Last week’s column was critical of the International Cricket Council (ICC) hosting too many global tournaments. It was further proposed that T20 cricket at international level should be abolished and only played at a domestic professional level (e.g. the RamSlam in South Africa and the Indian Premier League (IPL)).
The World T20 is happening in India at the moment. The lack of hype around the tournament gives credence to such an assertion. It also confirms that cricket is suffering from overkill at international level because the ICC has become obsessed with regulating the sport.
T20 is supposed to be the most exciting format of the game, so where is the excitement? Firstly, the tournament hasn’t yet found a natural fit in the ICC’s (justly) much criticized Future Tours Programme (FTP). The current edition has a shoehorned feeling about it – squashed in between the end of the Southern Hemisphere’s international programme and the mother of all T20 tournaments, the IPL. The fact that it has generally taken place every two years but the FTP dictates there will now be a four year gap until the next tournament in Australia only increases a sense of confusion among fans.
Secondly, the ICC remains clueless when it comes to the inclusion of associate countries in world events. At last year’s World Cup in Australia the world body announced that the participation of the associates would be curtailed at future events. Although the format for the current World T20 was agreed upon before this announcement, cricket fans won’t know the intricacies of these arrangements. To them it looks like the ICC has once again gone back on its word.
Thirdly, kicking off the World T20 with a qualifying tournament involving so-called “minnows” Ireland, Netherlands, Oman, Afghanistan, Scotland and Hong Kong is hardly guaranteed to get fans’ heart rates up. The opening day fixtures were Zimbabwe vs Hong Kong and Scotland vs Afghanistan. Surely you start an international event with a bang, not a whimper..! The tournament began before it began – nothing was offered to the fans to get them interested.
In their obsession to control T20 cricket, the ICC has lost fans and given them virtually zero chance of building an affinity for the international status of T20 cricket. If I were an Indian cricket fan and could afford only one T20 ticket, I’d most certainly save it for the IPL.
Over the last few years, much has been made of T20 cricket being the vehicle to globally promote the game. If so, then the 2016 World T20 has made no contribution whatsoever to this drive.
For one thing the ICC’s commercial partners don’t seem to have taken up this challenge. Take the trophy tour as an example. Comparing the World T20 to the 2015 Rugby World Cup (RWC) is unfair, but the disparate scales of their respective trophy tours speak volumes. Both tours involved global brands with a strong presence in South Africa. Land Rover and DHL made a huge commitment to the RWC trophy tour: Over a period of 17 months, the trophy went to each of the 32 participating countries. Nissan is new to the world of cricket and one would’ve thought they would grab an opportunity to announce their arrival. Not so. Their version of a world trophy tour: Over a period of just over two months, never take if off the Asian sub-continent.
Another is the dearth of social media activity. Maybe the ICC is strangled by its ESPN and Hotstar deals, but even so they are missing out on another opportunity to spread the game and reach the world’s millennials. The World T20’s official Twitter page, for example, has 63,695 followers. The world’s first golf major, the US Masters, starts four days after the World T20 final. In world sport, you don’t get more traditional than the Masters. Yet, even the Masters is doing a better job at attracting millennials – it has 460,550 Twitter followers!
The hard evidence is there to back up the assertion that the ICC should scrap the World T20 and replace it with a domestic professional game only.