India’s ban on players taking part in overseas leagues, and a consequent inability to win a Twenty20 World Cup since the dawn of the Indian Premier League 14 years ago, may just be the price of Test cricket’s global survival.
That was the earnest takeaway of India’s thoughtful coach Rahul Dravid after a night on which England, a team stacked with Big Bash League veterans led by the match award winner Alex Hales and captain Jos Buttler, raced away to a victory that set up a replay of the 1992 ODI World Cup final against England at the MCG.
Cricket’s tectonic plates will be shifting in parallel with the build-up to the tournament decider, as the International Cricket Council board meets to decide on the re-election of the current chair, Greg Barclay, before discussions begin on how to divide up the $US3 billion ($4.5 billion) broadcast rights deal recently agreed with Disney Star.
That money comes almost entirely from the enormous size of the Indian market, which has also made the IPL cricket’s biggest commercial property by far. And yet the embargo on Indian players going to overseas T20 leagues such as the BBL is having the counterweight effect of restricting the national team’s array of experience and ability to win trophies.
For Dravid, one of cricket’s soundest minds, BBL exposure would help his team, but the flow-on effects are numerous. It was startling, but not entirely inaccurate, for him to speak of how West Indies cricket has devolved due to T20 franchise clashes with its home season over the past decade.
“There’s no doubt about it that England, a lot of their players have come here and played in this tournament, it’s certainly showed,” Dravid said. “It’s tough, I think it’s very difficult for Indian cricket because a lot of these tournaments happen right in the peak of our season. It’s a huge challenge for us. Yes, I think a lot of our boys maybe do miss out on the opportunities of playing in a lot of these leagues, but it’s really up to the BCCI to make that decision.
“The thing is, it’s right in the middle of our season and with the kind of demand there would be for Indian players, if you allowed all the Indian players to play in these leagues, we would not have domestic cricket. Our domestic cricket, our Ranji Trophy would be finished, and that would mean Test cricket would be finished.”
For Jay Shah, the BCCI’s secretary and representative on the ICC board, these sorts of balances must also be considered when he confers with Barclay over how much of the global rights deal India will demand for itself.