Let me first quantify my stance as a cricket tragic. I have for the better part of my life consumed cricket with a ferocious greed. From watching Tests all day to ODI’s late into the night through my youth to sleepless nights spent listening to Test Match Special as the Aussies toured England in the hunt for Ashes glory, I’ve never really found too much cricket to be enough.
You put together the ingredients of the natural Caribbean flair with fast-paced, dynamic Twenty20 cricket, with a sprinkling of world-weary international specialists and you should have the perfect recipe for televised cricket the world over.
But even as the poorly named Trinbago Knight Riders’ tail saw them home in a low-scoring final against the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots at the magnificent Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, Trinidad, I found myself almost stunned to see the entire tournament had passed by with little more than the casual highlight cropping up on social media timelines.
Too much Twenty20 cricket?
I am sure the fans of both franchises and the people of the Caribbean enjoyed the cricket, as would plenty of people around the world, but the only reason I could come up with for the lack of genuine impact of the CPL is that, as a cricket-consuming public, we are becoming increasingly inundated with Twenty20 leagues around the world.
All around the world, in almost every conceivable haven of our beautiful game, a franchise-based Twenty20 league has cropped up, offering a short-term cricket fix and hefty pay packets to a raft of travelling veterans offering their services to the highest bidder.
34-year-old former Australia seamer Ben Hilfenhaus, who got through three overs for the Patriots of St Kitts & Nevis in today’s final for a return of 0/30, is the archetypal Twenty20 star.
A good line and length bowler, Hilfenhaus is beyond any commitments for the Australian national team, he will only ever really play domestic cricket around the world, so he’s put himself on the market and can name the Chennai Super Kings, Hobart Hurricanes, Melbourne Stars, Mumbai Indians and St Kitts & Nevis Patriots amongst his employers in the format.
For the man himself, I am sure it has carved out a viable employment niche and earned him a handy paycheck at the back end of a great career which saw him play 27 Test matches, 25 One Day Internationals and 7 Twenty20 Internationals for Australia. No doubt the chance to flaunt his wares in brief spells, often measuring shorter than a Test tour, will be on the cards for Hilfenhaus for a while yet, and I wouldn’t begrudge him that chance.
But it perfectly illustrates the detachment and over-saturation of the format around the world. How can someone genuinely build a connection to their nearest franchise given the significant turnaround of playing talent and the transient nature of the franchise-based Twenty20 league?
Where do domestic Twenty20 games fit in?
It’s a question that was once posed more to lengthy ODI series, but what relevance is there, in the grand scheme of things, on taking part in or winning a franchise Twenty20 tournament?
For players, the obvious answer is the financial incentive, and it is that drive for dollars, especially at the end of a good career, that will see these leagues continue to attract quality veteran cricketers from around the world.
For fans, apart from the obvious entertainment of the hit-and-giggle style of cricket, where you can slip out with the family for three to four hours and catch plenty of big-hitting highlights, or see the flashing stumps rattled in superb fashion, where is the long-term attachment?
Nominally, I am a Sydney Thunder fan in Australia’s Big Bash League (BBL) but to be honest, I have never genuinely felt like I live or die by their results. Even in their appearance in the final in 2015/16 I never once felt the butterflies or tense excitement I get in the buildup to the first ball of an Ashes Test match and while that’s a tough comparison, that’s what the format and the leagues around the world should be judged on. How do they stack up against the best the sport has to offer?
I’ve enjoyed the format and things like the BBL, the Indian Premier League and even the Caribbean Premier League for what they are; cricket in front of my eyes, but to suggest there’s a deeper meaning would be false and misleading.
We live in a world now where Twenty20 cricket is being played somewhere in the world almost all the time, with little to no consequence to anyone other than the administrators running the tournament and the players making a few bucks for a short day’s work.
I’ll enjoy the highlights of the CPL final as much as anyone. In fact, I’m told it was quite a good game, but I won’t really feel like I’ve gained anything from the experience.
How do you feel about the proliferation of franchise-based Twenty20 leagues around the world? Let us know in the comments below.
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