‘After this what, T5?’ the snigger among some was quite palpable last year when the T10 League — cricket’s new thing on the block — was unveiled. An year down the line, the mood seems to have changed perceptibly as the second edition is upon us with two new teams and a longer duration.
The buzz around it, even the staunchest of critics will have to accept, has certainly increased this time and there are good enough reasons behind it. It’s not everyday that one comes across a franchise-based cricket league which has shown a growth rate like this — addition of two new teams in the Sindhis and Northern Warriors in it’s only second season with the duration extended from a mere four days to nearly two weeks.
How seriously can you really take this jamboree, that too at a time when a surfeit of T20 franchise leagues are already threatening to rob the game of it’s golden goose? A visit to one day’s action at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium last December exposed me possibly with both the pros and cons — and it’s interesting to note that the promoters have possibly taken cognisance of one of it’s faultlines.
With the duration of the tournament being extended to 12 days, games will now be more evenly spread — with most working days set to have only two matches. This will be an improvement on the crammed schedule last time, which gave the impression that matches were overlapping into each other — often not making the desired impact.
The players’ line-up has also shown an improvement in depth with the league pulling off a coup of sorts by roping in players both from India and Pakistan — a rarity in the world of franchise leagues. Led by Zaheer Khan, one of the modern fast bowling greats, the motley group of Indians may be just retired but can throw in the variety for the expat audience in Sharjah while several heavyweights of Pakistan cricket like Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malek will be putting up appearances again.
It’s the concept of selling a cricket match within the time span of a football game (90 minutes) is what apparently appealed to Shaji-ul Mulk, chairman of the league. Yes, it may have sounded outrageous initially but cricket is the only sport which has lent itself to be played in three formats with an equal measure of success over the years and the promoters have got the T10 format ratified by the International Cricket Council (ICC), guardians of the game.
To end with a word of caution — the organisers should not get carried away by the initial surge of interest from the sponsors and audience. It’s imperative for an experiment like this to make the brand stronger and credible rather than mere expansion.
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