Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Promoting cricket beyond the borders or killing the Golden Goose

Some ICC events are planned in the months after the World Cup with the 'aim' of pushing the geographical boundaries of the game. But like all other first-time exercises these off-shore series / tournaments too need to have an impact asessment study done on them. To the extent of my knowledge there is a fair history of such exercises in world Cricket. I would like to know if the ICC has done scientific studies on earlier such series played in the name of popularising the game.

Why do I suddenly think of that? Because India have a couple of such series coming up in the course of 2007. You find Indians everywhere, and wherever they migrate and settle they keep going crazy about this game. With varying intensities the pattern is similar with other sub-continent / South Asian expats, and perhaps also with Australians. But does playing a high- profile cricket series in a 'targetted' expansion area actually catalyse development of interest amongst other kids and youngsters in that region that do not think much of cricket?

It may, or it may not. Frankly I do not have a take or theory on that. The phenomenon is far too complex to be predicted on a blog post by a bloating neighbourhood bowler with no stamp on his passport. Not that anything was ever going to depend on such take. But surely it is important that the ICC studies past history of such tours before cramping an already cramped players' calendar with more such events?

One of the earlier outland-ish series was the Indo Pak Sahara Cup played in Toronto, Canada from 1996 to 1998 before Kargil put paid to its continuation. It was more of a BCCI-PCB event than an ICC one. No one's complaining on the quality of cricket played (in fact the first two series were outstanding) but I would love to hear from one of the 15 men in the present Canadian World Cup squad - or even some of their fringe players who missed selection - that he picked up a bat / ball after watching Sachin / Waqar in those series.

It will show that the exercise, the choice of venue in particular, was not entirely futile, which will be a momentous pacification for me and, I'm sure, many others who still feel that some events related to that Sahara Cup tournament killed off an in-form India's chances to win the 1999 World Cup long before the first ball was bowled.

I will recount the mysterious chain of events for you. The 1998 edition of Sahara Cup at Toronto was scheduled in September, the usual time. However it clashed with the Commonwealth Games cricket matches to be hend in Malaysia, where India had agreed to send a team. The IOC (indian Olympic Committee) refused to settle for a second string Indian team and so did Sahara, referring to their 5 series contract.

BCCI procrastinated typically till matters came to a head. The team that knit together a string of tournament wins in 1998 was consequently split as a last-minute 'masterstroke' and sent in opposite directions for participating in both tourneys. It was an act that in retrospect amounted to splitting the golden goose in two halves. Both the halves fared badly, and could never again be the sum of their parts even after they were reunified.

Admittedly smart scheduling can avoid involvement of such high stakes for any individual team. But times have changed since 1996 and international cricket is no more a fun game in the sun. The players are getting worn out by a combination of increasing number of matches and skyrocketting pressure to keep performing. The injury list ahead of the World Cup tells a story the ICC and cricket boards may not want to hear.

God knows what further tolls the list will include at the end of the longest World Cup and then at the end of relentless 2007. Did these players, the guys people pay to watch, not deserve a month or two of time away from the cauldron in the aftermonths of the showpiece event? If not, then when?

On the other hand if the ICC has serious (rather than financial) reasons to believe in the promotional effect of past 'beyond the border' series and shares the study reports on previous such exercises with the players, the latter will feel gratified about the service they are putting in for the spread of their beloved game. It will do little for the aching knees, ailing backs and bruised elbows but deep inside it may just make this maddening lack of respite a lot more bearable.

I refrain from commenting upon other teams who play far less than India in the coming season but the Indian players would need mental marijuana like that to survive the Tsunami of
15 Tests and 38-46 ODIs (depending on success in tourneys, and adding the 3 ODIs in Ireland vs. Aus) awaiting them between May 2007 and April 2008.

So can we train eight guns on the matador's forehead and expect him to fight the raging bull? In other words do we really expect Rahul Dravid's boys to concentrate on just the World Cup at hand? After all early elimination from the showpiece allow them some much needed (and well deserved, in my opinion) rest to prepare for the FTP ordeal.....
Update: This link via Homer suggests worse is in store. Guess 2007 is the year of cricket beyond the boundaries - of cricketers' physical abilities. 'Do paise ka tamasha' indeed, Homer.

7 comments:

Homer said...

Angshu,

Malaysia and Abu Dhabi are the most recent examples of the Indian team playing a high profile series in a non conventional venue.

Like the Sahara Cup, the above two tournaments were scheduled more to generate TV revenues than any altruistic notion of promoting cricket in non cricketing nations.

And dont count on the lads getting any rest if they exit out of the WC early.

One of the starched white shirts at the BCCI will conjure up a bilateral or trilateral or multilateral series with other eliminated countries to fill in the time until the BD series( even if it overlaps with the WC)

angshu said...

In other words, ICC emulating my hopes from the 3rd last para is as remote as Ireland qualifying for the semis.....And I say that anticipating hate mail from the gallant Irish for that insult.

sandeepan said...

To promote the noble cause of cricket, ICC should allow every country to send its "A/B/C" team in all these non conventional venues/to play against these so-called minnows. The matches must have international status (so that people can have bradmansque avg in ODIs). Instead of facing a humiliating 5-0 whitewash against aussies, kenya/zimbos will certainly like to have a 3-2 result against India (B). Also this will solve the problem of pleanty for BCCI. We have so many Mcgarth's and warnes (e.g., Ranadeb Bose and Piyush Chawla)these days, nobody will feel deprived.

Homer said...

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=225611

heh!!!

Homer said...

Angshu,

Do paisa is do paisa too many for this tamasha!!

angshu said...

That comment badly needs to reach Mr. Pawar....

Homer said...

Angshu,

There is a God after all!!! Rejoice

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=227385