Why the increasing dominance of T20 format looks set to shape cricket’s future

Why the increasing dominance of T20 format looks set to shape cricket’s future
The total prize money for the T20 World Cup is $5.6 million. (AFP)
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Updated 21 October 2021

Why the increasing dominance of T20 format looks set to shape cricket’s future

Why the increasing dominance of T20 format looks set to shape cricket’s future
  • The economics of world cricket have become highly skewed thanks largely to the phenomenal success of T20 in India

The Indian Premier League concluded on Oct.15 without any apparent major hitches caused by the coronavirus disease or mental health issues.

The T20 World Cup opened on schedule, rather romantically, with Papua New Guinea appearing for the first time only to be soundly beaten by Oman.

England announced their squad to tour Australia, only to be condemned by parts of the press as unimaginative, not good enough and likely to be trounced, a view shared gloatingly down-under.

Unimaginative was also the verdict passed on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)’s decision to restore its domestic four-day County Championship to a two divisional structure, comprising teams in the positions in which they ended the 2019 season.

Taken together, these outcomes provide the impression that normality has been restored to the world of cricket. However, dig a little deeper and some shifting plates may be discerned under the landscape. The most obvious one is the influence of the T20 format.

Whilst the IPL is its glittering epitome, the delayed return of the scheduled 2020 World Cup, hard on the heels of the IPL, will extend T20’s exposure for longer than normal. It will also supply a benchmark for its progress since the 2016 World Cup in terms of skills and tactics. Prior to the pandemic, nine countries/regions held International Cricket Council recognized T20 competitions, and three more are planned to start in 2022. Since 2016, both the Pakistan Super League and the Big Bash in Australia have grown in quality and appeal. 

Apart from the format, these tournaments share two common features — the ability to attract money and, partly because of this, the ability to attract players from a wide range of countries, based upon a bidding system that values each player according to perceived ability. The rewards are now staggering.

The total prize money for the T20 World Cup is $5.6 million. There will be $1.6 million for the winning team and $0.8 million for the runners-up. The losing semi-finalists will receive $0.4 million each, with the balance of $2.4 million being shared between group stage winners and those who are knocked out along the way.

In the 2021 IPL, the winners received around $2.65 million, the runners-up $1.69 million, and the third and fourth placed teams $1.16 million. On top of this, the players receive salaries with the top five being in a range of $2-2.4 million in 2021. The stark conclusion is that the top players in the IPL earn more than the winning team in the T20 World Cup, and that the financial reward for winning the IPL is greater than for winning the T20 World Cup. Taken together, the rewards on offer are a bonanza.

Contrast these riches, for example, to the financial state of English cricket. The ECB’s income is generated via broadcast rights deals, sponsorship from commercial partners, ICC distributions, ticket sales and sundry income. In the year ending Jan. 31, 2021, it reported an income of $290 million and a pandemic-induced loss of $22.6 million, which dramatically reversed the previous year’s profit of $9.1 million, causing a sharp fall in its cash reserves to $3.1 million.

As a non-profit-making organization, the ECB distributes its income in pursuit of its mission to manage and develop every form of cricket for men and women, boys and girls, from the playground to the Test arena. Almost 44 percent of the income goes directly to cricket organizations, including the 18 first-class counties. Fourteen percent is spent in supporting each of four areas — the running and growth of cricket from the grassroots up; running the England Men’s, Women’s and Disability teams; central activities, such as marketing and, in the current cycle, its new competition, The Hundred, which has been explored in previous columns. 

Professional cricket is organized through the County Championship structure. The counties have the responsibility for developing talent, ultimately producing cricketers who can perform at the highest level across the various formats.

A review of the finances of the 18 counties would show that, for most, there is a heavy dependency on the ECB distribution for survival. There is also a clear divergence between the financial health of those counties who host international matches and those who do not. The structure of county cricket and its dependence on central funds to maintain its current state has attracted much criticism, particularly in terms of the way in which the counties use the money to develop both the game and alternative income sources within their boundaries.

How enviously must English cricket cast its eyes at the wealthy, independent Board of Control of Cricket in India. Although it, too, has suffered a loss of income because of the pandemic, the completion of the IPL will ensure a recovery to previous levels and beyond. In 2019–2020, the BCCI’s annual income is thought to have been some $535 million. Almost two-thirds of this comes from the IPL, a quarter from bilateral cricket with other nations and 10 percent from its annual share of ICC revenues, which are derived from the ICC’s own media and sponsorship income streams. In 2022, two more franchises will be added to make a 10 team IPL tournament, creating further wealth.

The economics of world cricket have become highly skewed and look set to become even more so. This is largely because of the phenomenal success of T20 in cricket-mad India that has generated previously unseen revenue. This has allowed India’s cricketing ambitions to become more expansionary and has encouraged copycat tournaments to emerge.

