Crowds love it, players prefer it

Andrew Flintoff, England’s former Test all-rounder, is accused of becoming a mercenary of high paid 20/20 leagues.

Is there too much cricket? I think it’s become a fascinating subject to debate upon, but frankly, I don’t think there is an overkill of cricket. I have been a player myself and am now an administrator, and so I can see and understand both sides of it. More number of matches means more opportunities for players to not only parade their skills but also make a living out of it. I know players of my generation or those before us. They made hardly anything out of playing the game.

Why should we want that to happen to present day cricketers or the future ones?
We are often blamed for being only money-minded at the cost of the game and players. My simple question is what is wrong in making money? After all, it’s only benefiting the game. We have the best of infrastructure in most of the States for players to train at, the former players, who couldn’t make as much money as today’s players, are paid pension and even domestic players can make handsome money now.

Test cricket alive & kicking
Today, there is more cricket because the game has grown manifold, which brings us to another question whether the increased frequency has led to waned public interest, especially in Tests and more recently in one-dayers. The answer again is no! If you take the example of the recent Ashes series, you will agree that Test cricket is still alive and kicking. Similarly, if there is an India-Pakistan or India-Australia Test match, there is a great public interest. I know instances when there were very few spectators during India-Australia Test matches in some venues. But then, it’s again venue-specific and there could be various reasons for it. The challenge is to sell the Test matches in such cases and not just blame it on too much cricket.

There is also an argument that excess cricket is leading to more player injuries. While it’s not completely untrue, there is no running away from the fact that injuries are part and parcel of sportsmen’s life and they can happen anytime. Today we have the services of top-class physios and trainers and access to latest treatments at BCCI’s expense. 

Reduce overs
With advent of Twenty20 cricket, the talk of ‘Oh, too much cricket’ has only got louder. According to me, there is enough room for all three formats – Tests, one-dayers and T20s – to survive and prosper together. I don’t advocate any tinkering with Test format. Twenty20, as we know, is a major crowd puller and is here to stay. One-dayers, of course, have lost their original charm. Maybe we can reduce the number of overs – 40 overs – and keep it going.

Private leagues like the IPL are often blamed for only adding on to players’ burden. But how many active players have you seen blaming the IPL? The crowd loves it, the players prefer to play in it, so what’s the fuss about? And as far as Andrew Flintoff’s case is concerned, it just shows the many options the players have today. We already have players playing either one-dayers or Tests and so is Flintoff!   

(Former Indian batsman and now
administrator spoke to Madhu Jawali.) 

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