Much has been said about the commercialisation of the game, about how there is too much cricket because sponsors and boards decree so, about how they are possibly killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Without ignoring the grains of truth inherent in all of these moans, what we don’t seem to have is a solution. “Ease up the calendar,” is easy to say, but when there are thousands of pounds (or whichever currency you deal with) to be made with every meaningless (meaningless in what sense?) bi-lateral one-day series, why would administrators desist? It’s a bit like asking a business house to control their sales for fear of a glut in the market. On the other hand, we probably don’t want to Wal-mart’ise the game either. So what do we do?
I suggest we begin with the humble calendar. Let each cricketing nation declare a formal and immutable calendar for the home season. England and Australia already have it, though they have started to stretch into the adjacent off-season weeks of late. Depending on the weather and the probable playing conditions, each team gets a pre-defined three-month window in a year to play the game at home. And with each team playing a full home season and one or two away series, we have steady cricket for each country for about six months in the year. Of the other six months, they play in the IPL or wherever for about three months (call it their incentive time if you will). And they have to compulsorily rest for three months. In the years of the World Cup (any of the three as they exist today), the host nation(s) gives up part or all of its season for the Cup.
So what’s the big deal, you may well ask. This is nothing more than a detailed way of saying, “ease up the calendar.” Yes, this only satisfies the players, in terms of the rigour of the international circuit; it does not cater to the profit motives of the administrators. How do we address that?
Shorn of all self-righteousness and pretence, what do the administrators want out of the game? They want to make the most out of the game, right? Is more cricket the only option? Is the money only on the field and in the corresponding television coverage? May be administrators can bring in business consultants and innovation gurus to analyse how else they can make money from the game? How else can we get a larger share of the spectator’s wallet apart from more and more cricket? How can we increase revenue at the gates and the venues? How can we bring in money on non-playing days? How can we create newer revenue streams and recurring income from the game’s interested followers? I’m sure a tight, focused business brief will generate the right answers. I have some ideas in this regard, but I’ll save them for my own entrepreneurial venture.
It’s time for cricket to apply the theory of constraints. Freeze on the schedule and then focus on generating ideas on how to get more revenue out of the game. Don’t treat the game as being in a single industry; instead, look at it as a conglomerate. If cricket had many profit centres like corporate houses like GE, Tata and Samsung has companies and divisions, would the way the game managed be different and better? I think so.