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IPL leading cricket's revolution

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Mihir Bose | 13:50 UK time, Monday, 2 June 2008

Twenty20 cricket may teach us very little on the field of play but, off it, the Indians have built a model which will undoubtedly change world cricket.

I must confess that a week ago when I arrived in India I was sceptical as to what the Indian Premier League meant - but its impact soon became clear.

The Indians have now got a tournament that, even before the semi-finals, had been watched by more than 100 million on television, while the final alone was expected to attract some 30 million.

Crowds have packed out stadiums and the final saw 55,000 fill a new stadium two hours' drive from Mumbai.

The unfancied Rajasthan team won the competition on Sunday night.<br />
Photo: Indian Express

In a sense, the Indian Premier League has done for cricket what the Premier League in England has done for club football except that, in the Indian fashion, it has been done like a popular yogic exercise where you stand on your head.

The Indian Premier League closely studied the English Premier League before it was launched and, like the top division in English football, it brought together high profile overseas stars, mixed them with home grown talent and had them tutored and coached mostly by foreign managers - many of them, like Kepler Wessels and Dennis Lillee, great stars of the game.

On my flight was a man from Panini trying to get the Italian football sticker makers an Indian cricket market, while as I left the final I saw an Indian wearing a Cristiano Ronaldo shirt.

This showed the marketing potential of the IPL and it is this football market the Indians want to match.

They will now capitalise on this potential and expand their marketing of merchandise - because they have finally found a formula that can make the domestic game attractive.

Cricket is that odd team game (at least among major sports) where nowhere in the world does the domestic product attract spectators in any real numbers.

Cricket's appeal is based on international games - the Ashes series, Tests and one-day internationals. County cricket, domestic cricket in India, Australia, West Indies, you name it, is often played out in front of empty grounds.

And yet the IPL has proved a success even before fan loyalty, which is the bedrock of the English game, had been secured - this is where the inversion or, if you like, the yogic habit of standing on your head comes in.

The English Premier League may have been a colossal and very successful search for money, but Premier League clubs know that one thing they do not have to worry about is the loyalty and support of their fans.

Now that the Indians have shown that the IPL can work, they have to spend time before the next season working on fan loyalty and making sure supporters can be attracted and retained by the city teams that have so suddenly mushroomed.

The Indians would argue they had to go for this yogic inversion because the success of Twenty20 and India's totally unexpected victory in the Twenty20 World Cup meant they knew they had a market for this.

But this also reflects the way the Indians can seize moments.

Before India, also totally unexpectedly, won the 1983 World Cup, one-day cricket was shunned by Indians. Cricket officials boasted India would never take to it and Indians had particular horror for what they considered the gimmicks of Packer.

Then India won and within months the world of Indian cricket was revolutionised, with one-day cricket taking over from Test cricket.

Something very similar is happening with the 20-over game.

A remarkable feature of the tournament has been the success of Shane Warne's team in winning the trophy.

Part of the only franchise with strong British influence, it has been the best organised and Warne, as captain and coach, has mocked the use of computer models and modern technology, using relatively unknown Indians and Australians, like Yusuf Pathan and Shane Watson, to fashion a winning team.

The Australian influence in this tournament has been significant and other cricketing countries have also been present in South Africa, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The only absence has been the English. The Indians are convinced stars like Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff would love the money and excitement and it is hard to see how the England and Wales Cricket Board can keep them away from the next edition.

Another key to the success of the tournament, Indians believe, has been its marriage to Bollywood.

Bollywood has always had an interest in cricket but now superstars own franchises and some of them performed for the spectators before the final, alongside Cirque de Soleil artistes flown in from Montreal at a cost of $2m or so.

What this has helped do is convert the game of cricket into 'tamasha' - a rich Indian word that means fun, fiesta and excitement - and the crowds have lapped it up.

The franchises may not break even for some time, but the Indian board has made more money from this tournament alone than it did in the whole of last year.

Sony, who broadcast the matches, have never before seen such ratings and so popular has this prime time television cricket show been that, in the last six weeks, Bollywood producers have delayed releases of their major films.

This is the holiday season in India and normally the time for new movies to be released - but they have had to wait for Warne to lift the trophy.

The Indians are convinced that they have attracted new crowds, with women quite prominent, and watching thousands of Indian stream out of the ground at well past midnight was like seeing a dozen movie houses emptying after their last screening.

But, however they have done it, the fact remains that for the first time in many decades the Indians have created a product that is unique in cricket - and world cricket must take note.

