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Cricket, Monetisation & The Dividing Line

Is cricket a 'gentleman's game' any more?
Is cricket a 'gentleman's game' any more?
©REUTERS / Action Images

The oft-used and over-used tag Gentleman's Game doesn’t make much sense anymore these days. There isn’t anything gentlemanly left in the game as such.

Fiercely competitive, the sport is also beginning to realise its monetisation potential, something that has changed the dynamics of the ruling bodies and the way the game itself has been taken forward.

The power centres have changed and so has the style of functioning. While the question of whether monetisation is changing the game for good is an oft-raised question, it doesn’t really feel valid.

Every game and the way it is managed, not just played, evolves over a period of time. In a sports management industry, cricket is still a newbie, compared to games like basketball and football. The advent of IPL, Big Bash and a few other leagues have slowly changed the model and have ensured cricket isn’t just a game of passion anymore.

A lot of heat has also been raised due to the way the dissatisfaction of the West Indian players was handled. Almost immediately, an India-Sri Lanka ODI series has been planned. The discomfort and annoyance of the Sri Lankan players for being pulled out of their normal schedule to squeeze an extra series is public information.

That West Indies and Sri Lanka, with boards that have had player-board crises and payments issues, have lost quite a few high profile players to international Twenty20 leagues is public information as well.

That a lot of cricketers have become freelancers with a conflict of interest influencing their style of play and performances is an allegation that attracts some analysis. The talk of the game losing its way because of money is raised because of issues of match fixing, corruption and partisanship, allegations that could neither be called true nor false and are perpetually denizens of the grey band.

That the richer boards have a clout that lets them control the game though, is as clear as daylight and that BCCI is easily the most powerful game-changer the game has ever seen is just as true. However, beyond that how the game needs balance doesn’t have too many viable options.

Why is this a good time to talk about money? Blaming BCCI and IPL for all the evil that is there in the cricketing world, on the lines of what some cricketing greats feel, would be a little hypocritical.

Nothing attracts talent the way money does and the change in facilities and how that has helped countries like India created a sustainable pool is a great example. Most people who have demonised Twenty20 and leagues like IPL and Big Bash forget to mention or offer an alternative way of 'ethical monetisation' of the game.

At the crux of the whole dynamics though, remains one unanswered question - how much of the new-age monetisation could actually be used to expand the boundaries of cricket? If the monetisation helps the bigger boards adopt smaller boards or countries in the cricketing world, 'evil' will become a totally misplaced world in cricketing parlance.

At the same point, the ticking time-bomb of controversies and innuendoes thrown towards sting actions like the anti-chucking campaign always raise more questions that cricket can answer at this particular point.

That the ICC doesn’t have a route-map that is entirely public and that its vision is a little muddled at the point is probably one thing that the pro-monetisation wing has to be keen on addressing.

The balance between the money versus ethics could be restored if boards like ECB, BCCI, CSA and CA can adopt the smaller countries like Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland and Afghanistan, where the game has found fans and following but has not been able to offer incentives.

Once the great influx of money into the hands of some rich boards finds at least to some extent, a channel into underdeveloped cricketing domains, the reputation of the boards, the game’s image and the overall confidence of the followers would all nestle in safe hands. The game needs money. Yet, it is important to realize, the game is not for money!

© Cricket World 2014

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