Cricket: Scheduling squeezes all too apparent among the chaos

IPL 2014 is taking over the cricket fixture for two months (picture: Informal Sports)
IPL 2014 is taking over the cricket fixture for two months (picture: Informal Sports)

Trying to work international cricket around domestic – and vice versa – does not really work.  Why?

For starters, too many matches are crammed within timeframes which leaves players fatigued – and next, they’re jumping to another country for the next tour.  International teams rarely come home.

It is not the first time media has brought it up, and there is little chance of the issue going away.  The best example of accommodating international fixtures with other big tournaments is the current Indian Premier League (IPL).  No test, one day international or Twenty20 international matches are scheduled for the duration of the tournament.

However, there is a move to change all that – and it is coming from the BCCI.  With the big three – India, England and Australia – set to become cricket’s ultimate power players, the need for change has been recognised by IPL chief operating officer Sundar Raman.

If India say, ‘forget everything, we will play at home December-January-February’, my exaggerated view is that world cricket will collapse.

“We can’t disrupt world cricket so much at the cost of our own interest.”

With India cemented as cricket’s number one power, Raman’s statement will ring a few bells in front of people’s faces.  The time to wake up to the problems plaguing both the current and next generation of players is now.

After the IPL, Australia’s schedule until the start of the home summer (and before the 2015 Cricket World Cup) has 18 days of play – starting at the end of August against Zimbabwe.  In comparison, England has 48 (the majority against India), and South Africa has 25.*

Right now, getting finances, fixtures and players in good positions is crucial for the impending takeover.  Granted, it does not benefit any governing body that N. Srinivasan is not standing down from his presidency role.

Additionally, when it comes to organising the chaos into alignment, Srinivasan’s company, India Cements, owns the Chennai Super Kings.

It comes into a much brighter spotlight when associate nations come into a fray.  While the World Cup is a separate issue, the BCCI and their ultimate move will influence the future of programs.

Raman made a strong suggestion that in the lead up to a major tournament, there would be similar games played for preparation.

“Before the World T20, we’ll play more T20s. Before the World Cup, we’ll play more ODIs. We’re trying to reinvent the whole FTP. “

None of this could go forward without Cricket Australia and the England Cricket Board behind such a proposal.  However, very little successful collaboration is going to happen unless Srinivasan and the Supreme Court reach some sort of logical agreement.

The probe into the IPL match fixing is still continuing, which means Srinivasan will not be disappearing anytime soon.  Money talks – sometimes too much – in world cricket, and the court case is indicative of this.

Everyone wants a slice of the pie; including Pakistan, who have now conditionally backed the new move to the big three, due to the potential finances the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) can reap over the next several years.

“The conditions are signing of mutually beneficial bilateral cricket tours from 2015-23 with all members, especially India.”

That number is three billion rupees, or £18.6 million.  After a hasty and rushed first ICC plan, the uproar was immense.  Cricket South Africa (CSA) felt isolated, and so did Pakistan.  Finally, it all seems to be coming together.

National sides want to play as much as possible, but the scheduling is too crowded.  The 2014/2015 Australian summer fixture has been shortened in readiness for the World Cup.

For a player example, Jonathan Trott’s recent cases of “stress-related illness” fit well with the hectic nature of touring.  While extenuating circumstances lead to the England batsman taking a break from the game, Trott is not the first, and will not be the last, to take such a period of time out of cricket.

Final word

Long-term, the future looks bright if the ECB, CA and the BCCI can give everyone a share of the profits.  However, this cannot happen unless the BCCI lets its stranglehold on world cricket come loose.

Crowds go to the big matches, as evidenced by the 2013-2014 Ashes series in Australia.  Two months later, grounds in South Africa were nowhere near capacity when Australia travelled over for the test series.

Cricket – especially the five day format – is not dead as yet.  It is becoming much more of a TV sport – partially for fixturing – but also because of the match-ups.  India v Zimbabwe will attract a much smaller audience compared to India and South Africa.  If an agreement is reached that will allow all parties equality for the future, then cricket fixtures are headed in the right direction.

*correct as of April 30 according to ESPN Cricinfo current fixtures – does not include England’s match against Scotland, and all days of play counts finish by November 1, 2014.

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