Tag Archives: IPL

Cricket balls

Will white ball contracts spell the end for Test cricket?

Test cricket was once the cornerstone of our great game, it was the pinnacle, the ultimate stage on which to showcase your skills. The La Scala of the cricketing world.

Grace, Bradman, Hutton, Lloyd, Gavaskar, Botham, Lillee  — the list goes on of greats whose careers have been defined by their performances in the Test arena. But is this a thing of the past?

In case you missed it, England internationals, Adil Rashid, Alex Hales and Reece Topley have all turned their back on red ball cricket as the trio have signed ‘white ball’ contracts with their respective counties and in doing so, almost certainly ended their Test careers.

All white now

As we all know, cricket is not what it once was. With a new, more dynamic audience craving speed, innovation and power, white ball cricket is thriving. So much so that worldwide domestic T20 competitions and their teams are now investing astronomical sums of money in players that have little hope nor little ambition of Test selection.

Tymal Mills is earning more in the IPL than England captain Joe Root

I present to you, Tymal Mills. The Sussex T20 specialist recently landed a whopping £1.4 million from Indian Premier League side, Royal Challengers Bangalore, which rather astonishingly, is just shy of double the salary of England Test skipper, Joe Root.

Not bad for a guy that has taken just three international T20 wickets in four matches.

Players such as Mills certainly cannot be begrudged or blamed for committing to the shorter format, but can the same be said about those with realistic hopes for Test match selection? Do players have a duty to support the game’s most traditional format?

Not according to former England bowler Chris Tremlett: “Some people will be disappointed that Hales and Rashid are no longer putting their hats in the ring for Test cricket, but the game is moving forward.

“Like it or not, this is the way modern-day cricket is going and it’s a personal choice for the players in question. You look at IPL contracts and that is where the money is – players are bound to follow it.”

Dagger through the heart

So, as the game continues to evolve into a calendar full of limited overs games, will higher profile players make themselves unavailable for Test selection as they eye the big bucks?

One man who could indeed do that is South Africa’s A B De Villiers. The quite brilliant Protea batsman is one of the most sought after one-day players in world. Despite being in the middle of a Test series battle against Australia, rumours persist that this could be his last outing in white clothing as he looks to cash in.

If that is the case then it would be a dagger through the heart of Test cricket and could potentially encourage other high profile players to follow suit.

Testing times

So how do the players see it?

“No one is watching it [Test cricket] and soon, it won’t be viable. There’s no money in it because it’s all in T20 leagues and we have to be worried about that,” says England Test opener, Alistair Cook.

Whilst England’s current limited overs captain, Eoin Morgan echoes those thoughts:  “Test match cricket has had a lot to worry about for a while now. If something was going to be done about it, it should have already been done already.”

Make county cricket great again

I agree with Eoin Morgan that something should have been done but the rapid rise of T20 cricket has made it difficult for the ICC and the respective governing bodies to come up with a solution. Or perhaps I’m being rather naive and in fact they see T20 as a lucrative cash cow they want to milk for all it’s worth, even if it means the Test arena is neglected.

So what are the options?

Financial Incentives

If players want the big bucks, then give it to them.

The ‘Test Championship’ has been talked about for some time now with no sign of it forthcoming. The ICC need to introduce this as soon as possible and offer big rewards, not only for the team winning it but for standout individual performances.

Show the players they can be rewarded.

Make county cricket great again

The stereotypical view of first class cricket in England is that it’s miserably cold, viewed by a solitary fan accompanied by his or her Jack Russell and played by glorified club cricketers.

Whilst that isn’t the case, it’s not a million miles from it and that should be a huge concern.

The ECB has to start engaging the youth of Britain and raise interest levels in the longer format and they need to do that by introducing a friendlier schedule.

Nobody wants to watch cricket in April with a flask of coffee in their hands and a blanket over their lap, so stop shaping the schedule to suit limited overs games and start playing first class games in school holidays, even if that means a shorter schedule.

Prioritise quality over quantity and make it fun.

Let the kids see a fiery spell of fast bowling on a quick bouncy pitch in July, not a 200 ball half century in April.

Innovate in the Test arena

The shorter formats are innovative, so why isn’t Test cricket?

Day/night Test matches have been a great hit with the crowds — let’s have more of them.

What about introducing penalty runs for slow over rates? Even as a cricketing purist I can acknowledge that the longer format can be painful to watch at times. So why not introduce an ‘over clock’? All overs must be bowled inside an allowed time or penalty runs are awarded to the batting teams.

Yes, these ideas aren’t perfect, but it’s a start.

