Franchise cricket has revolutionised cricket with positives and negatives. Cricket is run by the country boards and the smaller countries – New Zealand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and West Indies were never profitable while India, Australia and England cricket boards have been profitable.
This lack of profitability meant poor infrastructure, lesser funds and youngsters moving away from cricket to basketball.
Franchise cricket, or ‘chaddi’ cricket as some refer to it, is an answer for every board’s money problem. While franchise cricket has saved the board financially, it has hurt the board in terms of ownership of the game and players.
The first T20 World Cup in 2007 hosted by South Africa was a watershed moment for cricket and India. The T20 invention came from England, as fans found cricket to be boring and wanted an alternative to football. Thus, IPL was born and in a matter of 15 years, we have different formats now – we have the T10, we have the hundred and we have the sixty. That’s an amazing innovation in 15 years. We have franchise cricket in every country – there are 14 leagues now!
This means that one day cricket is virtually gasping for air and the 2023 World Cup in India will seal its fate. Test cricket is alive only when England, India, Pakistan, and Australia are playing; the rest don’t add to anything.
What does this mean for cricket? Let’s look at a few facts.
On November 11th, two days before Pakistan played England in the final, Babar Azam, the Pakistan captain moved from Karachi to Peshawar. The Karachi Kings owners were making a statement – win or lose, we don’t want the Pakistan captain in our team.
Temba Bavuma, the South African T20 captain, has not been picked by any of the four franchise teams in South Africa when his base price was ₹39 lakh! Dean Elgar, the South African test captain, has not been picked by any franchise team either.
Dhoni was dropped as captain of the Rising Pune Super Giants and replaced by Steve Smith because the owners wanted a younger, fresher mind and the team had finished second from the bottom the previous year.
Saurav Ganguly, the former Indian skipper, in his book, A Century is not Enough, mentions that he had to wait for the owner’s aircraft to land to discuss Pune team selection and the team was approved by the owner. As India captain, he chose his team! The list goes on – Kane Williamson dropped by SRH; many players put on the block this year in IPL.
T20 cricket is exciting for the viewer; it is fantastic for the player since he/she doesn’t have to worry about the board anymore and he/she feels that if they play well, they can play any league (except Indian players). It is great for sponsors and media and the overall cricket eco-system benefits.
Is the team owner taking over cricket good for cricket and does the board really have a choice?
I don’t think the board has a choice. T20 cricket is an economic reality, and the owners are calling the shots. Club over country priority is clear because the board can offer little when the owner can offer financial security and a certain longevity if you perform. The West Indies lost badly in the recent T20 World Cup. Many of their star players didn’t turn up. Andre Russell was playing the Hundred rather than playing for the West Indies. Phil Simmons, the head coach, said in anguish, “I cannot beg players to play for the West Indies.”
Board vs IPL
Players are also making choices, not accepting board contracts – Trent Boult and Martin Guptill are two examples from New Zealand where Kiwis have always been excellent team players. On the other hand, Aussie players Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc have chosen board contracts over IPL.
Owners are getting more powerful, and nothing can stop that if cricket stays commercial; this is an irreversible trend. Are there lessons for management professionals? We have seen public sector leaders move to private sector roles; we have seen armed forces personnel move as head of admin or head of security in companies. I believe professionals of the future will do stints in PE/VC firms – short stints of three to four years and they will move from one PE/VC to the other, create value for the firms and for themselves.
Choosing club over country is an obvious choice now.
Shiv Shivakumar is Group Executive President (Corporate Strategy) at Aditya Birla Group