Where will the money go?

Shane Warne steered Rajasthan Royals to a thrilling victory by smashing a six off the penultimate ball of the final over against Deccan Chargers.-SANDEEP SAXENA

I have always looked upon the one-dayers as the promotional arm of cricket and I feel the same way about Twenty20.

Over the last two weeks I have been watching a great deal of Twenty20 cricket in order to get a feel of the game. I must admit that, even at this early stage of Twenty20 cricket, the matches played are all identical.

Yes, it appears that there is a great deal of noise and excitement at the matches, but is it natural or simply hyped up? The organisers of the Indian Premier League have certainly gone out of their way to produce and promote entertainment, but how muc h of it is genuine? Painted faces, loud music and the almost contrived entertainment are very much in evidence. I have no problem with that and if the spectators are having a good time, then this must be good for Twenty20 cricket.

I have also been struck by the fact that the crowds that attended the World Series Cricket (WSC) and the ones watching the IPL now are very similar. On consecutive nights, in 1977, I drove past the Sydney Cricket Ground and all the top entertainers did their gig there. What strikes me now, as it did then, is the similarity of the appearance of the spectators attending these night entertainments. The WSC ran for two years and if you believe some of the participants and most of the young, but ill-informed journalists of today, you would think that the Series revolutionised the game.

No, the WSC did not invent one-day cricket; it had been played long before the WSC came into existence. What it did, however, was to modernise the game with lights and coloured uniforms. Of course, they also paid the players more money and forced the Australian Cricket Board to take a good look at themselves.

The WSC, on the whole, was not an overwhelming success as it is widely believed. The longer version of the Series was poorly received and the public believed it lacked the passion associated with Test cricket.

Night cricket saved their bacon as the first one-day match under lights at the Sydney Cricket Ground had a packed stadium, forcing the officials to shut the gates. Night cricket was an outstanding success and the highlight of the WSC.

The WSC came to an end when a two years before a compromise was made between Kerry Packer and the establishment. Packer was granted the rights to telecast cricket, while the Australian Cricket Board retained the powers to control the game in Australia. Packer, however, lost over $(Aus) 10,000,000. The Australian Board too lost a huge amount of money. Both sides, though, were happy for what they got out of the settlement. This, of course, gives rise to the question: just what do the organisers want out of their promotion?

There obviously is a huge amount of money involved for the organisers, owners of the teams and the players.

I am delighted that the players are being well paid and this has been revealed to the public. But what is not clear is where will all the money that has been paid for the television rights, team franchises, sponsorships, gates etc. go?

Much has been written about the money the players receive, but very little about the remuneration of the cricket associations of various countries who have paid for the development of these players. Many years ago, when I was coaching the Australian team, I posed the question to the players: “How much do you think it would have cost the Australian Cricket Board to help each one of you get to where you are now?”

The players, in order to arrive at a figure, had to take into account the cost of coaching and playing, team gear, daily allowance and the cost of representative cricket, local, state and country, including fees for both state and Australia. The consensus that night was, if they had to pay for all these out of their own pockets, they would probably have had to shell out something between $(Aus) 125,000 and $(Aus) 150,000 to reach the Test level. Not an insignificant amount and far out of reach of many families from which the players came.

To assess the real worth or value of the IPL, the public and the cricket authorities need to know much more about the set-up and the League’s future plans for Twenty20 cricket. I must admit I have enjoyed some of the Twenty20 matches, but not all because of the sameness of the contests. In some ways, it appears that the tactics employed in Twenty20 cricket are very similar to what is seen in the last 10 overs of one-day cricket.

The ODI lost their way when teams forget or ignored tactics in order to bowl the opposition out. While the scoring rate and runs in the 50-over game have increased, it has done little to hold the interest of the ODIs. I have always looked upon the one-dayers as the promotional arm of cricket and I feel the same way about Twenty20.

This format, no doubt, should be given a fair trial, but it should still be a proper challenge between bat and ball with a close finish as the icing on the cake. Limited overs cricket is a bore if we don’t have an exciting finish.

Of all the matches played so far in the IPL, only one had a thrilling finish at the time of writing this piece. And that was when Shane Warne of Rajasthan Royals hit the penultimate ball of the final over for a six against Deccan Chargers.

Shortening the boundaries has been going on for some time in all forms of cricket, but in the IPL it is quite ridiculous. In one match, the boundary rope was so close that I saw only two two’s being taken in a total of 110. This is just crazy and artificial.

It has been proved in the ODIs that big scores alone don’t bring in the crowds. I would like to see the boundaries taken back to where they used to be. This would, of course, give the bowlers more chance to take wickets as big hits have to be clean in order to clear the proper boundary fences.

Right now, all the teams are trying to bowl dot balls by attempting yorkers. They are far too predictable and the batsmen are always ready, knowing that they won’t be confused by the change of pace etc.

Played correctly and with more openness from the controlling bodies, Twenty20 can become successful and a valuable adjunct of cricket. If it continues to go as it is, Twenty20 is going to be boring.