YEARENDER | Franchise the future of cricket but Australia rule here and now

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Staff Writer

Joined: Nov 2016

Cricket got a glimpse into its future during a momentous 2023 but its present continues to be dominated by Australia, who bagged the Test and 50-overs world titles under Pat Cummins’s inspiring leadership.

After two years of intense lobbying, cricket finally got the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) seal of approval to be part of the 2028 Los Angeles Games having last featured in the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza in 1900.

The sport also dipped its toes into a lucrative new market in the US in 2023 with Major League Cricket (MLC).

With the Indian American CEOs of Microsoft and Adobe among its backers, MLC hopes to squeeze cricket into a crowded sporting landscape dominated by baseball, basketball and American football.

While franchise cricket is driving the game’s global growth, it may also supplant national boards to become the primary employer of players.

The owners of eight of the 10 Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises also own at least one team in another foreign competition.

The owners of the IPL’s Mumbai and Delhi franchises have acquired teams in new T20 tournaments in the US, South Africa and United Arab Emirates.

Franchise cricket’s expanding footprint has spurred national boards into action, with England introducing multiyear contracts and Australia hiking pay in a bid to essentially retain control over where and when players can play.

Neil Maxwell, Australia’s most prominent player agent, told Reuters earlier this year that the current contract system was not sustainable in the long term and that cricket was becoming more like football.

“The landscape is changing, similar to the EPL system where playing for the club is the priority,” he said referring to the English Premier League.

Already awash with cash, the IPL could be set for a huge financial boost with Saudi Arabia reportedly set to splurge billions of dollars for a stake.

Should the deep-pocketed Saudis enter the fray, more players could be tempted to decline national contracts in favour of lucrative stints in the IPL and other global leagues, setting the stage for club v country confrontations.

India’s powerful board (BCCI) does not allow any of its players, even those without central contracts, to take part in foreign leagues.

But while the IPL has been wary of antagonising the BCCI it is not a stretch to imagine the pair butting heads over player contracts in the coming years.

While those are the unmistakable signs of things to come, Australia are clearly living in the moment. Barely five months after beating India in the World Test Championship final at The Oval, Australia got the better of Rohit Sharma’s men again to claim a record-extending sixth ODI World Cup title in Ahmedabad.

A deathly silence fell over the colossal Narendra Modi Stadium where 93,000 predominantly India fans sat crestfallen as Australia ended the host’s unbeaten run in a stunning title decider.

Should Australia deliver another successful campaign in the T20 edition in the West Indies and US next year they would become the first team to hold all three World Cup titles at the same time. 



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