There are currently three domestic leagues receiving online coverage in the United States: The Big Bash League, the Ranji Trophy, and the Caribbean T/20.
Two of the three are T20 leagues, and the third is first class, four day cricket league.
As the Cricket Geek pointed out on All Out Cricket, 2012 taught us that domestic leagues such as the BBL and the IPL are growing and very well could be here to stay. And that point is driven home by the fact that three domestic leagues are available to watch online here in the USA – two of which are pop-up leagues taking advantage of the T20 format’s popularity.
Most will say that too much cricket is a problem. And I agree. I have said it before on countless occasions and I will keep saying it because I firmly believe that too much cricket dilutes the game and creates meaningless matches – and meaningless matches are ripe for match-fixing or at the very least accusations of match-fixing.
That said, I think the franchises are here to stay.
A few days ago I said that Test cricket’s time has come.
I still believe that.
But I also believe that that future lies in strong, domestic leagues.
I don’t think a T20 league in every country featuring a handful of mercenaries is the long term future, but I think it is the short term future. However, the cream I think will rise to the top and in 15-20 years we will be left with a handful of very strong and very competitive leagues. And these leagues will not only be a part of the long term success of the sport overall, they will be integral.
A short term sacrifice for a long term solution.
And I think they will become so successful that meaningless and lopsided two Test series between a number one ranked team and a number seven ranked team will go away forever, and be replaced with First Class leagues.
I am picturing a bastard love child of the County Championship and the Indian Premiere League: that’s the future of first class cricket.
In a discussion about the future of Tests on Twitter, @Chrisps01 of Declaration Game mentioned that of all the sports he follows, International Football is the most out of step with the times. And I wholeheartedly agree. The days of lines in the sand being the end all, be all of politics are over. Fervent nationalism, though still a massive player in most geo-political circles, is going away, slowly but surely.
I have written about this before.
Club football is vastly more popular and more entertaining than international football.
And because of this, slowly but surely, football’s World Cup will go away, and be replaced by global versions of the Champions League (the World Club Cup is a blue print, but I am picturing something that is more than just a cash grab). And I feel that this same trend will happen in international cricket, too.
The Ashes will always exist, as will other long term and hotly contest rivalries such as India v Pakistan, but long, tedious tours in empty stadiums will go away, and be replaced by franchise cricket leagues in ALL formats.
This will not happen overnight, and it might not even happen in our lifetimes, but it is the future of the game.
The world might be ready for Test cricket, but in it’s current incarnation, Test cricket is not ready for the world. The T20 format has some ideas on how to go about getting it ready, however, and hopefully Test cricket is paying attention.
2 Replies to “Franchised”
Matt, you may be interested in the work of Stefan Szymanski, an economist who has looked at sports, optimal competition design, competitive balance, and the economics of talent distribution.
Law and Economics of Optimal League Design
The Economic Design of Sporting Contests
The latter is a long review article, the relevant (brief) discussion of cricket is in section 7.6.
I don’t believe we will ever see the end of international representative sport – it still runs strong in soccer – nor test cricket – for cultural reasons, players will aspire to be test players. But I could be wrong. The structure of test cricket is highly unequal, and economically unstable; in theory, like in soccer, test cricketers would not be paid (or only nominally), and cricketers will derive their income from T20 leagues. But that scenario requires a coherent schedule of test and T20 windows so that players don’t ditch the long form for cash. I don’t think first class cricket will ever (has ever) generated enough money to make franchising a cure-all.
Domestic (franchise) teams in T20, by contrast, are better distributors of talent, as players get roughly their market worth, and are not subject to weak economic conditions at home – this has always been true of West Indies cricketers, who played league and county cricket from the 1920s, and only briefly in the 90s has international cricket been the bedrock of their income. But don’t underestimate inertia, tradition and vested interests in slowing change. In a football-esque scenario, most players would play IPL, BBL or English T20, as those will be the leagues with the cash, but that outcome will be fought against by administrators of small nations who believe they “own” their players and want the economic benefits of their presence at home.