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Decoded: Can Cricket take the franchise route like football?

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Last updated on 10 Jul 2022 | 07:08 AM
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Decoded: Can Cricket take the franchise route like football?

Would International fixtures still continue to be cricket’s bread and butter?

"Where I am coming from is: you play franchise cricket around the globe; each country is allowed to have their franchise cricket, which is their domestic cricket, and then, every two years, you come and play a World Cup," former Indian head coach Ravi Shastri said in a discussion on ESPNCricinfo.

It raises a very pertinent discussion, should and could Cricket head to a franchise-dominated sport like football? The other day, at’s office, a few of us had this casual discussion, whether it is feasible for a traditionally international sport like cricket to go down the franchise route.

This debate only sparked off after the International Cricket Council (ICC) allowed for a bigger window for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to extend its brain-child tournament, the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The underlying point here is that the ICC not just acknowledged IPL’s success but also had the first big say on franchise cricket taking over the sport. Allowing for a bigger window essentially is a tight-lipped way of agreeing to the fact that franchise-based league is the future of the sport. But is it? If it is, is there any historical reference to suggest that cricket could go down the football-route?

Beneath the history

Cricket has been one such sport where change has been the only constant. A century or two ago, a timed Test match would have been considered blasphemy, forget full-fledged T20 cricket. But until the IPL, the Vitality Blast, the CPL T20 and the Big Bash League came around, a huge amount of the interest was in international cricket.

According to Crickonomics: The Anatomy of Modern Cricket, written by Stefan Szymanski and Tim Wigmore, until the 2000, Jon Long, the former head of strategy from ICC estimated that only 10% of the sport’s wealth came from club matches. For the longest time, Cricket lacked the main characteristic of all successful team sports: a strong club-competition.

However, the advent of IPL, the success of the club-cricket format has truly revolutionized the sport and the stigma that surrounded it. Cricket, at present, internationally has over 10 major T20 leagues, including the various now formatted ones, like T10, The Hundred and the 6ixty, a 60-ball tournament.

Breaking the Economics down

Since the start of the IPL, in 2008, the international cricketing calendar has gone from 12-month-a-year to 9-month-a-year, showing the dominance of club-cricket. BCCI, one of the richest boards in world cricket earns around INR 48,000 crore just from the IPL, which itself has seen an increase of INR 28,000 crore in the previous cycle. 

The current home domestic and international broadcast was sold at INR 6100 crore for the 2018-2023 cycle. The IPL rights are eight times more valuable for the BCCI than the bilateral tours. Economically too, shifting to a franchise-based calendar system would benefit the boards.

While international cricket could still continue to survive in countries like India, Australia and England, owing to their exposure to various formats and the economical backing from their franchise-based T20 leagues, players from other countries naturally tend to fixate on playing more IPL, BBL and CPL matches to make up for their income.

One of the biggest examples of that being the advent of England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)’s brain-child, The Hundred. It was seen as a competition that could help the ECB regain control over its summer without having to be reliant on the other two top nations, India and Australia on bilateral tours.

While the Hundred wouldn’t definitely be an overnight cash-cow, the sustainability of the league ensures a continued profit over the long time. Bilateral cricket has been bleeding, in fact, can be considered almost dead in most nations outside the big three.  

Club cricket has already started rivaling international cricket, with no major clashes in international fixtures during the time of the IPL. A portfolio of other T20 jobs from Pakistan Super League (PSL), Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), BBL and CPL could add a package more than international cricket could offer.

What is a football-like system?

For centuries, football has followed a very different rule to cricket, similar to the ones in the NBA or the NFL. International football fixtures are few and far in between regular club-fixtures.

The Premier League (England) for e.g. is a competition of the top twenty clubs in England, with three clubs relegated from the first league, as the top three teams in the second league get promoted. La Liga (Spain) also has similar rules and so does all the top world football leagues.

International fixtures, however, are restricted to a window during the regular season of the various footballing leagues. And, ultimately there is a window set aside once every four years for the ultimate title – the World Cup. However, cricket has a very different rule.

Cricket, for e.g. has three recognisable formats – in Test, One-Day International (ODI) and T20s. Alongside that, there are also the various local leagues, such as T10, The Hundred and now, the 6ixty, which all have their own rules. In such a varied-format sport, how would a franchise-format look like?

Cricket’s own conundrum

For cricket to house a franchise-based system like football, it would take the sacrifice of the formats. Unlike football, where all of the countries follow one unified playing rule, cricket has over four formats already, three officially recognised by the ICC.

And, for each of the three formats, there is already a competition associated with it – the World Test Championship, the ODI World Cup and the T20 World Cup. That is one of the biggest catches for cricket.

Having said that, however, cricket could still employ such a calendar for just the shortest format, which would take away bilateral completely from the calendar, replacing it with the domestic T20 competitions. If the leagues don’t go on simultaneously, it could even be a good representation of players in various leagues.

As things stand, cricket might still be stuck between international and franchise-style leagues but as the future heads, there could be certainly a possibility of cricket turning into a league-style play, just like football.

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