Pakistan Super League in the Middle East. There were others like Masters Champion League in the UAE and Cricket All-Stars in the US. So much so, there was even a T20 league for women (in Australia).

It was obvious that there was more money in T20 cricket than in any other format and the players have not exactly minded the development. The business opportunity for the boards and franchises have swelled the bank balance of the players and no wonder, suddenly cricket saw the birth of mercenaries and freelancers. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) would not extend such luxury to Indians but that is an exception. Not a norm elsewhere.

The format has also led to catastrophic changes in the game and the administration of it with moral code of conduct taking a backseat. As predicted by Lord Condon, corruption slowly crept in, denting the image of the players and credibility of the administrators. It no longer remained a gentleman’s game. But then who’s surprised?

On the field, there have been developments too, although not everything is for the better. Dilip Vengsarkar, for one, would not mind T20 but sees its flipside too.

“The strike rates of the batsmen have improved, results in Test cricket have become more frequent, bowlers have become wiser, fielding has gone up to a new plane, equipment has taken a leap… All this is fine but I don’t see batsmen survive for five session too often,” the former India captain feels. “Not just that. The quality of spin has also taken a beating.”

The connoisseur in Vengsarkar is concerned but then there are not too many of his ilk around. They started playing even Tests under the lights.

It is anyone’s conjecture what the result of the 2016 edition would be but should India go on to win on April 3, the game may see yet another turning point, just like June 25, 1983 and September 24, 2007. So, brace up for a bigger party.(Mumbai Mirror)

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