Like The Darkside, The IPL Overshadows Everything

Don’t worry. This isn’t another pop at the IPL. I actually like bright lights and dancing girls … albeit when I’m in nightclub. I’m just a little irked that the county championship starts later this week and many of our best players won’t be involved – twelve of them to be exact.

One wonders how the championship will have any relevance at all when Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit commences in the not-too-distant future. Our best white ball players will miss the first half of the championship as they cash in over in India, and when they return it won’t be long until they’re plucked from their county XIs yet again to represent the Birmingham Banknotes. When will these guys actually play any first class cricket?

The counties are particularly annoyed this time because a few players, namely Liam Plunkett and David Willey, have been pulled from the county ranks at extremely short notice. One minute the latter was playing a pre-season friendly; the next he was on a plane to India. And suddenly, his county Yorkshire find themselves stripped of two key bowlers on the eve of what’s supposed to be the most important tournament in domestic cricket.

I really don’t know what the solution is. The ECB could ban English players from playing in the IPL, which would harm England’s white ball prospects and cause considerable resentment amongst the players, or they could just sit back and let the championship slide further into irrelevance. I think we all know what option they’ll take.

As a cricket fan who actually likes all forms of the game (although regular readers of this blog will know that I treasure test cricket most) I’m getting a bit fed up of the IPL. This is partly because I simply don’t have time to watch it. It’s hard keeping up with just English cricket when you’ve got a day job and two young kids.

Part of me thinks I should give it a go. One year I was paid to write about it and I did find it relatively interesting (as a novelty). Perhaps if it gave it more of a go I’d be seduced by its charms like so many other people? However, if you cherish county cricket like me, it’s hard to think of the IPL as anything but an existential threat to our first class structure. And how can that be a good thing?

If only there was some other way for our cricketers to earn a fortune without being sucked into the IPL blackhole. If only there was a way for championship cricket to be as lucrative as twenty over slogathons. I fear, however, that this is a bit like wishing that classical music could sell as many CDs as Justin Bieber or Justin Trousersnake.

If people equate immediacy and noise with ‘drama’, and there’s no room for action that takes longer to unfold, then I guess we’re fighting a losing battle. The big question is whether this assumption – that people generally prefer bigger and louder – is a fallacy.

Sometimes I wonder whether the demise of first class cricket is actually the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the administrators see the popularity of T20 and assume (prematurely) that first class cricket is dying; therefore they stop pushing the long form of the game and prioritise new revenue streams when they don’t actually need to. If only they had a little more faith in the long form and the mental capacity of the general public.

I should probably sign off now, before this steam of consciousness becomes completely incoherent, but I do sometimes wonder whether people only like crap because that’s what they’re force fed? In other words, they think T20 is cool and entertaining because they’re constantly (and often subliminally) programmed to think it is. The marketing does make a compelling case after all. It works for fast food outlets selling cardboard burgers filled with chemicals so why wouldn’t it work for instantly gratifying cricket too?

I sometimes wonder what would happen if first class cricket (rather than T20) was marketed to high-heaven, and the county championship was presented as ‘where it’s at’ whilst T20 was portrayed as banal and going out of fashion? In fact, perhaps I’ve found the solution we’ve all been looking for right there! Quick, someone drag Colin Graves away from his lawyers and tell him I’ve found the solution!

Or maybe I’m just a middle-aged bloke howling into the wind.

Yeah. It’s probably the latter.

James Morgan

2018-04-11T17:39:42+00:00April 11th, 2018|Talking Points|26 Comments


  1. Graham Anderson April 11, 2018 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    It’s already too late I had a membership for Lancashire last year – never again – there was hardly any 1st class cricket in the summer months and a look at the fixtures for 2018 was enough to convince me it was the same again – Freezing your whotsits off in April and September is not my idea of fun – I think most counties would be glad to be shot of 4 day cricket – T20 means they can pack the ground and sell overpriced beer and hot dogs to the yobbos – same apples to the Test Matches where prices are outrageous – with lots of the bertter players off to IPL and not available (12 at the last count ) plus the ECB dictating when the Counties “rest” their players the CC will soon be a Second XI affair – the only quandry for the ECB will be where do they get their Test team from they will want to keep this going as Home Tests are stil lucrative and they wil want to keep their massive salaries and the players their coveted Central Contracts And also keep hold of the ludicrously inflated group of hangers on who go on Tour I believe there are now more support staff than players (sorry I’m ranting now) all the best

  2. Fred Boycott April 11, 2018 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Nail on head. There should be a blanket ban on showing, advertising or promoting the IPL in the UK. It is a force for evil. It only exists to keep the bookies in business.

