When cricket goes 24/7

Cricket has transformed  into multi-million  dollar business  and non-stop play

But his smile vanished quickly as a scribe reminded the Delhi paceman of the four one-dayers the Indian team would be playing in the West Indies. “Oh really, so some more days out of home then,” he said before walking away with a shrug, indicating a bit of disappointment.

So, is the Board of Control for Cricket in India killing the goose that lays golden eggs? This question has been asked so many times since the BCCI realised the commercial possibilities of cricket, reducing the off-season for players to a forgotten commodity and giving green bills an unprecedented preponderance.
The money-first mindset took roots in the subcontinent, perhaps, during the 1986 World Cup held in India. The powerful duo of Inder Singh Bindra and Jagmohan Dalmiya left no stone unturned in their quest to display the money-drawing powers of the sport.
Cricket has never been the same in India. The rustic sport transformed unrecognisably into a multi-million dollar business and non-stop cricket, to assure constant cash flow as one of its derivatives.

But an alarming spurt in injuries too was another by-product of playing round-the-year cricket. From Sachin Tendulkar to Munaf Patel, every single Indian cricketer has suffered injuries at various stages of their career, more so in the new millennia. Now the addition of Twenty20 and the Indian Premier League to the calendar has only increased the physical and mental demands on a cricketer. Having a rotation policy is the only imaginable solution for this, but injuries to players have stalled this move.

In that context, it was not a surprise to see Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni opting out of the Test series against Sri Lanka last year. But how many players will take Dhoni’s route? The likes of Dhoni and Tendulkar can walk into the team at any given time, but that luxury cannot be attributed to many others. 

Sentiments were easily understood when one of the cricketers pointed out, “Mian, now you will not see careers spanning 15-20 years like Tendulkar’s or Dravid’s; 7-10 years will be the maximum life-span of an international cricketer.” But the associations cannot be entirely faulted for this mad rush. The advent of T20 has drastically changed the concept of cricket viewership.

T20 is more like a Hollywood movie, offering the thrills a Test match provides over five days in a matter of hours. There were just a few thousand spectators at Mohali to witness the historical 40th Test hundred of Tendulkar, while we so far haven’t heard about a T20 international played in front of empty galleries. With the viewers expressing their choice by turning out in large numbers for T20s, the associations have little option other than giving what the crowd wants.

 “T20 is the way forward. Look, we are not against Tests or one-dayers, but at some point of time we have to look at the future. Tests and ODIs, probably in a changed format will continue to exist, but we cannot turn our faces away when there is a chance to take this sport forward. Yes, T20 is the future,” one veteran cricket administrator pointed out.
His words contained that ominous truth the romantics are afraid of. Cricket will continue to travel through a busy road and the rustic charm of this game will keep
fading.

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