Cricket set to go capitalist, but may lack in substance: Roebuck

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

SYDNEY - At first sight, the 2011-12-cricket season might appear similar to its immediate predecessors. New Zealand and India will tour, playing Test matches and one-day internationals. Sri Lanka is also coming along to take part in a triangular series.

A third force will enter the fray in January 2012, attempting to brush aside the international sides and state teams. The summer holidays will offer a curious picture of two separate and conflicting events-a Test series between Australia and India, and a Big Bash campaign between eight teams half-owned by states, but mostly run by investors with big pockets and an appetite for the game.

According to Sydney Morning Herald cricket columnist Peter Roebuck, Test teams could be locked in an absorbing struggle in Adelaide, and at the same time, teams from Melbourne and Sydney could be belting the ball around in a Big Bash tournament.

Every Big Bash franchise will be allowed to sign four overseas players - presumably not including any of the Indian stars. The rest is up in the air.

No decision has been made regarding locals.

The players’ association wants a free market, as in the Indian Premier League, so that every player could go interstate. A cricketer could represent his state in the first and last parts of the summer, and join a franchise far away in between. The same could apply to coaches, physios and administrators.

Cricket Australia wants each franchise to retain four locals, add four overseas players and sign the rest on the free market. That way it hopes to retain identity.

Exactly how players would be signed is unclear.

Australians like auctioning houses, but not sportsmen. Regardless, a salary cap will be applied and, like all of its kind, will need to be vigorously policed.

The franchises are not exactly for sale. Provided they at least seem respectable, bidders can become 49 per cent owners, with CA keeping the rest.

Exactly how they intend to make money is also unclear. But then most top sporting clubs are hugely uneconomic.

Not until the television contract runs out can anyone hope to make a profit - or anyone except players and coaches anyhow.

By then the international season will have been curtailed so that Twenty20 has the stage to itself.

“The idea is to make the game attractive for spectators and youngsters torn between AFL and cricket. It is a concession that the dream has died, that the allure of the baggy green is no longer enough. That is the reality. Cricket lives and dies in the marketplace. Modernity cannot be ignored,” says Roebuck.

At some point, though, the essence of a game is lost. Cricket is getting perilously close to that point,” he concludes. (ANI)

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