The phenomenal success of T20 cricket has ensured that the sport is being taken to places where it has never been before and is also bringing newer audience to the game.
The 3 1/2 hour evening variant of the game has captured the prime time television slot, pushing soaps and reality shows out of competition, meaning it has become the new entertainment product for all in the family.
If you are a young kid who has taken to cricket post T20 and your dad took you to the evening game at the MCG to see Australia take on South Africa and bought you the green and gold jersey to cheer for the home side, your surprise when you saw 22 players wearing dark green lining walking onto the field for their anthems before the game is understandable.
The number of teams wearing similar coloured uniform is just too many, and the administration has done little to get over this very valid confusion. With cricket catering to newer audience through its newest format, the sport will do well to distinguish the teams by adopting home and away uniform format so that the fans can identify with their teams much better.
Most countries sport jerseys that are variants of blue and green. Let’s not for a moment think that I am trying to suggest that there isn’t enough colour in the game, it is just that there is too much of the same.
You only needed to be in Australia this summer to understand the confusion such indistinguishable uniforms can create. With Australia now sporting the green jerseys in One Day Internationals, it would be quite a task for a spectator sitting in the top tier at the MCG or the SCG and see 11 fieldsmen and 2 batsmen walk out to the middle wearing green. Only giant scoreboard could tell him which side is batting and which is fielding.
If cricket adopted football methods in introducing numbers on the players’ jerseys so that it became easier for the spectators and television audience to identify them, then there is no harm in adopting football’s home and away uniform policies as well.
I agree that it is more of a requirement in football, as all 22 players are on the field at the same time, but it is still inexcusable if you cannot distinguish between Australia and South Africa without waiting for Brett Lee to drop in at the boundary near you so you knew that Australia was fielding.
It makes all the more sense to embrace the idea when you look that number of teams that sport jerseys that are so close in shade and colour to each other, with India, England, Sri Lanka, Namibia, and Scotland all sporting blue jerseys, while South Africa, Australia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya, and Ireland make up the green brigade.
Now put the West Indies, Zimbabwe, and Canada in the red basket, which leaves only the All Black Kiwis as the odd man out. But even then, theirs becomes undistinguishable while playing the Aussies in their deep green.
The only saving grace comes in the T20 games when Australia is represented in yellow and grey and Sri Lanka’s representation is in silver. But then, these are more of exceptions than the rule.
When Kerry Packer introduced the day/night cricket more than 30 years ago in his World Series Cricket, he did so in order to attract people to it after school and work. He didn’t introduce coloured clothing and the white ball a la baseball so as to make the game more television friendly, but because it was common sense—the red ball would be lost in the night sky, and therefore the use of white ball under flood lights was the logical solution.
Also, since the white ball would get lost in the white clothing, it would make it very difficult for umpires to judge LBWs, so coloured clothing was introduced, with some even calling it pajama cricket.
The IPL as a format is based on the English Premier League (EPL) football format. When cricket can embrace so much of football into it, should it not also embrace the home and away uniform policy as well?
When Manchester United plays Liverpool in an away game at Anfield in the EPL, the "Red Devils" play with white jerseys—as against their home jerseys that are red—and the home team gets to wear red uniforms.
Imagine the confusion among players, referees and fans if both the teams played in their red uniforms. Cricket faces similar problems, but it is just that it has chosen not to acknowledge it.
Why should not Australia playing South Africa in Johannesburg be wearing their yellow jersey—assuming that they choose it to be their away uniform—and Sri Lanka playing India at the Wankhede will turn out in their silver—assuming that they choose it to be their away uniform—outfits?
Cricket is a hugely popular sport, and the money in the game with the advent of T20 cricket is higher than ever before. Franchise-based cricket is all set to be the future of the game, and as more cricketers and boards are cashing in on this found popularity, the cricket fan should not be forgotten.
It is time the affluent administrators of the game did more to the fan—at least ensuring that he can recognize the players and the team he is rooting for and giving him that elusive definitive identity that is getting blurred when it is blue jersey versus blue jersey or green jersey versus green jersey.
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