It is becoming an annual spectacle; every time the Indian Premier League (IPL) comes around, Test cricket's doomsday cult creep out of the woodwork and warn of the imminent demise of the purest form of the game. Many from this "I-hate-the-IPL/T20-cricket" brigade have genuine concerns and good intentions, but their suspicions are a little unbalanced. There are others who are simply sore about the success of the competition and the shortest format.
They moan about the degeneracy of the gentleman's game by money men and their hired prizefighters, about the unabashed celebration of lucre. And, of course, they never forget to scoff at the triumphant trumpeting of Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman. This is not meant to be another paean for the IPL, but is it really out to kill the game that brought it into existence? I tend to disagree: marathons have not gone out of existence because Usain Bolt is breaking sprint records.
Twenty20 will never replace the original game - it just lacks the subtlety and variety, and its memory-shelf life is limited. But it's still fun. I watched each of the 37 deliveries that Rajasthan Royals batsman Yusuf Pathan faced and enjoyed all of it, but the only thing I remember now is his run-out. Coming back to the perceived woes of the traditional game, crowds are staying away because no one wants to see Australia beat Pakistan or the West Indies to a pulp.
Put England, India or South Africa there and then tell me if Test cricket is on its death bed. If anything, the IPL and Twenty20 are bringing new recruits to the game by taking it to a wider audience. It has got the International Olympic Committee interested and the sport is now finding some airtime in the US. That cannot be bad for a sport struggling to reach beyond the Commonwealth. Most importantly, the IPL is making cricketers richer and you cannot find fault with that. It can stop the flux of Caribbean cricketers to the NBA and raise the standards of strugglers from Bangladesh.
Many purists cringe at the sight of cricketers being auctioned. Would they prefer cricketers to be bonded labourers and left to the whims of ham-fisted board chiefs - men who can bar you from your livelihood at will, as was the case with Mohammed Yousuf and Younus Khan, or dump you if they do not agree with their views, as Kevin Pietersen discovered. Virtually every cricketer, from Sir Donald Bradman to Sachin Tendulkar, has suffered at the hands of cranky officialdom, and the likes of Andrew Flintoff and Shane Bond are surely happy at this riddance.
They are not short of patriotism, they have just had enough of Bolshevism. The days of feudalism in cricket are over. Capitalism has come to the fore and cricketers deserve every penny they earn. Why begrudge them? I can write until I die or you can be a doctor for life, but a sportsman is just one injury away from financial disarray. Post-retirement avenues are limited - there are only so many you can accommodate on sports pages or commentary boxes.
Now Modi is not a man I admire, but as an administrator, at least he shares the wealth with cricketers -unlike others in authority. Moreover, he has succeeded in making cricket a lot more accessible; the IPL is on the a terrestrial channel in England and YouTube on the internet. You cannot say the same about the International Cricket Council or the different boards worldwide. So the problems of Test cricket lie elsewhere - criticising the IPL and T20 is just a distraction. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org