As the Indian Premier League enters its’ seventh season, it continues to act as a prominent tournament in the world of cricket - attracting the game’s biggest names and influencing the creation of newly formed competitions like the Bangladeshi Premier League and Caribbean Premier League.
However, what was it that inspired Lalit Modi to develop this league of dream teams in the first place? Well, Kerry Packer and his World Series Cricket venture in the late 1970s had a big impact on the sport and its’ subsequent packaging and scheduling.
At the time it was a bold move, but Packer managed to sign some of the world’s leading players at the time - such as Tony Greig, Michael Holding and Ian Chappell - by offering them higher wages than they had been receiving from their national cricketing boards.
Whilst players were turning down the chance to play Test cricket to join the clashing WSC tournament, they were finally earning professional wages. Before this, a lot of them worked second jobs just to have enough money to live.
But in order to attract fans away from the established game, Packer had the sense to make it more exciting and fit for broadcast. These two objectives were achieved by the adoption of day/night cricket, which took off to become an established form of the sport, even after WSC had ended.
T20 cricket is another form of the game that is tailor-made for viewers who want a quick cricket fix.
White balls and coloured clothing were soon synonymous with World Series Cricket as a new type of fan was drawn to the sport. No longer would the working day come between watching a cricket match.
Supporters could go to a game straight after work, or watch it on TV in the evening during prime time. Financial clout ruled the roost as cricketing authorities had to bend and accommodate Packer’s wishes to broadcast Australian Test matches.
An agreement as such was finally reached, which meant that Packer relinquished his power over the players, allowing them to return to their national sides. However, cricketers were finally earning money that they should be as a result.
In the current age, cricketers’ wages continue to rise with fresh sponsorship becoming available in competitions like the IPL. Just like World Series Cricket, Lalit Modi has assimilated the best players in the world of cricket and pitted them against one another.
Whilst the tradition of the county game is completely absent from the IPL franchises, the financial power they possess means that they can challenge the English domestic game with the players at their disposal.
The choice of county cricket or IPL at the beginning of the summer is becoming an increasingly more regular dilemma for the sport’s best players to deal with.
Just like the format itself, 20-over cricket isn’t likely to outlast the purists’ game, but while it is here it will continue to attract a lot of fans to it due to the exciting and frenetic cricket it promotes.
Packer knew when to return authority to cricket’s governing bodies, yet it will be interesting to see whether or not the Indian Premier League does the same. For now though, it will continue to be an important part of the sport’s calendar, despite the fact that it detracts from the start of the County Championship every year.
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