I am having a bit of trouble getting into the IPL this year. Blogging cheerleaders aside, it hasn’t really grabbed me. God knows I’ve tried to take an interest, but considering match 67 has just been played and the competition is still in the group stages, well, that is quite frankly taking the piss. And folks complained about the World Cup being long.
Of the players participating, the gulf in talent and ability between the internationals and younger, inexperienced players seems to have widened. The likes of Gilchrist, Gayle and Sehwag have produced entertaining innings, sure, but off such piss-poor bowling that you feel impelled to append an asterisk next to their innings with attendant qualification: “filthy full tosses; dropped twice; given out lbw when ball would have missed second set of stumps”.
Everyone seems to have changed teams as well, which doesn’t help. I suppose this is less of an issue if your allegiance is based primarily on regional criteria; but for the rest of us it is pretty farking confusing. And from a purely aesthetic stand-point, you know the competition has reached the point of no redemption when the Kolkata Knight Riders’ team colours look positively restrained compared to the rest. Christ, Kochi… my eyes!
If Test cricket is the sport’s Grand Old Man, then T20 is the kid with ADHD whose parents maintain is “special” but who really just needs Ritalin and a slap upside the head, Sreesanth-style.
From one pointless competition to another: Leicestershire have now lost five of their six CB40 games this season. The latest and most comprehensive battering came at the hands of Warwickshire this Sunday past, and this was a Warwickshire sans the services of Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, and Chris Woakes – not that their absence made the slightest iota of difference as to the result.
Not all the arguments against the 40-over format are entirely fair, in my opinion: the one that says we should be playing 50-over cricket to develop our players for ODIs doesn’t really wash – South Africa don’t have a domestic 50-over game and they seemed quite decent at the old One Day stuff last time I checked (propensity for clutching defeat from the jaws of victory aside).
Crowd numbers at Grace Road have been noticeably good, but the uncomfortable feeling among the faithful is that the Foxes have written off this competition already. Granted, it is prohibitively and ridiculously difficult to progress to the semi-finals – first-placed team in each of the three groups go through plus the best second-placed side – and given Leicestershire’s record in this form of the game, we were always likely to be on a hiding to sweet proverbial.
But the tendency to rest key players has not gone down well with many fans, though one must look at this pragmatically and given that we do not have a large squad this year, players who are carrying niggles must be rested and the CB40 series has obviously become “designated recovery time”.
Pragmatism, though, can only take you so far in trying to swallow the sight of an inexperienced second-string bowling attack being pasted round the ground by Varun Chopra and Will Porterfield. Leicestershire are now second bottom in their table above Scotland, the only team they have beaten so far. With any hope of advancement well and truly gone, I guess they can stop now even pretending to give a tinker’s cuss about it.
Problem is, the spectators could very well stop caring, too.
That Leicestershire seem to be putting all their eggs into the Championship and T20 basket is understandable, certainly in the first instance, considering we were in with a chance of promotion last season.
But the fact we still seem to have our hands cupped under the arse of the T20 goose waiting for it to lay the golden egg is rather more worrying. Last year, the egg ended up on another part of the club’s anatomy entirely when unrealistic expectations went unmet to the tune of a £403k loss. FPT20 receipts were £55K down on budget.
Granted, times are tough for all of us, financially. But T20 seems now to have jumped the shark. The IPL is too wrapped up in its own razzmatazz to realise this yet, but it will. Viewing figures are reportedly down 20 percent on last year.
The windfall-that-never-came bit most counties on the arse last year. Leicestershire recently renegotiated the covenant on its Grace Road ground with Leicester City Council to “give some tangible security to its bankers in respect of working capital facilities”. Not long after this, new chairman Paul Haywood stated that he wanted to increase Leicestershire’s playing budget. The club are currently in negotiations to sign Indian all-rounder Irfan Pathan for this year’s T20 campaign.
Pathan is no longer a regular in the India team, but has acquitted himself pretty well in the IPL for Delhi; he will not come cheap. Financially the club are stretched to the limit. You do not need to be Alan Sugar to deduce that throwing big money after one player who may or may not make a difference is a gamble we can ill afford to take.
But as long as the T20 circus continues, we will all keep following that rainbow, praying for that one big pay day. There is one piece of good news. India will be at Grace Road on the August Bank Holiday Monday for a T20 game. Tickets are reportedly sold out. Given that Leicestershire’s advertising in the past for tour matches has been almost non-existent, this is good news, but then you’d have to think if they couldn’t sell out a game featuring some of the best players in the world to a population with a large Indian contingent, then you’d have to be doing something wrong.
The India match aside, financially and results-wise it looks like being a case of same-old for Leicestershire, given there are the same amount of T20 matches this year as last. The T20 novelty has gone, and apathy has set in.
There is something else that traverses quickly through the innards of a goose, and it isn’t always an egg made of gold.