Asia Cup 2020 was scheduled to be held in September last year in T20 format. Like many other bilateral series and international fixtures, the tournament was postponed due to COVID-19 outbreak. But, as the IPL-2020 was arranged around the same time, cricket fans kept wondering, why IPL- not Asia Cup? Even though the Asia Cup last year was supposed to happen in T20 format, it is an established fact now that nations, players, even audiences love franchise leagues more than anything. That’s why, while the internationals fixtures kept getting postponed-- even the T20 world cup-- franchise leagues around the world (IPL, CPL, PSL) took place.
Inception of T20
17 years since the first ever T20 game was played, the format has changed the way the entire sport is looked at. Batting, bowling, fielding- all departments of the game have undergone massive modifications. The rise of T20s has accelerated with ICC viewing it as a medium for making cricket a global game. Hence, all 104 members of ICC had been provided T20I status by the ICC in 2018.
However, T20 was initially tried out as an experiment by the England Cricket Board (ECB) in 2003 in response to dwindling crowds at stadiums. It was not given that much importance as the skills required for this format was considered inferior to the ones required for the longer versions of the game. It was seen as fun and was barely taken seriously; so much so that the first ever T20 International between Australia and New Zealand in 2005 featured the teams wearing retro kits and fancy dress wigs.
The Aussie skipper, Ricky Ponting went as far as to say, “I think it (T20 Cricket) is difficult to play seriously.” The match also took a note out of football when umpire Billy Bowden jokingly showed a red card to Glenn Mcgrath.
Invention of franchise model
The turnaround started after the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007. India, a team who were reluctant to even play the tournament, went on to win it beating arch rival Pakistan in the final. BCCI Vice President Lalit Modi capitalised on this success of the Indian team and introduced the Indian Premier League in 2008, which changed the entire landscape of T20 cricket. The IPL was modelled after the NBA with franchise based teams from different cities. It turned cricket from a country vs country sport to club vs club one.
The success of IPL paved the way for more franchise based T20 leagues around the world. These leagues and their popularity have certainly helped spread this format. Hosting these tournaments itself is a source of big revenue for cricket boards. The BCCI earned as much as Rs 40 billion from hosting the latest season of the IPL that finished in November 2020. No wonder why even amid a pandemic-- when two major international tournaments got postponed (Asia Cup and World Cup)-- IPL was played.
For the local players, it is a chance to share the dressing room with senior as well as foreign players. The experience they earn here is priceless. These T20 leagues also expose local players to playing under pressure; giving them a small taste of what it feels like to play at the international level. Such financial and non-financial gains from T20 leagues have compelled nations to come up with their own versions of such tournaments. The Big Bash League, Bangladesh Premier League, Pakistan Super League, Caribbean Premier League, etc. have all been developed following the IPL model.
The success of T20 format is huge compared to other traditional formats and franchise leagues have increased it manifolds. For fans, the shorter duration of the game makes it more favourable compared to tests and ODIs as the whole game is packed with action, suspense and uncertainty. The amount of 4s and 6s in such a short period of time makes it even more attractive to the viewers. The opportunity to watch best players from different cricketing nations play together in the same team is the added attraction of franchise cricket.
On the other hand, increasing broadcasting deals and sponsorships have made this format an extremely profitable venture. These franchise based leagues have become a source of earning big bucks for the players as well. The number is, in fact, so big that a good many players have retired from national team duties to continue playing franchise T20 cricket.
Impact on the whole scenario
The impact of the format has been profound on the entire sport. Batsmen nowadays are playing more unconventional and innovative shots (ramp shot, switch hits, etc.); bowlers are shifting focus more on variations to deceive the batsmen and fielders are concentrating on becoming more fit and athletic than ever before. Run rates have increased in both tests and ODIs and the 300 run barrier mark in ODIs is getting breached frequently.
The rise of T20 has given birth to format specialists- individuals who play mainly one or two formats of the game; an idea that was not much prevalent before. Banking on T20’s success, an even newer and smaller format has been introduced - T10 cricket. Although T10 has not received official recognition as yet, it still sells more tickets.
There have been negative impacts of T20 cricket on the entire sport. Nowadays, batsmen don’t have the patience and tenacity that once defined the sport when it was initially formed. Batting techniques are not as solid as they used to be-leading to teams getting bowled out a lot these days. Also, crowd interest is more towards T20 than the other traditional formats of the game. This calls for a need to rethink how the ODIS and tests are being played.
Franchise cricket leagues’ worst side is money. These leagues spend so much money that players nowadays give these leagues more value than international cricket. Spot-fixing, betting, and many other corruptions stem out of these leagues as there is a huge amount of money involved. And the franchise owners, on the other hand, aims to make glamorous teams to pull more crowd and sponsor for their team which often makes the whole thing less cricket, more marketing.
Ayman Chowdhury is a student at Dhaka University.