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.