Australian captain Ricky Ponting made an apt point at a press conference held prior to the start of the one-day series against India when he said that ‘seven games in a bilateral series are too many’. Even if we take away this one-day series, it can still be said that there has been an overdose of cricket in recent times. We first had IPL 2, which was immediately followed by the T20 World Cup, then the Champions Trophy and the Champions League T20. Three of these four tournaments were 20-20 versions of the game, so it was surprising that Ponting did not mention this aspect with reference to ‘too many’.
We all know where the money lies in the modern cricket. Even so, an excess of anything, no matter how successful it is, will only prove harmful in the longer run. The disappointing television ratings for the Champions League T20 is a case in point; a strong indicator that organizers of such tournaments should know where to draw the line. As it is, the 50-over version is under threat from a number of quarters, so why give it a chance to be criticized further by having such a long, drawn-out tournament.
Also it is clear that too much money is corrupting the game as well as players. We are now beginning to hear terms like freelancers in cricket too. The likes of Andrew Flintoff and Jacob Oram have sacrificed their Test careers to prolong their stay in the shorter format of the game. But are the players to be blamed for making the choice? Not really. It is the organizers and the various cricket boards who have come forward and made tournaments like IPL and Champions League a reality and opened up a new option for cricketers.
While there is no denying that they provide entertainment, the quantity of time it absorbs is just too huge for comfort. The players thus are being forced to make a choice between playing for their country and playing for a franchise. The injury-hit Oram was honest enough to admit that he was looking to secure his and his family’s future before he hangs his boots. And he has possibly set a precedent for other cricketers who are going through a similar dilemma.
Modern-day cricket has become like a daily TV soap, being played out day in and day out. Thus, there is a possible danger of it getting worn out over a period of time. Also, if players are seen more in ‘club’ teams as opposed to country colours, the patriotic factor will be lost over a period of time. And if the crowds begin to go away, the money too will automatically vanish. The thought might seem rather premature and audacious, but not the danger signals.