Comments

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  • 1. At 4:25pm on 02 Jun 2008, mustplaypoker wrote:

    excellent article.

    I hope this will be the death of test cricket.

    The aussies must be burning with jealousy now.

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  • 2. At 5:10pm on 02 Jun 2008, Skylynx wrote:

    Mihir, excellent article once again. One thing I would like to know is why was there a complete lack of coverage shown by the BBC even after the popularity and appeal was evident to see?

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  • 3. At 5:11pm on 02 Jun 2008, LordLarge wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 4. At 5:17pm on 02 Jun 2008, PRlYESH wrote:

    Glad that you seem to have enjoyed your stay in India.
    Hopefully the next season of IPL will get better coverage on the site once the English players join in.

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  • 5. At 5:17pm on 02 Jun 2008, PRlYESH wrote:

    Oh and.. Great Article!

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  • 6. At 5:19pm on 02 Jun 2008, madjackmcmad wrote:

    why would the success of an indian domestic competiition mean the end of test cricket? - because this is what it is - domestic indian cricket.

    It's great that it's captivated Asian audiences but i've not watched any of it - i'm not interested in the constant diet of 4's and 6's, cricket to me is a lot more than that.

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  • 7. At 5:30pm on 02 Jun 2008, risktaker616 wrote:

    in response to comment 1:

    I do hope you are joking about hoping this is the death of test match cricket as this is, in my opinion, clearly the best form of cricket and those who do not enjoy this form of cricket do not understand/appreciate cricket in the purest sense. Obviously money talks and there is a clear market for 20/20 but hopefully it won't lower the standard of test match cricket.

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  • 8. At 6:28pm on 02 Jun 2008, sumofmarc wrote:

    If Twenty20 will be the death of any form of cricket, it will be ODIs and 50 over games - not test matches.

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  • 9. At 6:39pm on 02 Jun 2008, Rajesh_Taylor wrote:

    The IPL gave me my 2008 sporting moment of the year (ok so far), forget Hatton - Mayweather, Chelsea - Man Utd European Cup Final , it was Sreenath crying like a baby from getting a finger slap from a fellow Test teammate no less.

    On a serious note, as an England supporter I hope the ECB allow their centrally contracted players to play next season, especially our middle order. They need batting time and should last about 20 overs.

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  • 10. At 8:15pm on 02 Jun 2008, AbuDhabiCounty wrote:

    They need to bring those cheerleaders back.

    As a regular IPL viewer, it's so boring just looking at the players discussing field positions and what they're gonna have for their tea inbetween balls.

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  • 11. At 9:31pm on 02 Jun 2008, AndyPlowright wrote:

    There seems to be many people wondering why the BBC coverage has been limited and why British journalism hasn't covered it more.

    It is the fault of the IPL themselves with the various terms and conditions they demanded when it came to the reporting.

    These two Cricinfo links should help explain some of the story to those not aware:

    http://content-usa.cricinfo.com/ipl/content/story/345634.html

    http://content-usa.cricinfo.com/ipl/content/story/346433.html


    So the reason the like of Cricinfo haven't done more is because the IPL haven't allowed them to do more!

    It is this quote from one of the links that truly puzzles me:

    "Website reporters, though granted accreditation, will be given access to the venue the day before the match and for post match press conferences only - not during matches."

    The IPL is clearly a tightly-run operation that is trying to be as commercial as possible. It wants to be dominant. So why were website reporters banned from venues on match days? Why the restrictions over photography? Proection of interests or did the IPL organisers have something to hide? Every commercial venture wants maximum publicity. Journalists provide publicity, be you the IPL or Girls Aloud. It makes no sense for a commerical enterprise like the IPL to reduce the potential coverage for the IPL.

    The IPL is clearly going to be around for a few more seasons. Fine. It doesn't interest me at all. 20-20 isn't my thing. I hope the ICC do something constructive for once and come to some agreement with the BCCI over future IPL scheduling.

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  • 12. At 9:56pm on 02 Jun 2008, GBpueblo wrote:

    Good article but very say that BBC has not given IPL the coverage it dereves.

    I think it has something to do with whats going on with English cricket. Though cricket started in UK but English do not get excited about cricket any longer. On the other hand, Inida is all set to take the game of cricket to a new level. All credit goes to Indian fans anf fans around the World who enjoyed IPL. I did tremdously.

    I tell I my friends to go to BBC when ever you need some serious journalism. But I sorry that I was so wrong. BBC has disappointed me for not covering IPL.

