Can International Cricket and the IPL Complement Each Other?

James MortimerAnalyst IJanuary 13, 2009

It is a true spectacle with packed, screaming stadia, scintillating action, and world-class players. It's already begun to change the face of one of the most traditional games in the world.  Adjustments will need to be swift by the world and national bodies to ensure that it is kept positive for the game and does not tear the very fabric of what makes the game grand.

In the build-up to the tournament, problems were rife throughout national bodies. The commitment to the league was, and still is, at conflict with national representation.  Some countries, such as New Zealand, have made it clear that full participation in the IPL would come at the cost of selection.

Other countries like Australia gave it necessary sway and allowed involvement—but made it abundantly clear that when the time came for International recall that their central contracts were in place and not to be ignored.

The single greatest asset of the IPL, beyond the basic spectacle and speed of the game natural to Twenty20 cricket, is watching the world’s finest players perform alongside each other. To witness Adam Gilchrist and VVS Laxman opening the batting together, to see immortals like Shane Warne continue to weave their tremendous magic.

This in itself leads to another great benefit—having the game's stars play alongside each other will enhance their own skills and abilities, and this will only benefit the game.

But at what cost does this all come?  There are now three international versions of cricket—with Test matches, ODIs and Twenty20 here to stay. One of these versions is destined to suffer, as there is, quite simply, oversaturation of the market. Rugby football, league or union, is attractive for the simple fact that there are long periods of the year when you cannot watch it.

There is international cricket at all levels, different seasons, tours, champions trophies, and now two world cups; even international beach cricket if you live in Australia. It is too much?

And what of a player’s allegiances?  IPL has signalled the impact of the mighty dollar into the land of cricket.  Cricket now grapples with the nightmare of the highest paid employer having sway over a player’s availability. 

A club that forks out millions for a superstar is loathe to release a man for international duty, even if it means sacrificing a club game—or worse, have risk of injury.  Soccer has been dealing with this for a long time—and now Southern hemisphere rugby is coming to terms with elite players being swayed by lucrative paychecks.

Of less immediate impact, but of long-term ramifications, is the plunder of domestic cricket. Elite players with international games and either IPL or county cricket are unlikely and will be unwilling to play state or provincial cricket.

Athletes need an offseason, but the reality of having top players not playing a role in domestic development can be damaging, not only to the up and coming players but to the country's entire system. 

Great rugby examples were Australia’s attempt to introduce a domestic competition in 2007—but without their World Cup players. The tournament lasted one year and cost the national body $5m. 

New Zealand provincial rugby is at its worst level in years due to fewer and fewer top players participating at grassroots level.  Without strength at the domestic level, international class will weaken over time.

The biggest problem is the archaic management system that world cricket employs, with the ICC unlikely to act swiftly or institute necessary mandates to ensure that “rebel” competitions do not impact the international game.

The IPL is the first of its kind, but will be repeated in the years to come. Such dissemination of the old game will ensure that other versions of the game will suffer.  It cannot be Test cricket, the ultimate pinnacle of the sport. But unless action is taken swiftly—perhaps at the cost of ODIs—then even the grand stage of a five-day game may perish.