In turn, the lure of high rewards and the attraction of the format in emerging countries that have a dearth of either facilities, resources or time, such as Papua New Guinea, is leading T20 to assume an increasingly prominent position in cricket’s landscape. This powerful position, coupled with the financial clout of India, can only lead, surely, to further changes in the way that the game is structured and financed.


Early days of 2021 FIFA Arab Cup highlight intrigue on and off the pitch

Early days of 2021 FIFA Arab Cup highlight intrigue on and off the pitch
Updated 04 December 2021

Early days of 2021 FIFA Arab Cup highlight intrigue on and off the pitch

Early days of 2021 FIFA Arab Cup highlight intrigue on and off the pitch
  • As 16 Arab nations battle it out on the pitch, FIFA’s resident and other officials are in Qatar for the 2022 World Cup dress rehearsal, with readiness of stadiums and new offside technology on the agenda

Just a few days into the 2021 Arab Cup in Qatar, there are already several intriguing talking points emerging, both on and off the pitch.

An emotional opening ceremony, the first round performances, young players to keep an eye on, and the new technology under the watchful eye of FIFA’s leadership.

The organizers attempted to showcase the cultures of the 16 participating Arab nations at an opening party that lasted for 30 minutes in front of a large crowd at Al-Bayt Stadium.

It was a worthy start for this 10th edition of the tournament, and for the first time since its launch in Lebanon in 1963, it is under the FIFA umbrella. And for the first time ever, it comes as a replacement for the FIFA Confederations Cup, that traditionally precedes the World Cup by a year.

That this Arab Cup is a dress rehearsal for the 2022 World Cup was given even more weight by the presence of FIFA President Gianni Infantino and other major sports leaders in the stands.

And the officials are not there for merely ceremonial reasons, but to also make sure all is going to plan, from checking the readiness of the stadiums to keeping a watchful eye on the new VAR technology for offside that is under testing with view to being implemented officially at the World Cup next year.

The matches are taking place at six of the eight stadiums that will be used at the World Cup.

The showpiece opening between Qatar and Bahrain was held in front of 60,000 spectators at Al-Bayt Stadium, and the tournament is being played across Al-Janoub Stadium, Ras Abu Aboud Stadium (974 Stadium), Al-Thumama Stadium, Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium, and Education City Stadium, and Al-Ebdaa Stadium.

The new VAR addition, the so-called semi-automated offside technology based on artificial intelligence, tracks the players’ movements, giving signals on 29 points in their bodies at 50 times every second; this is picked up in the control room, then sent to the on-field official who will give his decision, as was explained by the chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, Pierluigi Collina.

The technology has already been tested behind closed doors at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester and the Allianz Arena in Munich.

This particular improvement to the VAR system — which aims to have speedier decisions with higher accuracy — is to be welcomed, as matches continue to suffer from lengthy, confusing offside cases.

The 16 teams are made up of 10 Arab nations from the Asian continent and six from Africa, and it’s the latter that caught the eye in the first round with victories for Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s 1-0 victory over a youthful Saudi Arabian team was particularly impressive, Iraq equalized in the 98th minute against Oman, hosts Qatar beat Bahrain, and the UAE overcame Syria.

With World Cup qualification still a priority for several teams, some have decided to compete with squads made up of home-based players only, such as Egypt, or even with a second string, such as Saudi Arabia.

Herve Renard’s focus is firmly on Qatar 2022, and the Saudi national team was chosen from players born after 1999. In the circumstances, they performed well against Jordan despite the eventual defeat.

With assistant Laurent Bonadei leading the team, Renard watched from the stands as the senior players took a well-earned rest and the younger ones — many of whom played in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games — staked a claim for the remainder of the World Cup qualifiers. 

This reminded me of what Renard did with the Moroccan national team in the African Cup of Nations in 2018. They went on to lift the trophy.

Of particular interest to Renard will be the Al-Ahli goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Rubaie, Al-Shabab leftback Moteb Al-Harbi, highly rated Al-Hilal forward Abdullah Al-Hamdan and the brilliant Al-Fateh striker Firas Al-Buraikan.

On the other hand, Carlos Queiroz’s Egypt team have been criticized for their lacklustre performance against Lebanon, though they played without Mohamed Salah or Mohamed Elneny.

With the start of the second round, things are starting to take shape.

Qatar’s late, late 2-1 win over the luckless Omanis leaves them top of Group A with six points while their opponents sit in third with just one. Meanwhile, Iraq and Bahrain — who drew 0-0 — are second and fourth respectively.

