The Third Angle

I like chocolates. I love them. I’m a chocoholic. For more than a decade, the freezer in the refrigerator at home has been chocolates’ permanent address. Other stuffs share the space on temporary basis. But now, my mother complains that I’m not finishing them off at the same rate as I used to a few years ago. True. I’ve had them, over and over again. I’ve had nearly all of them, been fickle over naming a favourite one each year. I’m bored of eating chocolates. Yet, I love them. Will have one, now and then, but not as staple diet.

I wonder if the same has happened with the fans of the game, and the game of cricket itself. One Day International cricket, especially. (well, the fall isn’t that sudden/steep in tests, has been gradual).

There was the World Cup, which India won. Unlike the World Cup victory in 1983, which put India on the map of cricket, this world cup win didn’t glue the fans to the game for long. No, I’m not saying cricket lost its fans, I’m just saying fans are finding it too hard to follow the journey of the game.

There was IPL even before the World Cup victory’s champagne bottle was uncorked. As soon as the IPL ended, the fans were too exhausted from the euphoria of the very dazzling league, that the tour of WI, in all its played down humbleness, received near zero following. I would be conversing with one or two people on twitter, at max. That’s alright, maybe? WI are not the same, Indian team was half as strong as the WC team, et al. But, look at the global picture – few WI fans attended it. Zimbabwe’s remarkable come back to (test) cricket didn’t get big turn-outs, Pakistan’s outings at WI, Zimbabwe and UAE aren’t well attended. But for marque series, there is hardly any interest.

Ever been to office/college/school without eating your breakfast. How well did you enjoy your lunch? Did the hunger make it more enjoyable? Was there more satisfaction?

The is no such hunger left in cricket, with cricketers having jam-packed international tours round the year. Teams play each other over and over (INDvSL in the past, INDvENG now & in the near future), it is saddening to hear of repetitive fixtures.

ICC is changing the rules of the game time and again, making it more fancy, or trying to. People have polarized views on each of those rules. But, in spite of all that, ICC hasn’t done enough to buy the fans into the stadia. It’s like an ungrown Mario meeting the monster at level 8-4, can’t do any better no matter what one tried.

Is there a way out?

Possibly, Tri-Nation Tournaments.

Australia had ditched it (and now going back to it), India has ditched it, England isn’t hosting any of this, nor are WI or NZ or SA. SL are, so are Zimbabwe and Bangladesh..or, rather, they have been the ones to do it in the last 2 years.

Instead of a team playing 10 games against 2 other teams by means of two separate ODI series one after the other, a 10 game Tri-series (3 rounds of 3-game Round Robin, plus a final) would deliver more excitement than the two before mentioned series put-together.

For one, there would be some competition. Every team would want to reach the finals, and have a shot at glory. And, more than that, there would be more following of the game. More people will be watching it, out of concern, at least. Instead of “ah, we won another game” in an indifferent manner, there might be a “YES! we go to the top of the table now. If Ind beat Eng in the next game, we will be in the finals….” and so on.

Three teams. You don’t have to wait for your favourite player from a third team to arrive after a month to see him play. You will see him atleast every other match. All three teams are involved at the same time. The matches would be more crucial. The possibility of a “dead rubber” will reduce. Look at the ODI series that we have seen since the World Cup. But for ENGvSL and SLvAUS, all other series were decided at the half-way mark. Only ENGvSL went to the last game. In a tri-nation tournament, the winner can be decided only in the finals. There is excitement. There is a wait for that excitement.

And over 10 games, one team plays only 7 games, at max. That’s atleast 300% saved for any team involved. The finals will be more likely a close-contest, than the final dead rubber of a bilateral series. And this single tournament is enough for atleast 3-4 months of ODI needs, you will have tests etc before/after it.

Just fit a Tri-Nation tournament in-between two test series, and see how it goes. Or go a step further. A and B play a test series somewhere, C and D play a test series elsewhere. Make A, B, C and D meet at a common point for a quadrangular trophy. Sharjah? Canada? Singapore? Or in any of the 4 countries itself. Why not?

The Shrine of Tri-Nation Cricket

Bring back the glory days.