    I think BBC is none better than English cricket fans. Both are illusionisrts who think that IPL is a wastage of time. I could write six million good things about IPL but don't have the time. IPL is a huge success if you only look at the fact that India is un-earthing those 19-20 year old superstar cricketers thru this event.

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  • 13. At 9:58pm on 02 Jun 2008, weriseatdawn wrote:

    Fantastic Article....
    Pity about the coverage that the IPL got from the BBC which was minimal.

    Test cricket is the purest form of the game and will stay. It seperates the boys from the men.

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  • 14. At 10:24pm on 02 Jun 2008, sandy_chandra wrote:

    I think its premature to say that T20 will kill test cricket, in fact it might even attract new fans.
    Let me explain. As a kid I never quite enjoyed watching test cricket, but once I started enjoying ODIs, I started paying attention to Test matches. I felt like watching players I liked, even in Test matches. Now I love Tests; much more so than the male members of my family!
    I could have never understood Tests without the ODIs. I think the same is true for lot of kids who start watching ODIs first and then move to Test.

    As far as the IPL is concerned, I think it will help cricket-watching for other countries as well. For instance, people in the subcontinent, who might have otherwise stayed away from neutral games, might watch a match between Eng and Aus if, say Sean Marsh or Watson are playing.

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  • 15. At 10:27pm on 02 Jun 2008, Neil Desperandum wrote:

    Good luck to India with their IPL if that is what they want, but to use a cliche "its just not cricket". Comparing 20/20 to test cricket is like comparing draughts to chess, or hot dogs to a meal in a Michelin starred restaurant.

    Test cricket will always be THE game in England, and 20/20 a useful diversion for those who haven't the attention span to follow real cricket. I'm already bored with 20/20, and won't go to any county matches this year, unlike in previous seasons. The format is becoming tired and few matches generate much excitement. The reason is that teams like Leicestershire have become very successful with the use of negative tactics, and often the result is known after relatively few overs.

    The same thing will happen in India I suspect, and the bubble will burst after a few years.

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  • 16. At 11:55pm on 02 Jun 2008, redhotbed wrote:

    d ipl is rubbish, its just a fake fing which lacks any skill n shudn even b considerd bein cald criket. its all bwt test cric as dat shows d tru tactical skil n individual skil of a team or player.

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  • 17. At 11:58pm on 02 Jun 2008, joshbowlslegspin wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 18. At 05:25am on 03 Jun 2008, mannubhai wrote:

    20-20 cricket might not contain the luster of Test cricket, but it no doubt has carried the game to every nook and corner of the country. Its a mean to entertain people and provide the cricketers enough financial security for their lifetime.

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  • 19. At 06:06am on 03 Jun 2008, fuzzy_reddevil wrote:

    I would say this begins the death of ODI cricket. ODIs have become way too predictable. Test cricket will always survive since you keep getting good matches after matches while nobody wants to watch a India vs Hong Kong ODI.

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  • 20. At 08:48am on 03 Jun 2008, adayal wrote:

    A safe commentary - but the superficial 'balance' in your blog doesn't conceal your purist yearnings, Mr. Bose! A few thoughts:

    (1) The 'threat', if there is one, is to one-day cricket and not the test version. The test game survived the one-day onslaught of the 1980s, and even got stronger. The real casualty will be the 50 over version, which carries none of the technical appeal that tests do, and now seem to drag on for an eternity when set alongside the T20 format. We'll end up with an army of people who love both tests and T20s...I'm one.

    (2) The BBC's coverage of the IPL reflects the same stodgy attitude that's prevented the English from playing in it. That it has only been covered in opinion pieces and blogs with even the scorecards absents, suggests the presence of a tweed-jacket wearing BBC sports editor who is simply too blinkered to accept this is not some peripheral freakshow.

    Roll on IPL Ver 2.0!!

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  • 21. At 09:31am on 03 Jun 2008, prateek266 wrote:

    IPL is certainly here to stay, that is alright, but thing to worry about is the prospect of four or five such leagues in a year. If IPL gets space on the ICC calender then the governing body would be not able to deny others.
    I have got bored with this format.
    If we keep seeing such bang-bang cricket then the fans will not stay, of that I am sure.
    I am crammed up and no more I can take of it.
    Mr Bose who has written one of the best cricket books I have ever come across- A Maidan View, of late has been writing panegyrically about IPL and all times he has failed to take into accout the excess aspect of it.
    If next year just after the IPL another league, maybe in England, begins then many fans will bid adieu to cricket.
    ICC take note of this. It is not all that beautiful,

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  • 22. At 10:05am on 03 Jun 2008, MontyPanesar wrote:

    I dont like 20-20 that much

    There is too much of it at the moment

    Tests are the best form of cricket - thats where you rate how good players are.