    • jennyah46 April 12, 2018 at 7:54 am - Reply

      Quite right Fred.

  3. Marc Evans April 11, 2018 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    I’m an old bloke howling in the wind, so you’re not alone. I fear corporate franchises, however self fulfilling they are attract so much media attention and the resulting sponsorship that they are destined to homogenise everything, though it is fair to say that as yet the IPL does not rate domestic sporting headlines in the press, even when the seemingly never ending footie season takes what is laughingly referred to as a ‘summer break’.
    All we can do is keep howling, so there is a constant voice of discontent surrounding their bully boy activities. This applies to pretty much every aspect of our daily lives, not just sport. They are the new religion of commerce.

  4. Chris April 11, 2018 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    The reality is that if you are an old guy you have probably lived through the best era of cricket. An era which will never be repeated, so, be happy that you got to experience and watch it.

  5. Chris Jepson April 11, 2018 at 6:34 pm - Reply

    Maybe the day will come when the 4 day game runs alongside the slash bang form of the game throughout the cricket season and each county has 2 different sides. Is that possible or will it be as suggested the 2nd xi. Would we watch players of less ability playing in the summer months or the players left behind from the IPL in the spring and city crash bang whenever that is decided to be?

  6. James April 11, 2018 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    I actually enjoy the IPL. T20 is a good game for TV. You can watch bits or full games, and you don’t even have to watch it all at once. And there are plenty of good players in it and it can be exciting

    I much prefer the Championship though when it comes to watching live cricket. There is nothing like watching a good day’s Championship Cricket on a nice warm day in mid summer. At least as far as I remember. I remember one of those three or four years ago when it was so hot that my phone instructed me to put it out of the sun. But I remember lots more when the forerunner of the ECB, actually cared about proper cricket and allowed it to happen in summer

    If the weather is decent at the weekend, I may go and watch for a couple of hours. You can’t even watch from inside at Old Trafford unless you get there the night before and nab one of the three seats in the Pavilion where the view isn’t blocked by the sightscreen. Or you pay lots more money to sit at a higher level and to go to watch the matches that you can’t watch because you are at work

    So probably what I will do this weekend is stay home and watch the IPL. At least that way I won’t get pneumonia

  7. SimonH April 11, 2018 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    Anyone who thinks the current structure isn’t splendid is a “bedroom idealist” according to Rob Smyth and someone who doesn’t realise what an absolutely brilliant job the ECB are doing against mind-boggling odds. That’s how much of a toss they give about what critics think..

    D2 counties ought to be very, very worried about what the next decade holds for them. Loss of f/c status, semi-professionalism, ground relocations… these are all very real possibilities.

  8. Cricketcricketcricket April 11, 2018 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    Simple truth. It’s game over for red ball Cricket. Amateur cricket will and is going to shorter and shorter games.. which in turn will mill it off all the more.

    I’m just sad I’ve never got to play that much decent Cricket but Just this win lose tripe

    • Ab April 12, 2018 at 6:23 am - Reply

      We’re playing the same formats now that we were 30 years ago. Don’t confuse your personal experience with a nationwide problem.

      • Cricketcricketcricket April 12, 2018 at 6:25 am - Reply

        You ignore me, I’ll ignore you. We will simply never agree

  9. Doug April 11, 2018 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    Well 4 day cricket was expected to decline when the Sunday games came in the sixties, and die off with Packer. Never happened though. I am confident that proper cricket will survive as It’s done through the decades. The C C is the one the players want to win most of all, who remembers more than a handful of O D games? Without it they’ll be no Test Cricket and we all know those spivs at the EC B won’t want to lose money. Liking forward to attending all home and away Surrey fixtures again. Great way to spend the summer, even with the long break for the rubbish, with friends and colleagues.
    IPL? Never watched it and can’t understand why anyone would want to. It’s a betting shop, nothing else. Don’t support Sky either.

  10. Stephenfh April 11, 2018 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    I think it would help if 4day cricket was played at the same time as the new city t20 competition; counties the proving ground for the players who want to play the red ball game, the ECB manufacture can try and find a new audience in the cities.

  11. Mike Chaffin April 12, 2018 at 3:55 am - Reply

    Was going to go and watch Somerset vs Yorkshire, though Yorkshire have just lost half their bowling attack.

