What on earth is cricket officialdom thinking?

It is fair to say that the ECB announcement of their intention to create an eight-team league to play 100-ball innings matches has created much more bewilderment and outrage than excitement. While those excited by the announcement have suggested it is a bold initiative, most others would suggest this a positive spin on a decision to ignore the problems facing the existing forms of the game and create another format that nobody asked for. With cricket administrators the world over already unable to bring relevance to a program that sees them forced to squeeze three formats into 365-day calendar it would seem a surprising decision by the boffins in charge of England and Wales Cricket.

While it would be folly to argue against the need for some change, especially after watching what seemed to be about 48 people in total willing to attend the recent Australia v South Africa Test Series, this feels a little like buying a new car because you ran out of petrol. Rather than solve the problem confronting cricket, this ‘answer’ actual compounds it. With the game already unable to gain a foothold in the consciousness of fans because of the volume of games played and the sporadic and haphazard nature of the saturation, the shoe-horning of another format into the calendar would seem counter-intuitive.

There are some who will point to the fact that the negative response to the concept mirrors that which accompanied the birth of 50-over and T20 cricket before it. On face value, this would seem a valid point but it ignores the fact that both limited over and T20 cricket are at their heart a simple shortening of the game. This proposed morphing is something else entirely in which the game seems to be modified for nothing more than gimmick sake. While they have settled on a 10-ball over at this stage, it seems that all manner of ridiculousness was discussed even the possibility of the eradication of the lbw rule. It sounds an awful lot the result of a meeting between a room full of ‘brand ambassadors’ rather than custodians of a sports best interests.

‘‘A simple approach to reach a new generation,’’ hyper-ventilated the ECB’s chief commercial officer, responsible for all cricket-related matters.

Actually, consisting of 15 six-ball overs and one 10-ball over, delivered at a random juncture, it was a less simple approach than Twenty20. What the commercial officer meant was a shorter approach. It has been apparent to him for some time that cricket’s problem was cricket, and he was determined to get it out of the way.

Greg Baum – The Age 20.04.18

In a lot of ways, it is this willingness to bend the sport so willingly and wholeheartedly to the will of television networks and the quest for increased viewer numbers that presents the biggest danger to the future of the game. While sport is the original reality tv show, its value as such lies in the fact that it exists for a purpose greater than the broadcasting whims of television networks. If the fundamental structures of the game are all negotiable and interchangeable with gimmicks what differentiates a sport from the more derided reality tv programs like My Kitchen Rules and America’s Got Talent? With all due respect to both programs, is being more like them really the path to the long-term future and prosperity of the game of cricket?


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