Whatever is done can’t come quickly enough, because as it stands Test cricket and its future looks bleak.

Cricket balls photo by Farrukh via Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The path that leads to cricketing stardom is changing

There were a few surprises in this year’s Indian Premier League auction.

Ben Stokes was once again the big-ticket item, joining the Rajasthan Royals for £1.4m, but his Test captain Joe Root – considered one of the best batsmen in the world – was unable to secure a contract.

Knowing quite what those with the rupees are looking for is mightily difficult.

Previous records at IPL, Test, or even first-class level don’t count for as much with these selectors.

They need box office performances as often as possible and they need them now.

The path a young cricketer takes from the academy to global superstar is changing.

Composure under pressure

15 years ago, the approach taken for a player to become world-renowned was very different. Let’s take England’s Ian Bell as an example.

In 2003, a 21-year-old Bell had an indifferent season for Warwickshire. He scored 779 runs at an average of 28.85 with only one century in 16 matches.

But his temperament at the crease and ability to maintain his composed technique under pressure forced the England selectors to take notice.

The Australians had no answer to Bell’s batting during the 2013 Ashes series

A year later, he was in the Test side and despite taking a few years to fully adapt, he eventually became one of the most elegant batsmen to play for England, winning 118 caps and scoring 7,727 runs at an average of 42.69.

While a mainstay in the England team, it was only during the 2013 home Ashes series against Australia that Bell established himself as one of the world’s best – at the time – as he scored 562 runs at 62.44 with three centuries.

Previous criticisms that the Warwickshire batsman rarely scored runs when those around him couldn’t were dismissed. A 3-0 series victory flattered the hosts, as other than Bell, no English batsman averaged more than 39.

Bell was deservedly awarded the Man of the Series and with it a well-earned place amongst those at the top of the game.

It took a long time for Bell to earn global recognition for his talents. While he was a part of the England team in all formats from 2004 onwards, it was not until several years after his debut that he was firmly at the heart of a well-oiled winning machine, this being Andy Flower’s side who reached No.1 in the world rankings.

But in today’s game there are players who are embarking on rather different routes to stardom.

Leaving his mark down under

One big story to come out of the IPL auction was the Rajasthan Royals purchase of young all-rounder Jofra Archer for £800,000.

But the Bajan’s route to T20 cricket’s biggest tournament does not follow the path of those of taken by his older team-mates.

Archer with Sussex team-mate Chris Jordan

He first received attention when bowling at Chris Jordan in a net session in Barbados, who subsequently recommended that his coaches at Sussex take a look at Archer.

After signing on a pay-as-you-play contract because of injury concerns the all-rounder flourished on the south coast, proving his fitness, and ability to transform games in equal measure.

The 22-year-old was awarded a full professional contract in 2016 and a fabulous 2017 followed. He averaged 45.57 with the bat – scoring 638 runs including five 50s. But it was his performance with the ball that made headlines: 61 wickets at 25.29 apiece was no fluke.

This is where the careers of Archer and Bell diverge. While a 22-year-old Bell would have headed to the nets for the winter to consolidate his county form and continue to push for Test recognition, Archer has spent this last winter playing for the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash – Australia’s franchise T20 competition.

And he has been sensational. Meaty blows at the end of the innings have been useful, but once again his bowling has been the headline act. Fifteen wickets at 21.53 launched his side to the final – where they were ultimately defeated by a stunning Jake Weatherald century. This combined with his electric fielding has got the cricket world chattering.

Then the Royals swooped in and Archer will now have the platform to perform on domestic cricket’s biggest stage.

Now the wait

The IPL has given the Sussex seamer the opportunity to gain worldwide recognition before he even sets foot on the international scene. Archer has expressed his desire to play for England but due to residency issues – having been born in Barbados – he will not be eligible until the winter of 2022.

But Archer could be a superstar long before then.

With no international commitments the all-rounder will be available to play in most of the global franchise tournaments, and while benefitting his bank account, he will also raise his profile significantly by playing with those at the top of the game.

Compliments from his esteemed peers have only enhanced his reputation with South Africa quick Dale Steyn saying: “This kid is going to be special!”

So when 2022 does arrive, if Archer builds on his explosive form, he will enter the international scene already a box office asset.

The way cricket was 15 years ago allowed Bell to develop whilst an international player, but today, with the volume of cricket played and increasing number of global tournaments and lengthy series, cricketers must be the real deal as soon as they get the call up.

And on current evidence Archer certainly is. From an England perspective, if only 2022 were sooner…

The IPL’s five most expensive signings for 2017

The Indian Premier League (IPL) kicks off again this April, as cricket’s most lucrative tournament returns for its 10th year.

