Plenty empty cricket
Is there a danger of Twenty20 overkill, wonders Bob Willis, after the formation of Royals2020.
Last Updated: 10/02/10 12:04pm
I can't help feeling that Hampshire's decision to join Rajasthan Royals in a global franchise is an example of Twenty20 overkill.
I have no problem with the Twenty20 format itself, but trying to shoe-horn even more into the English and International timetable appears counter-productive to me.
What with the IPL, the Champions League, International Twenty20s, the Twenty20 World Championship and the domestic competitions I would have thought there is ample sufficiency of Twenty20 cricket now!
There is a danger of all of these different tournaments just melting away with no-one remembering anything about them.
My biggest problem with this matter, though, is that the IPL is a private operation; it isn't underpinning the world game nor is money going to grass-roots English cricket from the Rajasthan Royals, as far as I can tell.
The IPL is not the ICC, the ECB, Cricket Australia or an officially-run board that is fostering cricket in that particular country.
It is a purely financial exercise to make the shareholders money and I have a problem with that when they are cutting across a system which is trying to provide cricketers for the national side.
Shane Warne, it appears, favours phasing out the 50-over game to free up more room for Twenty20 cricket. The question is - is that what fans want? Let me know your thoughts below.
Unfortunately, I don't think the counties who run our county game actually know what the fans want.
Clearly they have decided that supporters don't want to sit and watch 50-over cricket and that they would probably like to see the 40-over game that is going to be played in England this summer becoming the new one-day international format. But I don't think that is a universal view.
The likes of India and Australia very much like the 50-over format, which also offers the TV men more advertising slots.
What is clear is that we seem determined to play floodlit cricket in this country and, coincidentally, Hampshire along with Nottinghamshire have probably got the best lights in England.
But I'm still sceptical about how effective this will be because when it's dark in this country in this country in the summer it's seldom warm.
You've got a period between mid-May and August where it's light until nine or 10 o'clock at night. So the idea seems to be to flood the market with 20 and 40 over cricket played under lights when people are available to watch it.
I thought the original idea for Twenty20 cricket in England was to play at tea-time so that kids could go after school even during term-time. You are not going to get many five to 10-year-olds staying up on a regular basis until 10.30pm at night watching cricket under floodlights.
The success of the venture all depends on the demand for the product and if Hampshire's association with Royals2020 does create a financial imbalance in the county game, as appears likely, that's simply the way of the economic world.
We see in football, rugby - pretty much every sport - that money talks.
I will be interested to see how the global branding of Royals 2020 works; it is potentially something of a minefield and we'd certainly want to avoid a complicated situation similar to the difficulties the West Indies have found themselves in over sponsorship and television rights.
But I can't get away from the fact that coaches and players alike say they want to play less cricket and rest more, while all that comes out are bigger programmes from the ECB with more cricket than the previous year.
Throw in other satellites appearing from around the world and you've got a very congested marketplace.