It Is All About Time And Money.

sta.JPGThe five-day long game was perhaps turning out to be very long and less interesting for the followers of the Gentleman’s game. Coupled with the commercial side of it, cricket fans witnessed a new form of the game- ‘One-Day Internationals’. You win or you lose or end up in a tie, all in a single day. Still, an equally popular (if not more) sport, football or soccer was about one-fourth of the total duration of this new form of cricket and yet had an enormous fan following and money spun into it. While both games enjoy their popularity among fan followers all around the world, it seems cricket is going the soccer way now.

Picture this – from Test Cricket to ODIs, introduction of ‘Super-Subs’ (one substitution per team per game didn’t gain much acceptance with the playing nations), the concept of ‘Powerplays’, the advent of  Hong Kong Sixes, Twenty20 Cricket, acceptance of the later by the International Cricket Council(ICC). This is all towards an even shorter format of the game with an extra tinge of excitement.

The Twenty20 game, besides being shorter in duration, was a bit different from the other formats of the game. Teams walking to the center, national anthems, batting side sitting in stands next to the boundary, cricket’s version of penalty shoot-outs (Bowl out) to decide the winner in case of a tie and more. How should we explain this, is it different from the other formats of the game or strikingly similar to the other game Soccer?

Moreover, the Twenty20 World Cup not only gained in terms of popularity amongst the followers of the game, it turned out to be a lottery for the investors, the sponsors as well. In this fast-moving world, the shorter the game is, the more it earns in terms of the Popularity Quotient.

Talking about India, the country whose Cricket Board is perhaps the richest in the world cricket is not merely a game. It is a religion for its followers and a business opportunity for the investors. We witnessed the successfully conducted ICL (Indian Cricket League) Twenty20 league few weeks ago and now the fans are waiting for the IPL (Indian Premier League). Bollywood stars and the biggies in the Biz World shelled out millions at the auction of city franchises of the Indian Premier League. The first season kicks off in April 2008. It will surely be interesting to see the transactions in the Transfer Market, though the big names in the current Indian side will be playing for their own city team.

Whatever the other details maybe, it certainly is somewhat similar to the Premier League Soccer. This fact was confirmed by the BCCI Vice President Lalit Modi who said that “the IPL will work in a similar pattern to Britain’s English Premiership League where clubs will be the franchisees of BCCI and players of the said clubs will be sold and purchased like any professional club.”

Everything being said and done, the question is, does it really matter whether the game gets shorter or whether amendments are made in the rule book? Well, we already have mixed opinions from the cricketing experts with a bias towards Test Cricket but as for the fans, they are enjoying the firework-studded form of the game that gets over merely in about three hours. And why not? In this super-speedy life, with aggression all pervasive and the shortening attention spans and a situation where sports is not an activity to pass time but a source of entertainment, why not be open to a change that promises instant gratification? At this juncture, the Corporate Giants, Bollywood stars and the TV Channels who are cashing out on this should be forgotten.

Prateek Khurana