Atleast one weak team can benefit from this. Involve them more, don’t discard them. Kenya’s last Tri-nation tournament involving a test nation came in 2003 ( same year as the last time tri-nation tournament was hosted in India). They were World Cup semi-finalists that year. Haven’t played another ODI outside World Cups since. Out of the top of my head, I can remember good performances by Kenya in two different tri-nation ODI series involving India. One was in South Africa in 2001. The other, in India in 1998 (it was actually an IND-BANG-KEN Tri series). Kenya beat India once in either occasion. They were minnows then too, they’re disappearing into the oblivion now.

We haven’t shelved away many of those Sharjah Cup games from our memory. The Tri-Nation tournaments in Australia have always been fun. Natwest Tri-Series in England, how many sweet memories haven’t they produced?

Let us hope the CB Series 2012 revives the endangered tradition of Triangular Tournaments. I’m not businessman, I know no money talk. I know I love cricket, and would love to see many more love it.


(photo credit : Wikipedia)

6 responses to “The Third Angle

  1. Bagrat, the demise of the tri-nations came about largely because (at least in Australia) the neutral games never attracted the crowds. And because the format had grown tired, though that is largely because ODIs themselves have been in decline for a decade. The tri-nations revival for this season can be attributed to being able to sell more games to the Indian tv market, and to the hope that there are enough local fans of the three teams to support the neutral games. I doubt it will be repeated.

    That said, I think you are onto something with separating tours into their component games. Why must we attach ODIs to tests, players no longer travel by boat, and as often as not, different lineups contest each. Once separated, the options for different tournaments are many and varied.

    I’d like to see regional championships (North, South and Asia), with 8 teams each – 2 groups of 4, then a final group of 4, and a final, 19 games total, 7 for the finalists, over 2-3 weeks. Given the ODI WC, ODI regionals, T20 WC and T20 regionals, plus some warmups here and there, few games would be without a context or interest.

    • Russ,
      I still feel that if Ind/Pak/SL are one of the invited teams, neutral games would continue to attract a decent crowd. But I’m not that sure about neutral games hosted in the sub-continent. For that matter, the element of competition can arouse interest in the people to come out an watch. Yes, this went out of favour a few years ago, but this can be welcome change now. Or so I feel.

      As for regional championships, there already is an Asia cup. But when the quality of the 4th team is only as high as Bangladesh, including more teams would back-fire. A two-tier tournament (qualifier, and mains) can be held, though.

      If one wants to revive tri-nation series, Sharjah is the best place to judge. Include India and Pakistan and a third team in there. If it works, then there is hope. If not, order a coffin for it.

  2. Perhaps you are right. Sri Lankan fans kept their tour to Australia last year from being an embarrassment for CA as few locals went (and rightly so, it was the pointless series of pointless series).

    The trouble with the Asia Cup, which had, in the past, included a couple of associates before regrettably ending the practice, is that it lacked cachet. This is true of any system of tri-nations too. Cricket can ill afford to dole out a new trophy every week, as they currently do, and the Asia Cup was buried under a mountain of similar series with similar teams (particularly India vs Sri Lanka). If it was a bit longer (more teams), had something riding on it (guaranteed qualification for the WC for instance), and had fewer competitions taking away attention, I think it would work well.

  3. Yes, the SL vs Aus games were attended exclusively by SL’an fans. Disgraceful scene that, when a home team has no support.

    When India played a tri-series in Zimbabwe in 2010, Zimbabwe beat India on both occasions. When India played a tri-series in Australia, involving Zimbabwe (2004/05, I think), Zimbabwe were very competitive. When India played Kenya and SA in SA, Kenya beat India. There is always a bit of competitive edge in the tournament itself, and each tournament earns you ICC rating points.

    Instead of hosting 3 bilateral series between 3 teams stretching over 3-4 months, host one tri-nation series. And space the tournaments well apart. Listen to Geoffery Boycott’s most recent audio blog on cricinfo, where he talks about too much cricket burning out the audience. Let there be space, the hunger to win a competition comes.

    Like you mentioned, I too am tired of watching India vs SL. And now, also of India vs England. Guess what, there are more of India vs England coming in the near future.

  4. I don’t consider it disgraceful. Fans owe CA nothing, if they schedule pointless ODI series at bad times (middle of spring racing carnival) in the leadup to the Ashes, they can reap the rewards. The dropping crowds in India are a massive boon for people, like myself, or like Boycott, who are tired of poor scheduling. If people turn off, the administrators might have to listen to reason.

  5. Pingback: The Third Angle | indiaonlive

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