Opinion: India should let players participate in foreign leagues

The two reasons I think it’s high time the ICC expanded the game is that the powerhouses aren’t that powerful anymore and the impossible is beginning to become possible.

As the club format has worked out very well for players of other sports and helped them achieve international fame, I think it is where the ICC should start, says Anthahkarana Shivamogga.   -  K.V.S. GIRI

Test cricket in the past few of months has been really exciting. Indian breached the Gabba fortress, the West Indies chased down a huge total against Bangladesh on home soil, England defeated India quite badly on a spin-friendly pitch, and Pakistan shielded its home while Sri Lanka lost quite poorly while trying to do so.

The so-called standards that existed in Test cricket are slowly starting to fade. A few years ago, chasing down a total of over 350 was considered near impossible, but now we see that happening quite often. Some grounds were deemed impossible to win at for away teams, but now that notion is starting to fade. Asian countries are bowling at a good pace in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) countries, while SENA spinners are doing well in the subcontinent. The saying “nothing is impossible” is slowly starting to come to life in the world of Test cricket.

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And there’s also another revolution happening; Cricket has slowly started turning into a club sport from being primarily a country sport. I do agree that the changes in cricket aren’t big enough yet, but we can surely see that happening slowly. I think it all started with the feud that the Caribbean cricket board had with its players. The players complained that they weren’t treated well and the wages were too low. The board didn’t agree to their terms quite completely and the revolution started there. Star players like Sunil Narine, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo and Chris Gayle started to prefer club cricket, which offers better wages and is popular worldwide as well.

Slowly, the number of cricket leagues around the world started increasing. New formats of the game like T10 and The Hundred were introduced, with star players from all over the world. Tournaments like the Global T20 Canada were launched alongside the standard Twenty20 club tournaments of Australia, India, South Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the West Indies, England and many more countries. There tournaments usually don’t overlap and hence allow players to play all over the world. While national duty offers a standard wage and comparatively fewer playing days, these clubs offer lucrative salaries and other amenities along with more time on the field.

The thing I have learned watching sports documentaries is that every player wants more playing time, and the beauty of club tournaments is that they provide it. Football wouldn’t have been as popular all around the world as it is if it weren’t for the club leagues. Great players from countries such as Algeria, Armenia and Ivory Coast wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to play world-class football if it wasn’t for the leagues. A similar thing happened with Sandeep Lamicchane, a great player from cricketing minnow Nepal, who to the opportunity to play with the very best because of the league system.

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Getting back to cricket, as only 15 players make it to the national squad, the number of unselected and unseen players is very large (especially in cricket-dominant countries), and the leagues open up a new world of opportunities for a large number of them. We can see great players like Chris Lynn, Rashid Khan, Lamichhane, Ben Cutting, Kieron Pollard, Mitchell McClenaghan and many more making their mark primarily in club cricket.

The two reasons I think it’s high time the International Cricket Council (ICC) expanded the game is that the powerhouses aren’t that powerful anymore and the impossible is beginning to become possible. Cricket is proving to be a sport that cannot be kept small and needs to expand. The resources are getting better and the number of quality cricketers is also increasing.

As the club format has worked out very well for players of other sports and helped them achieve international fame, I think it is where the ICC should start. The expansion of cricket will not only bring great players from all over the world into the limelight, but also make the game more interesting and intense. The revenue generated will be high and can improve the quality of resources. A league format like in European football and the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the US will enrich cricket and can make the competition more diverse. If that happens, the cricket transfer markets will soon be seen with eyes wide open around the world.

On a side note, I think it is time India let its players play in other countries’ leagues. In India, the number of players with great potential is very high, but the percentage who play regularly for the national team is naturally low. So, they will look to other platforms to play. The Indian national team will surely lose some great players if it doesn’t tweak its rules quickly and allows players to play elsewhere. We can already see a few players doing so, and the day is not very far when that number grows. The concern of Indian cricket officials is real – that the players will prefer clubs over country, if they are allowed to. But not doing so will only result in more damage.

Anthahkarana Shivamogga is a Class 11 student.