The annual auction took place in Bengaluru, India, last month where the eight franchises battled it out for the services of the world’s best players.

We take a look at the five most expensive signings in this year’s IPL auction and predict how they are going to fare in this year’s competition.

1. Ben Stokes – 145 million INR (£1.7m)

Team: Rising Pune Supergiants

Ben Stokes described as “complete carnage” the moment when he became the most expensive foreign player in this year’s competition.

Pune spent the majority of their budget on Stokes, but the fact he can bat, bowl and field puts him in an extremely rare category of cricketer, and this convinced the Supergiants to pounce late on.

Stokes will offer immense power hitting in the middle to latter overs, as well as being able to bowl effectively. Not forgetting the fact he is one of the best fielders in the world, with a bullet throw and bucket hands.

He is charismatic, powerful and fiery and has all the ingredients needed to be an IPL hit.

Stokes does not have fond memories of India though thanks to a poor 2016 World Cup. But if he can cope with the pressure being Pune’s main man, then expect him to be back with a vengeance.

2. Tymal Mills – 120 million INR (£1.4m)

Team: Royal Challengers Bangalore

£1.4m seems a lot to pay for a man that almost quit the game two years ago and has only played four T20 internationals, but Mills’ form and his variation has earned him a life-changing IPL contract.

Mills was diagnosed with a congenital back condition in 2015, which led to the decision that the seamer would only play T20 cricket and not the longer format of the game.

This has allowed him to focus on the short game and become a real T20 specialist. We saw evidence of this when England were in India earlier this year as Mills really caught the eye with some superb short spells, picking up a wicket in each of the three matches he played.

Mills’ slower ball is currently one of the most effective deliveries in T20 cricket, with numerous batsmen struggling to pick it.

The Sussex man has the ability to turn his arm around just before release that sends the ball down at about 60 mph, instead of 90 mph, without changing his arm speed.

If Mills can cope with the pressure of India and reproduce some of the form we have seen from him in an England shirt of late, then RCB may have just signed themselves a trump card for this year’s competition.

3. Kagiso Rabada – 50 million INR (£600,000)

Team: Delhi Daredevils

Rabada is seen as the most exciting talent to emerge from South Africa in years and is currently one of the best young players in world cricket. So it was no surprise that Dehli made him the third most expensive signing in the tournament.

They had to fend of fierce competition from Kings XI Punjab for his signature. But at just 21 years old, he is already one of the leaders of the South African attack and is constantly in and around 90 mph, so it was easy to see why Dehli were so determined to recruit him.

For such a young man, Rabada has had plenty of T20 experience, including games against England and Australia, as well as leading the attack for South Africa at the 2016 World T20 in India.

His versatility will certainly play in Dehli’s favour; he can open the bowling well, bowl through the middle overs with control, or even bowl at the death if needed.

And with the help of his fellow South Africans JP Duminy, Chris Morris and Quinton De Kock, who are all in the Daredevils squad, he should be able to settle in and hit the ground running.

4. Trent Boult – 50 million (£600,000)

Team: Kolkata Knight Riders

Trent Boult’s hefty fee may have raised a few eyebrows considering he has not established himself as much in T20 cricket as he has in Tests and ODIs. He’s also injury prone, and  featured just once in the IPL last season.

However, Boult is still considered as one of the best new ball bowlers in world cricket, and if he can stay fit and perform to somewhat near his best then KKR can expect to have a good tournament.

The Knight Riders are another side that have invested heavily in their seam attack and have also added Englishmen Chris Woakes to compliment Boult.

Boult and Woakes have been tipped to be an effective bowling partnership for Kolkata, given their styles and right-hand left-hand combination

Manish Pandey, one of KKR’s star batsmen, is the latest to heap praise on the pair. “These two players, Woakes and Boult, will be really good and they will hopefully make the difference for us’.’

5. Pat Cummins – 45 million INR (£550,000)

Team: Delhi Daredevils

The lanky Aussie fast bowler is one of two big money signings made by Dehli and is sure to add plenty of pace and aggression with the new ball for the Daredevils.

Cummins is young and possesses raw pace, often above 90 mph, which is crucial in T20 cricket at both the start and the end of an innings.

The fast bowler was particularly impressive in his maiden Big Bash season, where he topped the bowling charts with 11 wickets at just 14.09 a piece.

This kind of form, combined with his raw pace and potential, were all culminating factors as to why Dehli paid 4.5 Crore Rupees for his services making him the 5th most expensive player in this year’s competition.

He will certainly be one to watch out for.