Whilst on a recent trip abroad, I saw a Costa Coffee shop. That shop hadn’t been there last time I’d visited the area. Likewise, Levi’s Jeans and Domino’s Pizza – a typical example of globalisation. So far, so secondary school Geography. The increases in global interconnectivity can be seen in other areas too: well-known British football clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool are as much businesses as sports teams these days, as their fan bases expand into South East Asia, North America and other such places. Like Costa Coffee and Domino’s, they too are becoming multinational corporations in their own way. Yet the cause for concern is not this expansion, but the wilful contraction occurring at the moment in international cricket.
Before the recent World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced that the next World Cup (to be held in England and Wales in 2019) would be cut to ten teams from the current fourteen. This provoked a much less-than positive reaction from fans across the globe, which only intensified once the World Cup started, where the supposedly inferior Ireland side appeared to punch well above their weight. Clearly, Ireland, Afghanistan, and other teams like them should ge allowed to participate. The other problem is that the ICC has a frankly ridiculous idea that the oldest and purest form of the game, Test cricket (five-day matches) should only be played by the ten best teams in the world. That’s quite simply elitism taken too far. Giving teams such as Ireland the opportunity to play the longer format will surely only be for the benefit of the game as a whole, even if there are a few more one-sided matches.
There is more of this anti-globalisation when you look at the catastrophic financial reshuffle that occurred in 2013. More money was diverted from the smaller and less wealthy Test nations (West Indies, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe etc.) to the so-called ‘Big Three’ of England, Australia and India, the generators of the greatest revenue. Since most people do not have the time to go and watch a five-day contest in its entirety throughout most of the year, staging Test matches was already a financial struggle for teams like the West Indies. The cuts to their funding from the ICC are making Test matches there even less financially viable. In the long-term, they’ll stop playing Test cricket, and only the three behemoths will be left. Given that India have a track record of losing heavily to England and Australia (and pretty much everyone else) in recent times, the BCCI might decide that they’ve had enough, and The Ashes would be continuous rather than every 18 months. That’s great if you’re English or Australian, but not so interesting for everyone else.
Essentially, the Big Three own the ball, and have decided that they don’t really want anyone else to play with it, like a spoilt child. The ringleader of this little gang is one N Srinivasan, the current chairman of the ICC, and one of my least favourite people in sport. Without going on too much of a rant, he’s clearly corrupt, and his primary concern seems to be the world’s biggest and most glamorous Twenty20 cricket tournament (the shortest format), the Indian Premier League (IPL). At times, it seems that Srinivasan is treating the game of international cricket as his own private business venture, in promoting the IPL so that more money gets through to his company, India Cements, which owns Chennai Super Kings, the most successful franchise in the league, in quite possibly the biggest conflict of interest I have ever seen. The fact that one of the most powerful men in the game is intent on obliterating Test cricket is a significant problem.
The problem, so to speak, is that when you leave the honey outside, the flies will swarm straight towards it, even if other treats are on offer. Young cricketers are being attracted to the big Twenty20 leagues by the financial incentives offered, and are beginning to prioritise this over playing for their countries. This is particularly prevalent in the less financially secure Test nations: West Indian players such as Dwayne Bravo need the IPL and Australia’s KFC Big Bash League to make a living. Thanks to Twenty20 cricket, Test cricket is shrinking and dying quickly. An excellent film on this very subject has recently been released by journalists Jarrod Kimber and Sampson Collins, called Death of a Gentleman, which I’m particularly eager to watch.
Cricket is in dire need of change at the moment. Its administrators, by blazing a trail of anti-globalisation across the cricketing world, are slowly killing Test cricket. Spot-fixing is another big issue, particularly in the IPL, and there are fewer opportunities than ever for emerging nations to step forwards and show their abilities. More and more young people are being turned away from the game at the grassroots level. The saddest thing is that the bigwigs of the ICC seem to be moving further away from reform. More protests in the manner of those at the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval in London this week are surely needed if any positive outcome is to be reached. #ChangeCricket