  12. Andrew Cheese April 12, 2018 at 6:28 am - Reply

    No problem with the IPL since it is on when the weather is attrocious in the UK. The county championship would be better off being played when there is a bit of sun which means less games rained off and more spectators. Play the white ball games in the evenings in between the county championship games. Let’s make use of the summer while it lasts which means June, July, August and a bit of September.

  13. Ab April 12, 2018 at 6:29 am - Reply

    They need to make the new tournament a pro am celebrity T10 league. Pick players that the target audience will have actually heard of, which means no current county cricketers. Make Freddie Flintoff and Jamie redknapp the team captains and mic them up. Give them catchphrases the audience can join in with. Look where the wind is blowing and get ahead of the curve for once. I’d love it if they did this. I suggest we all write to them.

    • Comte April 12, 2018 at 7:25 am - Reply

      I don’t know if your post is tongue-in cheek. I don’t agree with a single thing you’ve said. Freddie Flintoff is the Donald Trump of cricket – head full of nonsense and not afraid to spout it. It’s not just that cricket is descending into a game I don’t recognise. It’s that’s becoming perilously like football, a game I loathe.
      I think I’ve lost the battle but I won’t go quietly.

      • AB April 12, 2018 at 8:01 am - Reply

        But think about it. The more ridiculous they make it, the less it will interfere with proper cricket. If we can’t stop it happening, then the second best solution is for it to be as stupid as possible. I’m deadly serious – I’d be overjoyed if they announced the new tournament was going to be T10. F5 would be even better. The less actual cricketers they take out of the county game, the better – why not populate the new tournament with minor celebrities – its a win win for everyone. Doesn’t Usain Bolt play cricket? Give him a contract. How about Gary Neville?

  14. dangermash April 12, 2018 at 6:43 am - Reply

    Why not just move things around? Play T20 in the UK at the same time as the IPL, then play first class cricket during the summer when we all want it?

    • AB April 12, 2018 at 8:02 am - Reply

      Because a lot of English cricketers actually quite like going to watch T20 games during the summer months?

  15. Down at Third Man April 12, 2018 at 7:11 am - Reply

    Looking on the bright side:

    For players (and therefore indirectly for spectators) cricket progresses through the supply to players of development opportunities – be that getting into a county Under11 squad or batting 1,2,3 in the IIs to learn to play the new ball/bowlers.

    So – if you want a good Test team, you want your players to be exposed to the hothouse of IPL. Just being there is educational and good for their development.

    At home this leaves places for IIs cricketers to play in the First … and all the way down. Provided Counties don’t resort to buying in old hacks from the colonies. And this in turn gives a place for an MCCU player.

    Surely one of the attractions of the County Championship has always been about seeing ‘local’ lads come into view. I recall Turner arriving at Hants aged 16 from South Wilts CC and Jesty from Gosport , not forgetting Greenidge from Reading.

    A chat on the boundary, a share in their success and an opportunity to offer consolation when things go against them.

    Really the CC is the new IIs championship, but then all the innovations and improvements in the game filter down. And you have the joy of watching young players with their freedom from nerves emulating and exceeding the execution of those innovations.

  16. Nick April 12, 2018 at 10:27 am - Reply

    Easy to get annoyed about Willey and Plunkett but there is a good chance neither would have started against Essex tomorrow, Plunkett had been told as much. Fisher had an issue with his side in a warmup game and the talk was they didn’t want to risk Coad until he was 100% so Willey may have played who knows but we are hardly talking about the first names on the teamsheet.

    Will be intresting to see what the views from the coaches were at their meeting on Tuesday, difficult issues should players be contracted 12 months? Should England White ball players be ECB employees and outside the salary cap? Should players start talking out their own insurance against injuries. It seems it a much more free market world we are heading for so how will talent development be paid for

  17. Comte April 12, 2018 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    All feels a bit better this morning as my copy of the Wisden Almanac has arrived. One of the most important days of the year and a reminder that the greatest of games has survived many traumas and forecasts of imminent death but still survives.
    A reminder also that the present bunch of popinjays and blatherskites at the ECB have been preceded by rather more intelligent people at that august body and earlier versions thereof. And also, like money trees and unicorns, there are no phantom audiences.

  18. Cricket-Now April 12, 2018 at 7:45 pm - Reply

    Yes, we are fighting a losing battle James… get over it. Enjoy whatever cricket comes your way as long as they stick to using bat and ball.

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