• 23 Dec - 29 Dec, 2017
  • Sohaib ALvi
  • Sports

The jury is still figuring out whether the T10 League that concluded last Sunday is a format that should be continued, let alone played at all. Can a four-day hit-about be considered a league? Should cricket, already searching for its identity in modern times, be further reduced to entertainment counted in boundaries and sixes per over?

Yet, for all its naysayers, the Sharjah stadium was crowded all through the four days. The crowd enjoyed what they saw. The players who participated were a mix of current international stars and those who may not be representing their country anymore but remain active in the international short-form leagues.

The logic posed by the management also has weight. That with a 90-minute span, it can fit into the Olympics, Asian Games and SAF Games schedule where football matches take that long. They also say that this opening event was just to dip their feet and feel if there is any warmth from the spectators and broadcasters. The ratings are still to come officially but if it does from the league organisers and broadcasters, there will be a conflict of interest and they won’t be admitting to any low audience level. Likewise, media buying houses that have sold the TV spots will not admit to low audiences, as they will be answerable to their clients.

Perhaps the best way would be for ICC to have a review and come up with their analysis and conclusion. The image and evolution of the game is their responsibility and they have to be absolutely candid in whether the T10 League is here to stay or not. We also have to see more innovation in the format if it has to break away from its elder and longer formats. At the moment, it just seems like a rain-shortened version of a T20 game. If it does, it will eat further into the Test matches. If teams get committed to Future Tours Programme (FTP) then we might see some early retirements of players who are better suited for the shorter formats. In that case, some top players who grace the five-day game will be lost, and often the substitutes are not always prepared mentally for the long haul.

Even today, the T20 has led to either early retirements or players requesting they not be considered for international matches if there is a T20 league happening in another country. At this point, there are still national cricket boards involved in IPL, PSL, the Big Bash, Caribbean League, BPL, NatWest T20 Blast and CSA T20 Challenge. But T10 is a private league and any success will lead to more private leagues to be formed. That might one day clash with one of the T20 tournaments mentioned above. What then?

Will the boards now rush to have their own T10 leagues as well and kill these private leagues as they did with the ICL? That was, in fact, the forerunner of the IPL and the launch of other T20 leagues in all top cricket playing countries. If they don’t, then will they enter into another fight for players and grounds? And will

the local associations, especially in England and Australia where they have full autonomy, allow their grounds to be rented to these private T10 organisers? If it happens when there is no game scheduled by the first class teams, then fine. But if it comes to an option for a three-day game to be played in front of empty stands, with no TV coverage and low audience, if it is; or a three-day T10 tournament with all stands full, then the ground administrators may likely opt for the latter.

Coming to this Sharjah tournament, even though it started slow, it did end with a bang. I’m a hopeless romantic for the long game or at most, a 50-over game with a purpose, like a global or regional tournament. So I didn’t watch it much but judging from the highlights that caught my eye and the run rate, there was clearly a lot of entertainment.

Add to that a hat-trick in the very first three balls that Shahid Afridi bowled in the tournament on the very first day and the fastest fifty (14 balls) by Eoin Morgan in final innings of the tournament and it had some memorable moments.

Yes, it is a further dent to bowlers who are already reeling from batsmen friendly rules in 50 and 20-over formats. However, there is a blessing in disguise when it comes to bowling just two overs per game. Firstly, it does not take its toll on the body of the fast bowler. Secondly as Mohammad Amir said, “It is very important to test your skills, because you have to think of every ball. So it is very important to bowl your yorkers and slower balls very well, because the batsmen are hitting the length balls very well.”

Such discipline can then benefit the bowler in longer formats. Once the mind becomes focused and sees the benefits, it can get the fast bowler more wickets as accuracy of line and length becomes the key factor. On the teams, well only Colombo Lions fielded players from the host country. Otherwise, all other teams were a mix of nationalities and no real identity. For Pakistani fans, the good point was that there were Pakistani players in every other team. Having said that, the side with the fewest Pakistani players, Kerala Kings, won the tournament. That should be a sign of worry for PCB and its selectors.

Talking of selectors, it was disappointing that PCB allowed Chief Selector to have a stake, in whatever way, in one team. It is a clear conflict of interest.