[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]he ongoing tussle between BCCI and Supreme Court is only a sideshow and is unlikely to address Cricket’s actual woes in the long run. Already, Indian cricket is in a funk and is facing a multi-dimensional crisis. An inflection point has been reached for a variety of reasons – an inept organization that is the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI), too many variations of the game, no prodigies to replace past superstars, absence of fierce rivalries to promote the game and gambling on outcomes yet to be legalized.
Scandal ridden BCCI is largely responsible for the poor state of affairs.
Scandal ridden BCCI is largely responsible for the poor state of affairs. Like Indian politics, it is mired in decadence and refuses to change with times. The Organization is obscure and unprofessional, short of transparency in financial dealings and lacks accountability in functioning. It is also riddled with conflicts of interest and passive in its promotion of the game. It does not know how to bring crowds back in test cricket and has borrowed concepts from developed nations to promote shorter versions of the game. Lure of mammon is driving it towards club cricket and one day matches while the fear of game perishing without contests between national teams is forcing it to preserve test cricket and status-quo.
Thus a trifecta of the game is played amongst nations and clubs. Legends and traditionalists want test matches and so do Cricket Associations of test playing countries. Hence the five day grind is played in empty stadiums. There are many others who believe 50-over game to be the real deal, the format of cricket that has crowned the World Champion for the longest period of time. But more and more of paying public want the shortest version of the game where emotions are on a rollercoaster ride and thrilling finishes are the norm. Unlike the other two, it mesmerizes enthusiastic followers and captures the imagination of a casual fan as well.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]ncreasingly three versions of the game are becoming a problem for players and selectors. Experienced cricketers are in a tizzy having to constantly switch from one to the other. Newcomers wanting to hit the jackpot focus on the short version of the game. Selectors are also confused and dilemma stricken – Horses for courses or one team fits all. And quite often they roll the dice to choose the version of the game to induct players in the national team whose performance are a force to reckon with in domestic tournaments that are not necessarily the same format.
Cricket has not one but two world champions, Australia in the more traditional 50-over format and West Indies in the more newer T-20 version.
Fans too are in a quandary. In professional sports, winning championships give them the right to brag about their team. Cricket has not one but two world champions, Australia in the more traditional 50-over format and West Indies in the more newer T-20 version. Although there is no World Test Championship tournament, according to International Cricket Council, India is currently the number one test playing nation. Three is indeed a crowd and cannot co-exist.
Then there is the question of attracting the best of athletes to play the game. Cricket has no monopoly over talent anymore. Rapid economic growth has induced an important and radical change in the youth of India. They want to be achievers on world stage and find Olympics or the World Championship very appealing to showcase their athletic prowess. With more private organizations beginning to support other sports including a soccer league, talented athletes now have a choice.
The high priests and mandarins of cricket have overlooked this fact, been complacent and are paying a heavy price for the lack of quality players to replace the retired superstars. Indian cricket needs geniuses like Mr. Sachin Tendulkar, Mr. Rahul Dravid and Mr. Anil Kumble to drive the game’s popularity. Regrettably they have none in their stables.
Apart from talent, propping up rivalries and betting on outcomes contribute to the immense popularity of a sport. Unfortunately promoting cricket is alien to BCCI and State Associations. In twentieth century India, national frenzy made crowds throng to matches. Fans filled the stadia to root for their country and watch an entertaining day of sporting action.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]T[/dropcap]wenty first century India is transformed and different. Cricket can no more ride its popularity on nationalism and patriotism. Professional sports is more about entertaining and earning a livelihood for players than about jingoism. It is rivalries between teams and players that draw big crowds. Cricket’s only known long standing rivalry is the Ashes Series while India-Pakistan is hampered by politics and constant allegations of match fixing. Hence most games today are played in empty stadiums with very few fans motivated to show up for the game and cheer for their team.
These are testing times for Indian cricket – an opaque administrator, too many versions of the game, no dream matchups, baffled players, confused selectors, rogue bookies and most of all agitated fans. It must be reformed for its own good and for the enthusiasts of the game. A rank outsider is indeed required to transform BCCI and re-establish order. For cricket to thrive like old days, it needs a competent and transparent administrator, better marketing by creating and promoting rivalries, horses for courses which mean three different Indian teams for three formats and government action to legalize gambling.