Friday, 7 September 2012

The case for a First-class IPL

There are many things to dislike about the IPL: the rampant commercialism, the corruption, the excess, not to mention Danny Morrison. There is however one good idea underlying it. That’s the way that it brings together all the best players in the world, scatters them throughout ten teams, and pits them against each other, regardless of national or regional allegiance.

If you take out the ‘Indian’ part of the name; making it a truly international tournament, remove any player restrictions bar a salary cap, and change the formant, you could have something special. Imagine a global first class tournament, mixing players from every cricket nation. You could have venues across all ten of the Test playing nations, all the great grounds in the world, from Eden Gardens to Lords.

This has been mooted before, by the American Marxist cricket write Mike Marqusee, in an essay named “Nations for Sale.” It’s a prescient piece of writing, almost predicting the IPL. My idea is basically copied from his idea, as he writes:
If I had my way, I’d ban nations from sporting competitions. I’d like to see cricket’s big matches contested by city based clubs, as in football (Bombay v Manchester, Bangalore v Melbourne, Lahore v Cape Town). And, as in football, I’d like to see these city based clubs incorporating players from all over the world. Critics of big time Premier league football will throw their hands up in horror, but remember that it is the unbridled power of commerce that has poisoned the Premier League, not the admixture of nationalities. In cricket, as we have seen, that power inflates the importance of national success or failure. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could undercut it by choosing other types of identities?
These identities can still become poisonous, as club football shows, but I’d argue that it wouldn’t change the essentially generous nature of cricket support. True, you do have fierce rivalries (India v Pakistan, England v Australia, Yorkshire v Lancashire) which can spill over into something poisonous. That doesn’t mean, however, that the support isn’t generally good natured. In what other sport do you generally applaud good play from both teams?

The main difference between Marqusee’s idea and mine is the fact that he envisions this replacing the international sporting arena as it is now, whereas I see it as adding to the cricket world as it is now. Practical issues stand in the way of this happening though; there just isn’t the time for the competition unless you spread it over enough time to stop dead the acceleration of interest. Nobody’s going to follow a competition that takes place in small and sporadic intervals, possibly unless you make it a straight knockout format.

That’s part of the compromise option, which may be the only viable one. For this, the example is the Champions League T20. How about a Club World Championship, based on a knockout format, between the winners of all the first class leagues (or for format convenience’s sake, the top eight Test nation’s leagues). Just think, this year you could have a quarter final draw featuring Rajasthan v Lancashire, Queensland v Northern Districts, Pakistan International Airlines v Titans, Colts Cricket Club v Jamaica. I don’t know about you, but the prospect of that has got me salivating. Put a month window in the schedule and let’s get it on.

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