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June 2009
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Lawrence Booth: Modi’s figures don’t add up

June 3rd, 2009 by Lawrence Booth in Twenty20

Lalit Modi did the maths on Monday night and came out with some seductive solutions. You always have to bear in mind, of course, that in Modi’s world two plus two is never just four. Sometimes it isn’t even five. Because hell, if you’re going to throw some numbers in the air, you may as well do it with a bit of abandon!

Modi’s calculations went something like this (all figures are his, not mine). There are roughly 160-200 international cricketers in the world. The Indian Premier League has doubled that (Modi, the league’s chairman and commissioner, did at least concede there was some overlap here). Ergo, if you increase the number of Twenty20 leagues around the world, the number of high-quality players will grow exponentially. And that number, according to Modi was 1,500-2,000.

This, in turn, will raise the standard of the game and keep the mugs, sorry fans, coming through the turnstiles and lining the administrators’, sorry, cricket’s pockets. I tried to keep up, but by this stage my calculator had thrown a small hissy fit. Still, it’s a nice idea: the-more-the-merrier made flesh.

There is something funny going on, and I’m not just talking about Modi’s faith in the ability of Twenty20 to unearth talented cricketers. Administrators keep underlining the primacy of Test cricket, then they hit us with another Twenty20 match or tournament, such as the game between Middlesex Panthers and Rajasthan Royals at Lord’s next month. It’s true that the game has the backing of the grant-making charity the British Asian Trust, but the over-riding feeling around the cricketing world right now is that the left hand is stroking us reassuringly on the head while the right hand is signing another deal.

In London on Monday to promote the Lord’s game, Modi quoted “exit research” which stated that 70% of those who watched the recent IPL in South Africa had never watched any form of cricket before, and used it to suggest the world could cope with more and more domestic Twenty20 cricket. Even taking into account the novelty factor in South Africa and the sports-mad nature of the locals there, this sounds like a tenuous basis for negotation – especially as the number of leagues envisaged by Modi the other day was “eight, 10 or 20”.

As this blog has argued before, there is a place for Twenty20 cricket in the international fixture list and there should be a window for the IPL on the Future Tours Programme. It’s too easy to pigeon-hole critics of Twenty20’s seemingly unchecked growth as dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries. And it’s wrong.

If Twenty20 develops along the lines Modi hopes, the quantity will grow, the quality will fall, the players will lose interest and so will the crowds. And we haven’t even got on to the sponsors. Sport needs to be fresh and special to justify itself. But can anyone say next year’s P20 – county cricket’s second Twenty20 tournament, in case you missed it – will be fresh or special? Even Modi might be hard-pressed to argue that one.

Lawrence Booth writes on cricket for the Guardian

Posted in Twenty20 |

3 Responses to “Lawrence Booth: Modi’s figures don’t add up”

  1.   Peter Redding says:

    I think some of the adminstrators are missing the point here. If the public want more Twenty20 games then that is the ideal situation to be in. You always want the public to demand more. That way they will look forward to T20 games and we will have full houses at each game.

    If you start to schedule too many games then they lack meaning and people will pick and choose the matches they watch. We have seen that this Summer with the low attendances for the England-Windies matches.

  2.   Hofstadter says:

    Modi is an ass and he deals in fool’s gold. Does anyone remember World Series Cricket? No. Will anyone recall the IPL with fondness in thirty years time? I doubt it …

  3.   Som says:

    Modi bashing is cottage industry in certain understandable quarters. But for the guy, many a ranting hacks would have died pauper. Give the devil his due.

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