In his latest blog for PakPassion.net, Fazeer Mohammed writes about his impressions of the Caribbean Premier League and its failure to develop the game in the region, Alastair Cook's retirement from International cricket, Virat Kohli's class and India's unhealthy dependency on his batting for their success and the issue of corruption as brought to light by Al Jazeera's latest documentary.
By Fazeer Mohammed (5th September, 2018)
What do we expect from franchise T20 cricket: wholesale entertainment with a bit of development thrown in?
That’s the discussion taking place in some West Indian territories as the 2018 edition of the Caribbean Premier League swings into its final fortnight. Of course for the fans of the genuine contenders like defending champions Trinbago Knight Riders, former two-time title-holders Jamaica Tallawahs and three-time finalists Guyana Amazon Warriors, the primary concern will be whether or not their team will be lifting the brand new trophy after the final at the Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad come September 16.
For the supporters of the other teams through – St Lucia Stars, Barbados Tridents and St Kitts Nevis Patriots – and even those throughout the region with wider concerns about the health of the game in these parts, more and more questions are being asked about the value of the CPL beyond the matches with all its party atmosphere, occasional pulsating finishes and sixes aplenty carted with gusto by some of the biggest international names in T20 cricket.
Former CEO of what was still known then as the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), Ernest Hilaire, has expressed regret over the manner in which the tournament has developed from what was envisioned when he was involved to the final negotiations in 2012, a year before the inaugural edition of the CPL swept through the Caribbean in just over three weeks to capacity crowds for almost every night of action.
According to Hilaire, who is now a full-fledged politician in his native St Lucia, the expectation was for the franchises to partner with the territorial boards and develop relationships that would be to the benefit of West Indies cricket above and beyond what is now the six weeks of the CPL.
But does that happen in any of the other Twenty20 Leagues around the world? Do the franchises play a developmental role either in their adopted home of the United Arab Emirates or in Pakistan itself? It seems unrealistically optimistic to think that organisations which are primarily about the business of T20 cricket will be inclined to devote time, effort and resources (including money) beyond the competition itself.Speaking of the competition, the general feeling is that the CPL may be reaching saturation point in certain territories. However, success still attracts support and TKR’s home group matches at the CPL have seen the best atmosphere generated with virtually packed houses for almost every game.By the time the CPL is over, Alastair Cook’s Test career of more than 16 years will be consigned to the history books. Whether or not he was politely pushed by the England selectors or made the leap into retirement himself because of continuing poor form in 2018, Cook’s farewell fixture – the last of the five-match series against India at The Oval in London – is bound to be a celebratory affair, especially with the hosts taking an insurmountable 3-1 lead going into that finale.What the series has shown, apart from anything else, is India has an unhealthy reliance on their captain to anchor the batting effort time and time again. Virat Kohli has responded to the challenge magnificently yet whenever his wicket falls, as occurred on the fourth day of the fourth Test in Southampton, Test cricket’s top nation immediately looks prone to collapse.And from an entirely selfish West Indian point of view, what this series has also emphasised is just how great the Caribbean teams of the 1980’s and 1990’s were in playing unbeaten through 29 Test series home and away for 15 years between 1980 and 1995. Like Sir Donald Bradman’s Test batting average of 99.94, that is a standard which will never be beaten or even meaningfully challenged.But back to Cook. As the most prolific England Test batsman of all time, where does he rank among the great England openers? When you take into consideration the fact that he has played more Test cricket than anyone else, and in an era of generally batsman-friendly conditions, and against some pretty ordinary bowling attacks, it is highly debatable whether he should be placed ahead of the likes of Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Geoff Boycott and Cook’s own Essex mentor, Graham Gooch.Outstanding opening batsman, yes. One of the greats though? Well, that is debatable.Another issue which continues to generate heated discussion is the question of corruption in the game. Following the first expose by the Doha-based international news network Al Jazeera, there is expected to be even more evidence implicating Australian players in its next investigative presentation.Cricket Australia, already thrown onto the back foot by the sandpaper embarrassment in Cape Town last March, has vowed to investigate any reports alleging misconduct by their players. However both CA and the International Cricket Council have criticised what they perceive to be the reluctance of Al Jazeera to make the raw footage of their investigations available to the governing organisations.It is a tough balancing act for the Australians: protecting their players against accusations while also being seen as not hindering the investigation in anyway. In matters like this there will always be speculation about who is or who isn’t guilty.As tempting as it is to throw names around, in the absence of compelling evidence it is prudent to wait and see what information emerges before jumping to conclusions.