    I dont care if Dhoni hits 66 consecutive 20-20 hundreds, he is still an average player at best.

    The more money in cricket, the less players will care about representing their country - just like the England football team!

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  • 23. At 11:32am on 03 Jun 2008, absincam wrote:

    All the recent talk has been of the success of the IPL. But if we go back several months we remember that the IPL was created out of what was essentially a knee-jerk reaction to the rebel Indian Cricket League. Since then, the ICL appears to have drifted into obscurity.

    Mr Bose, any news on what might now become of the ICL given what appears to have been a resounding victory for the BCCI?

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  • 24. At 2:34pm on 03 Jun 2008, siddell123 wrote:

    A great article, and very much on the money, the Indian Board have masterminded the IPL to perfection, as you say making huge profits from the last 6 weeks or so.

    Andy in response to your comments on the media restrictions from the IPL, what they have done is given people a taste, given them a chance to see what is going on without actually showing them anything...i think this is a fantastic move, as it has created a bit of mystery...it channels all traffic about the IPL through their own official channels, only pay per view TV and only those paying extremely large sums have rights to coverage.

    This is part of the reason they have made such huge profits, there is no profit for the BCCI in the BBC, or Channel 9 in Oz or Cricinfo having any coverage, as they don't recieve any of that traffic...if every person who would normally use those websites for cricket must use the BCCI official site, their traffic soars, and thus they can sell advertising space to a website with the only IPL pics on it, and to a site with a far larger volume of traffic than if coverage was spread accross nations.

    Well Done BCCI

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  • 25. At 3:17pm on 03 Jun 2008, rambo60 wrote:

    as usual a very interesting artical by mihar but i belive he has a touch over egged the pudding at presant only one franchise has posted a profit thats the knightridders and even they had to reduce ticket pricesas have all the franchises to fill thier stadium and indeed the attendances have been steady overall rather than complete sellouts me thinks old mihar has been seduced by the ipl bollywood the heat and rest of the onterage that composes this circus

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  • 26. At 5:59pm on 03 Jun 2008, indiandocuk wrote:

    Mihir

    Spot on - that IPl has defied odds to become a roaring success. For me the game of cricket comes before anything-even my support for India. In that sense, I was and still am worried about the impact of TT on ODI's and tests. Hopefully test cricket will be unscathed but the huge success of IPL means that the ODI will find fewer fans!

    Why did the BBC and Sky decide to black out the IPL? Agreed that the UK contract went to Setanta and not Sky, but still this was a sporting event watched by millions in India and thousands here in UK [many of my friends in UK have taken Setanta just cos of this!].BBC could have shown at least a few clips now and then- after charging us a leg and an arm as annual license fees, dont they have a responsibilty to show some clips or highlights which am sure the cricket lovers based in UK- english,indian,bangladeshi or pakistani-would have loved to watch?

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  • 27. At 6:24pm on 03 Jun 2008, Jayaraman wrote:

    One important aspect of the IPL is the irrelevance of national identity that made the improbable odd couples to come together. Smith and Warne at the same side and Sanath trying to rip Murali apart when they faced each other. The finals saw big support for the Rajathan XI and on individual basis at least one guy can be sure of support from a section of the crowd. National pride is given secondary importance. This format can be exported to China and US and possibly Europe and could become truly popular.

    Jayaraman

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  • 28. At 02:36am on 04 Jun 2008, Hoodiez'n'Yoofs wrote:

    I dont know why everyone is blaming the bbc for the lack of coverage, even cricinfo had difficulties in portraying the events....the IPL messed it up when it gave out the online publishing rights and also tv broadcasting rights. I mean how many people would opt for Setanta? most people would prefer either terrestrial channels or Sky sports to cover...the bbc and sky sports have huge audiences....i hope the IPL learn from their mistakes!

    However its good to see some unheralded talent make a name for themselves players like Marsh, Tanvir and Y Pathan all played well.

