Dream of franchise cricket beginning to face harsh reality

Ajit Vijaykumar 16:18 15/08/2019
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Eoin Morgan was one of the star names associated with Euro T20 Slam.

Change is the only constant. In the fast changing world of likes and retweets, expecting things to remain stable or predictable is infantile.

The cricketing landscape altered dramatically in the last decade, which is no surprise given the proliferation of T20 and franchise cricket. The rules of the game, figuratively speaking, were not the same anymore and playing Tests – or even international cricket – was not the ultimate aim of every budding player.

As IPL burst onto the international scene and carved two months out of the calendar just for itself, it became evident that cricket boards and players were going to follow the money. Slowly but surely, top limited overs cricketers started to pick and chose between international assignments and franchise cricket. Nearly the entire elite group of Windies cricket became freelancers with almost all of them giving up on Tests.

Franchise cricket gave many players on the fringes of the national team and those past their prime an opportunity. They found that it would be easier to give up their national contract and make themselves available for three to four tournaments a year and still earn more money while playing lesser cricket.

But with the game cannibalising itself, something was always going to give. And it has started to.

The inaugural Euro T20 Slam was on Wednesday postponed to 2020, just two weeks before it was supposed to kick off with teams from the Netherlands, Ireland, and Scotland. But cash flow problems and other organisational issues forced the promoters to push it back to next year.

Trouble began when the recently concluded Global T20 Canada – backed by the same entity which is behind the Euro T20 Slam – saw teams refusing to play matches until their payments were cleared.

Needless to say, it’s the players who have been hit the hardest. Many top names like Rashid Khan, Chris Lynn and Shane Watson had opted out of Caribbean Premier League – which begins in September – to be a part of the Euro. This will be a serious hit to their finances and also confidence in the franchise model.

Here in the UAE, we saw the ill-fated Masters Champions League fold up after one season in 2016 with many players not paid for their services. Then last year, the proposed UAE T20x was postponed with the Emirates Cricket Board now looking at a relaunch in 2020. Also, the Hong Kong T20 Blitz was called off last month due to financial issues.

Franchise cricket is great for the viewers. But it is an increasingly volatile product which is feeling the pinch of global slowdown. There is a limited amount of money in the game, which oscillates between franchise and international cricket. A major chunk of it is generated either in India or by entities targeting the Indian audience and thus securing sponsorship. For anything else, there just isn’t enough appetite in the market.

What players need to realise is that you can be a journeyman cricketer only if you are very good at what you do and can get into IPL, Big Bash, T20 Blast, Bangladesh Premier League, Caribbean Premier League and Pakistan Super League. Apart from these, there isn’t much by way of long-term, guaranteed cricket around which players can plan for the next five to seven years.

If you are a mid-tier player and have a national or a domestic contract, think twice before chucking it in the hope of prime franchise dollars. Even the England board is reportedly feeling a cash pinch owing to the launch of ‘The Hundred’. So be safe, and hope there is enough to go around for everyone in this game.

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