One-day international cricket will soon go the way of the dinosaur and cricket’s brave new world will be dominated by Test matches and the burgeoning fledgling form of the game, Twenty20, as cricket undergoes its greatest revolution since Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket.
That’s the view of Channel 10’s head of sport, David White, whose network will televise the inaugural Indian Premier League competition in April, a Twenty20 extravaganza involving 60 of the best cricketers on the planet.
The demise of one-day cricket would be a consequence of the surge in popularity in the 20-over format because the cricket calendar could not support three forms of the game; there was simply not enough room. White told Crikey today he expected that two or three months would be allocated each year to the Indian Premier League, meaning the conventional Test and ODI schedule would have to be crammed into nine months. Something had to give, and that something was likely to be the ODIs – or the burn-out rate among players would be enormous.
Most of the 15 Australian players signed up to the IPL, such as Ricky Ponting, Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds, could be prevented from appearing in the inaugural series because Australia is scheduled to tour Pakistan at that time – although the tour is in doubt because of security concerns – and a row is escalating between the Australian and Indian boards over conflicting sponsorship deals. But other Australian stars, such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and the soon-to-be-retired Adam Gilchrist, are free to join the circus which will pay them up to $1 million for six weeks’ work.
The Ten Network has reportedly paid up to $15million to televise live all 59 IPL games over 44 days from April 18. Some will start at 7.30pm (AEST), some at 9.30pm, and others later still. A match would be broadcast every night, except Monday. White said the network’s AFL Saturday night commitments would be unaffected by the cricket deal. If a Twenty20 game was being played concurrently, White said the network would probably show it live on its high-definition digital channel, Ten HD. The TV sports broadcaster, who has seen fads come and go, is bullish about Ten’s investment, which threatens Channel Nine’s long-standing stranglehold on the game.
“By any measure, Twenty20 has been an outstanding success,” White said.
“I was a traditionalist and when I first heard about the game, I thought it was just a bit of hit and giggle. But my view has changed. This is the way cricket should be – great players, high intensity, big hitting – simply put, the best of the best.”
The IPL comprises eight teams and an auction for players will be held on 28 February where the team’s owners will bid for the available cricketers. The global broadcast rights to the league sold for $US1 billion last month, and it was mostly wealthy Indians who stumped up a combined $US718 million to buy the eight franchises. Former News Corporation executive Lachlan Murdoch’s private company Illyria has invested in the Jaipur team.
Such is Ten’s confidence about the interest in Twenty20 cricket and the IPL, it will televise the player auction from India later this month, which sounds like a sporting version of an art auction (or maybe that should be a meat market), where a player’s name gets thrown up and some of India’s richest men and women throw vast amounts of rupees around until the highest bidder wins. Salary caps do not apply, nor do player drafts. This is the marketplace at work in the world’s second-fastest growing economy.
The real political and financial power of the IPL could be displayed as early as next week, when International Cricket Council nations meet in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the future tours program for 2012-2016.
So stand by for the revolution we’ve talked about for some time, the inverting of cricket’s natural order, a world in which India is now the new sahib on the block and the one-time colonial powers are reduced to being manservants, coolies and the indentured labour.