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  • 29. At 03:08am on 04 Jun 2008, sweetalkinguy wrote:

    There is a big dichotomy here. Pyjama/thrash cricket is all very well, but the big audiences depend upon star names taking part. In order to become a star name in cricket, one has to do well at Test cricket. The two forms of the game call for different sets of abilities and attributes from the players. In particular, it is difficult to see how decent bowlers can develop in the absence of 3, 4 or 5 -day games. Will the BCCI require a Sepp Blatter six-plus-five solution, ie, compulsory that all teams must contain six batsmen and five players who must bowl four overs each? Will they adopt American League baseall rules, i.e. the pitcher pitches and a designated hitter bats in place of the pitcher? The danger is that the game ceases to be an equal contest between bat and ball as cricket traditionally is (baseball too!), and if it loses this, then it will lose its spectator-appeal. The use of floodlights is an issue too.

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  • 30. At 5:10pm on 04 Jun 2008, themeninblue wrote:

    Well , even if based on all the comments the naysayers state that India and the Indian game does not play real cricket I have to point to the fact that regardless of that we are the only team to have consistently challenged australia in longer form of the game ( the more pure form ), England in the meanwhile are pretty abysmal in all forms of the game so even if their supporters may like to believe the test game is it ..... they still consistenly fail the "test" like the series last year in England.

    So Indians make no bones about the fact that this is a pure "tamasha" , but who says we cant be good at both a good tamasha as well as a more docile pure form of the game. I love both , like both and can easily reconcile the dichotomy of their existence , I just want us to beat england at both types.... which currently we do. It is a view of the state of our country the ability to reconcile and exist with directly opposite points of view .... some call it hipocracy , we call it maturity which comes from a civilization that is a couple of thousand years old.

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  • 31. At 6:16pm on 04 Jun 2008, VancouverMU wrote:

    There is no doubt that the IPL has been a huge crowd-pleaser and great money-spinner.

    From the cricket purists' perspective, I am disappointed that the true art of batsmanship has now been forced to deteriorate in to a slogging contest. Also, how frustrating for bowlers being hit all around the park. What is that going to do for someone's confidence... or is it all worth it because of the money?

    Someone has mentioned that the crowd will be there to see great players, and that those players can only become great if they play Test cricket. I agree to some point, but, the longer the IPL goes on the sooner "great" 20/20 cricketers will emerge. Eventually, Test cricket will not be the yardstick with which to measure someones's true greatness. That is a shame.

    I, for one, am all for entertainment. The IPL certainly provides that. However, the measure of a truly great cricketer will always be Test cricket.

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  • 32. At 11:54pm on 04 Jun 2008, ChennaiCrikfan wrote:

    "In order to become a star name in cricket one has to do well at test cricket"

    Says who?

    Aren't watson, yusuf pathan, david hassey, marsh, suresh raina stars already. They will do very well in t20 in the future even if they dont play test cricket.

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  • 33. At 5:23pm on 05 Jun 2008, ExPatNowInUS wrote:

    A nice article, and, as others have observed, a welcome correction to the attitude many of the UK sports media have displayed. I, like others posting responses here, find it disappointing that the IPL was not better covered in the UK. I bought the IPL package (available on both main satellite platforms here in the USA) as soon as it became available, and watched many matches with great pleasure. My older sons -- both cricketers, ages 12 and 9 -- greatly enjoyed the matches (while continuing to enjoy test cricket, too, btw). Most of the cricketers whom I know here, both adult and youth, have followed the IPL with great interest, notwithstanding the reservations of the purists.

    The hostile or, at best, condescending attitudes from a good number of British cricket correspondents really surprised me, and it is hard not to ponder the possibility of rather unflattering explanations for those attitudes. The IPL clearly worked, and the ECB now, after predictably missing the boat first time around, seems to be taking a sensible approach (learn, adapt, modify, and produce an English version).

    I see nothing harmful to the rest of cricket in the IPL, quite the contrary -- just look at the audiences, on TV and at the grounds; look at the teams, with their combination of international stars and young domestic players; look at the fantastic success of Rajasthan with the message that great captaincy and team work can overcome apparent disadvantages; and look at how good bowling, good batting, good fielding, and good captaincy were rewarded (labelling T20 a "slogging contest" is, imho, extremely misleading). As everyone sees, this is a format of the game that can be exported beyond the test world, while drawing new fans from within traditional cricketing countries. And it can do so while also showing many very positive aspects of the game.

    This is also a very significant moment in the social history of global sports (although overlooked outside of major cricketing countries -- most of the coverage here, for example, has been about cheerleaders): for the first time, a country from what used to be called the "third world" has created and successfully run a major, commercial sports league comparable with the top European football leagues, the four main professional sports leagues in North America, and the lesser brethren of some of those leagues in countries such as Japan and Australia.

    A big advance for cricket, which will certainly re-shape the game, almost entirely, as I see it, for the best.

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