“James Vince overshadows Uthappa as the Giants beat the Capitals by 6 wickets”.
Something doesn’t click in there, does it? Don’t worry, we have all been there at some point. Either it’s an Instagram post or a headline, or even a snippet from the SA20 where the team jerseys are indistinguishable from their Indian counterparts. Coming back to the headline, it is from a news article post an ILT20 match between the Giants and the Capitals. The point is, we are officially in an age where the amount of cricket may have touched the “TOO MUCH” boundary.
The New Kids of T20 Leagues
Being an average Indian cricket lover, I never imagined there would be a day when I would be tired of cricket, but here we are. Just to put things in perspective, there are 5 simultaneous T20 leagues running around the world right now. The BBL and BPL are the most established of the lot. Super Smash in New Zealand is as usual away from the spotlight. The headlines have however been made by the two new kids on the block, who if I may add, have very rich and influential parents! The SA20 and the ILT20 have stormed onto the scene and the cricketing world is taking notice, and dare I say taking notice very carefully.
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So you may ask; what’s all the buzz about? Let’s go about this systematically. The SA20 has 6 teams, all bought by owners of IPL teams. The ILT20 too has three out of their 6 teams bought by IPL team owners. What we are seeing here is businessmen expanding their products into foreign territories, and we all knew this day was not far away. Gone are the days when IPL was a caged animal unleashed for a couple of months in what was a summer carnival. The IPL and its franchises now have an impact on cricket in general. Whether that’s a boon to the sport or a curse, I’ll leave that to your judgment.
The Workload Vocabulary
Coming back to the point, with so many T20 leagues around the world, it’s impossible for a player to have an off month in his calendar. It has led us to the word “workload” in our everyday vocabulary. I do understand that every player knows his body, workload needs to be managed, and all that. However, is it justified that players get a rest from an international assignment right after 10 weeks of the IPL? From a cricketing standpoint, it sounds bizarre.
The Corporate Affairs of T20 Leagues
Unfortunately with these T20 leagues, the line between the game and business affairs has become more blurred. The franchise owners want the best in the world to don their jerseys, and that’s where the bidding war starts. Everything else, including the best interest of the international assignments, takes a back seat. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not questioning anyone’s commitment to their national side, nor am I in the position to do so, all I am trying to portray is things aren’t black and white in today’s world, just a set of grey areas.
Further to my point, let’s go over a rather recent incident and I will once again let you decide for yourself which side of the coin seems right. The ILT20 and the BBL have their schedules clashing for a major part of both tournaments and thus it becomes humanly impossible to play both. Given the absence of contracted Indian players from global leagues, Australian players form a set of most lucrative BUYS for any franchise, let alone franchises for a debutant league.
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It seemed that approx. 15 Aussie stars were offered contracts worth double the highest offer back home in the BBL, to abandon the latter and light up stadiums in the UAE. This puts added pressure on Cricket Australia to sustain an already established league. It would be a shame if BBL missed the presence of their top stars. Fortunately for them, the Australian players showed up and played the league back home. It does pose the question though “Is cricket going to follow wherever money leads”? Ideally, it should be the other way around but I’ll leave it at that.
The Other Side
By no means we should undermine the positives these T20 leagues add to our beloved sport. Better fielding standards, more audience, and a freelance approach to playing cricket just to list a few. To say that the game has rediscovered itself in the last decade would be an understatement. However, every powerful system slowly corrodes the very purpose it was supposed to fulfill. All I am asking is “are we reaching that threshold in 2023?”
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