Sunday, 31 August 2008

Is Symmo afraid of the Bangers?

What the hell is going on with Andrew Symonds and matches involving Bangladesh? So there's some bizarre controversy going on over the fact that Symmo went fishing instead of attending a compulsory team meeting the day before the first match against the Bangers in Darwin, and now he's been sent home for the rest of the series.

Sure, it's hardly going to affect the outcome of the series, especially considering the first game was a 180 run thrashing to the Aussies, but you've really got to wonder what Symmo's problem is. Is it just that he really doesn't see Bangladesh as any kind of challenge whatsoever that he'll turn up to games drunk or go fishing instead of attending team meetings? He's going to need to fix his attitude and fast.


Friday, 15 August 2008

Money Changes Everything

While I'm not naive and I know that professional cricket is a commercial thing and that money makes the world go around in the capitalist society we live in, but I have to admit I was really taken aback by the news that the Twenty20 Champions League dates had been shifted, and as a result the test between Australia and South Africa at the WACA had been moved.

Since when, in the history of cricket has a domestic match forced an international match to be moved, and a Test match no less!? Shame!


A White Player in the West Indies?

It's been a long time since a white player has represented the West Indies - at least to my recollection, but with the announcement that former Queenslander Brendan Nash has been drafted into the Windies squad for the upcoming Tri-Series in Canada, that drought may come to an end. I've just been so used to seeing an all-black Windies side it will be almost kind of funny to see a white player in the team.

One of the things I've always liked about cricket is that as a sport, you can't knock it for not being racially diverse. You can't exactly look at it and go - it's a rich white man's sport for example, and I love that fact. That said, Brendan Nash playing for the West Indies isn't a bad thing at all, more power to him. I do wonder how the Windies feel about the notion - from cricketing powerhouse to picking Australia's dregs? Oh how the mighty have fallen.


Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Twenty20 at the Olympics

Motivated possibly by the shocking lack of Twenty20 competitions being played, Adam Gilchrist is proposing that Twenty20 cricket becomes an Olympic sport. Personally I think it's a great idea, and for me it will actually make me care about the Olympics for a change.

When you consider how many ridiculous sports make the cut, it only makes sense that a sport that's actually popular around the world should be included. The biggest obstacle has always been the length of the game but with Twenty20 only taking 3 hours I think that's overcome.

At this stage it's only a pipe dream, and I wonder if I'll be watching it with my grand kids, if it ever happens, but this Twenty20 juggernaut doesn't look like stopping.


Friday, 1 August 2008

Want to start your own Champions League?

Have a few million dollars lying around? Love cricket? Then why not start your own Twenty20 Champions League? Or just create your own competition with big prize money for the winner. You can watch it, as the owner, whilst being fanned by topless women with palm leaves (that's what I would do anyway...)

This week we have had the revelation of 2 separate Champions Leagues cashing in on the popularity of the newest form of the game, to go with a number of new national Twenty20 competitions and the Sanford competitions.

They wont all survive.

I have said on this blog previously that I love lots of cricket being played, and compared the situation to football where there is almost a game everyday in the UK and no one tires of it. But the difference between the current Twenty20 situation and that of football is that all the cricket competitions are largely meaningless and the result of international cricket board fights. When football is on every night, the competitions are well recognised, prestigious tournaments. Tournaments created out of thin air tend to fail, or strong teams don't show up (world club championship, various intercontinental cups and friendlies, for example).

We have known about the BCCI backed Champions League for some time. This year it will involve 2 IPL teams, 2 teams from Australia, 2 from South Africa, 2 from Pakiston and originally 2 from England. There are plans to expand with teams from more countries. But because some Kent players played in the ICL, the BCCI is not allowing them to play. It's not surprising really, the BCCI are on a crusade to control the game. You can make any argument you like about how they are protecting their financial investment - well, why not just ban the players, why the whole team? Some of the blame should also lie with the ECB, who obviously haven't given the best information to their county players and clubs.

So the ECB did what they had to do and set up their own Champions League. The England and Wales Cricket Board announced this week that it has secured a £750m deal over 10 years for a rival Twenty20 Champions League, in which of course its teams will qualify along with teams from every other senior test playing country.

The ECB's event is backed by Middle Eastern investors and will take place in Dubai or Sharjah in October. The ECB has also recently been involved in setting up the Stanford Super Series series involving England, an All Star team sponsored by Texas billionaire Sir Allen Stanford, Caribbean Twenty20 champions Trinidad & Tobago and bizarrely, Middlesex.

Let's have a look at what is happening over the next year in Twenty20 - it's a packed schedule!

Champions League
29 September to 8 October
Venue: Jaipur, New Delhi, Mohali
Teams: 2 from Australia, England, India, Pakistan, South Africa
Cash: Approx £2.5m per team

ECB Champions League
Early October
Venue: Dubai or Sharjah, UAE
Teams: 2 from the IPL, South Africa, Australia and Middlesex and Kent
Cash: £750m over 10 years

India Cricket League Invitation Cup
Sep / Oct
Venue: India
Teams: Eight franchises
Cash: Unknown

Stanford Super Series
25-28 October
Venue: Antigua
Teams: England, Stanford Super Stars, Trinidad and Tobago, Middlesex
Cash: £50,000 to Trinidad and Tobago, Middlesex, plus £100,000 for winner of their match

Stanford Super Series Winner-takes-all
1 November
Venue: Antigua
Teams: Stanford Super Stars v England
Cash: £10m

ICL Twenty20 Indian Championship
Nov / Dec
Venue: India
Teams: Eight franchises
Cash: Unknown

Indian Premier League
10 April- 29 May 2009
Venue: India-wide
Teams: Eight franchises
Cash: £500m over 10 years

ICC World Twenty20 Championship
June, 2009
Venue: Various venues across England
Teams: Nine Test playing teams (Zimbabwe excluded) plus three qualifiers
Cash: £1m (£300,000 to the winners)

My prediction is that although the burgeoning middle class of India love their cricket and are largely funding these new competitions, the IPL and ICL will not both survive. The World Twenty20 Championship will survive but I can't see how two Champions Leagues can. Indeed, I can't say I care much about either. At least this year, international Australian players will miss out on the BCCI comp, and Indian players will miss the ECB one. And do I care about cheering for Victoria and WA against created franchises from India, for which one will include Shane Warne (not playing for his native Victoria)?

This will not last. Think about other sports where capitalism has gone crazy. Super League and the ARL eventually merged in Australia to form the National Rubgy League; the Grand Slam Cup was merged with the ATP World Championship to form the Tennis Masters Cup; there are countless examples. Sanford may have changed cricket in England, perhaps the world, forever but even when Kerry Packer did something similar, eventually it sorted itself out. The good thing for Australia is that because we're good, we get invited to all competitions striving for respectability!

I just hope this doesn't take away from Test cricket. I view it like this: Test cricket is like the very hard working and highly intelligent academic working away on his research. Truly the smartest and best people go down this route, changing the world with little recognition. 50 over cricket is like the fast talking business graduate - a dime a dozen, self important but with some skills and paid well. You do need them from time to time. Twenty20 is the cat walk - very high earning, good looking with a skill set but often superficial. I love Twenty20 (as I love good-looking models) but I have a deep respect for academics. Test matches are still the pinacle. I hope that the money spinning from the short game channels into Tests.

It may be some time till we all work out which Twenty20 competitions are important and which are flash-in-the-pan. All we know now is that the cricketers will get richer.

Read more about this in The Independent