When the attempt to revive the long lost lustre of the test cricket, the World Test Championship, actually did bring colors back to the whites and the cricketing fraternity eagerly looked out for a great cricketing year ahead with a countdown for the T20 world cup already started! Fast forward half a year and you could see half the world succumbing to the dreaded pandemic. The chances of organizing cricketing tournaments were as high as the number of spectators attending them at that point. Again a jump of 2 months, and it seems we have accepted the fate, haven’t we? So how different will be cricket post Covid-19 break?
Masks covering the faces, we would see the social distancing norms to be followed – as best as people can, while bringing the whole normalcy back. They say – “The sports have united more nations than truces ever did” – for ages have we relied on the sports to put a smile on, in our gloomiest days. The sports world is pushing back again, with obvious precautions and restrictions attached. We have seen the Allianz Arena and Le Parc crowdless… Now its time for the Lords and the MCG and the Eden Gardens to follow the path… ’cause, “The show must go on”.
It brings up the discussion to the rescheduling of fixtures to make up the most of the lost time. While initially just speculation, now a number of cricketing boards have put the green signal on for simultaneous different formats of cricket being played against a nation. As exciting it might seem from the audiences’ perspective, it raises concerns and questions over the entire prospect of the game. Analysis has already been started to maintain the balance in strength and technique of two teams of one nation to play the other in two completely different formats of the game.
There shall be light in the darkest of hours. And there shall be dark even when you have the brightest light. So here let’s see the balance between the light and dark when it comes to the resumption of cricket post Covid-19, with West Indies touring England.
1. The Revival of the Cricketing Boards:
The wealthiest cricketing boards with the likes of BCCI, Cricket Australia and ECB have undergone massive losses due to the inactivity on the field. The BCCI has lost a staggering ₹4000 crore (USD 530 million) due to the lack of only IPL. The ECB has accounted for a loss of 350 million pounds (USD 444 million) if there wouldn’t be any cricket by the end of this year. Cricket Australia might face a loss of 300 million Australian Dollars (USD 210 million) under similar circumstances. These are the condition of the wealthiest cricket boards, now just imagine the situation of other cricketing nations like Afghanistan, Nepal and many such nations. They are heavily dependent on the ICC in this current scenario. And given the current circumstances, it has been inevitable to start the show even if it has to be behind closed doors in order for the Cricketing boards to survive.
Although the matches are to be played behind closed doors, the revenue from the sponsors, the rights sold to the broadcasters and the live streaming platforms is a huge plus. They say – “Something is better than Nothing” right? Well, the majority of the people being stuck at home are eagerly waiting for the sports to reopen. The emergence of live streaming sites like Hotstar, Sony Six, etc. have just added to this list. This will enable the cricketing boards to maintain their budget and nurture the young talents. Also for some wealthier boards like the BCCI, a share of its revenue earned goes to the government, which will be equally essential in this tragic time for the whole nation. Cricket post Covid-19 break will be a huge sigh of relief for the boards across the globe.
2. Entertainment, Entertainment and Entertainment:
How foolish this point may seem, the essence of any sport is its entertainment. Yes I can hear you screaming Unity, Team Building, Empathy etc. But mostly people watch a game for the entertainment it provides. In these dark times, where people have been locked in their rooms for months, its a ray of hope to be happy. For great cricketing nations like India, Australia and England, its more than that. Its a way of reviving oneself by releasing those stress you have got throughout your Work From Home sessions! It will boost productivity, bring inner peace and a sense of happiness. Now just imagine two matches of different formats being played on the same day. So, it’s not long when you might switch channels between the rock solid defences to the pull shots over the deep-square or the accurate in-swingers to the slower bouncers.
3. Making up for the lost time:
The whole purpose of the simultaneous matches of different formats between two nations was to make up for the lost time. It allows the cricket calendar to go on for the next year with little to no change. Would you like to see those memes on missing an IPL or a world cup next year because you had a person eat a bat at some far corner in the world again? No right? So organizing more games in shorter amount of time saves the time and also saves the budget of the whole hospitality of the teams for either nations.
1. The Pool of Players:
Now, this could be a boon for a few nations while not so for rest. The boom of the cricketing culture in Australia, India and England since the past two or more decades has increased the young cricketing talents manifold. As a nation, they have enough players in their pool and domestic leagues to choose the best for each format. This gives a lot of exposure to young talents who, in the normal way, would have to compete against another to get a place in the team. But what about the nations who do not have such a big pool of players, and unsurprisingly most of the nations fall into that category.
It comprises of nations who started playing cricket for last 5 decades and also those who started in the last few years. It is a tough challenge for them to maintain the growth in their team while creating separate profiles for their talents. This can overburden the players as well when it comes to playing more matches in a limited time frame. The formats could be simultaneous or even in quick succession. This might tempt some boards to let a few key players play more number of matches, stretching their physical and mental abilities.
2. Prioritising the Formats:
A lot of cricket analysts have already started breaking their hair in order to get the best balance for the strength and technique for players to feature in the playing XI for either team if two matches of separate formats occur simultaneously. Now, how many good players available in the pool to be selected from, there will always be a couple of players for any country who play unbelievably good in any format. Now it’s on their boards to decide, which format is more important at a given date!
Looking at the onset of a new saga for the Test Cricket, a test match against a good team will always be of highest priority than any other match at that point. When you play a game as a nation, every game is important for you. If its coming to prioritise a game from another, it should never have happened in the first place which doesn’t go according to the spirit of the sport!
3. Restricting the Cricket Lovers:
They say love is blind. I say religion is blinder. And Cricket Lovers love cricket more than their religion! But cricket post Covid-19 break will be sans the crowd. Can the rules be kept strong once the matches start? Yes, the boards will not sell tickets for the spectators in the park. But what about the public gathering of supporters? The post-match ceremonials? The beer toasts or the chai chronicles? With an increase in the number of fixtures, it would be even more difficult to control the crowd and put public awareness in place when there will be an ongoing live cricket match.
Now obviously, there will be vices but there will always be virtues. It’s our duty to make it a success. These are tough times and tough times call for tougher actions. Our idols are risking themselves to keep the show moving forward. We can stay safe so that we can help all of us to come out of this tragedy together. The boards of course look at their players with the utmost importance. We expect total security and wellbeing for all the players. With a toast to all who are eagerly waiting for the resumption of cricket post Covid-19, let’s enjoy it being a responsible citizen!