In Group B, the UAE’s 1-0 win over Mauritania took them to the top of the standings with maximum points from two matches, three points ahead of second-placed Syria, who recorded an impressive 2-0 win over Tunisia.

It’s too early to draw conclusions from the early stages of the 2021 Arab Cup, but the second round of matches in the group stages are slowly giving an indication of which teams will challenge for the title.

For the fans, as much as the watching FIFA officials, there is much at stake in the coming days.


Aston Martin team principal, Saudi athletes talk F1 ahead of Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Aston Martin team principal, Saudi athletes talk F1 ahead of Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Updated 04 December 2021

Aston Martin team principal, Saudi athletes talk F1 ahead of Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Aston Martin team principal, Saudi athletes talk F1 ahead of Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
  • The race taking place this upcoming Sunday is Saudi Arabia's inaugural Formula One Grand Prix with Jeddah hosting the race

JEDDAH: Fans all over the world eagerly await Saudi Arabia’s inaugural Formula One Grand Prix, taking place this Sunday, including some notable professional Saudi athletes.

“It’s a momentous event for the country,” said Husein Alireza, the Saudi professional rower. “Everyone’s flown in, there’s a real buzz in the air, you know? We haven’t had this buzz in a very long time.

“I think we’re used to hosting people from all over the world — Jeddah has been the social capital for a long time, it’s a tourist hotspot. We’ve got the Red Sea, and the people of Jeddah are very laid back and welcoming.” 

“I think for any tourist, a way to experience a new location for the first time — to do it through the world of sports is a great way,” said Dania Akeel, professional Saudi race driver. “You get action, you get the social aspect, you get entertainment and you get to witness excellence at the highest level.”

The Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition launched in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia for the first time. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

At the launch of the Aston Martin Vantage F1 edition in Jeddah, Arab News had the opportunity to talk with some Saudi pro athletes, along with Otmar Szafnauer, Aston Martin F1 team principal, about some of their predictions before the long-awaited Jeddah race. 

“I think we will do a really good job in Jeddah, the track looks amazingly fast and like nothing else on the calendar, so it should be good fun,” Szafnauer said. “Lance (Stroll) progresses year-on-year. He’s in the steep part of the learning curve, and he had a great race in Doha.” 

Szafnauer, a Romanian-American engineer, was received at the launch of the Aston Martin car by Ali Alireza who gifted Szafnauer a special sword, which the team principal thanked him for and jokingly said: “This will come in handy for future negotiations with drivers.”

Ali Alireza, Managing Director of Haji Husein Alireza & Co., gifts a sword to Otmar Szafnauer, Aston Martin F1 team principal. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

“Sebastian (Vettel) has brought a lot of winning experience to the team and know-how of what it takes to win — not just races, but also world championships, and he’s lifted our game quite a bit, but because of the rule change, we really did take a step backwards.” 

Due to COVID-19, F1 race cars from 2020 were carried over to this season with very little technical adjustments. There were, however, aerodynamic rule changes set by the FIA that stripped performance away from Aston Martin’s low-rake car, hindering their performance this year.

“It was too late, and that’s not a driver thing, that’s more of a car development issue,” Szafnauer said. “Once those rule changes were upon us, we couldn’t really do anything.”

As a result, Aston Martin have had to use some of their resources for 2022 on this year’s car to try and remedy what’s left of the season, to no avail.

“But next year is a whole new year, all the rules (will) even the playing field for everybody,” he added.

Dania Akeel, professional Saudi race driver, talks with Arab News about Sunday's big race in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

Akeel said many factors currently in play will determine the champion of this season, saying that no matter what changes have been done to the engine to make it perform better, the human element in the driver is always a key factor.

“You know, the truth is, I don’t favor any driver, but I favor incredible driving skills. Each driver delivers a certain finesse, technique, a certain decision-making process that you can’t compare to each other,” she said.

“One driver will blow you away in the rain, another driver will come from the back of the grid all the way to the front, another driver will show you their resilience in defending their position. Each driver behaves differently on corners, on overtakes, on straights. And of course, that's not to say, the team as well has such a massive influence.”

Dania Akeel made history when she became the first Arab female to win the T3 title at the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Bajas event this year. She completed a remarkable comeback from a serious injury suffered earlier this year.

Akeel told Arab News that despite sustaining three pelvic fractures while participating in the Bahrain Rally Season, she was still planning to compete in the 2022 Dakar Rally which will take place in Saudi Arabia next January.

Husein Alireza, professional Saudi rower, talks with Arab News about Sunday's Formula One race taking place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

Alireza, who took part in the men’s rowing in 2020 Tokyo Olympics, competed with a damaged lung. Mid-competition, a new ad hoc strategy was devised by his team that had allowed him to manage injury-hit races, with the 28-year-old unable to perform at full capacity.

On F1, Alireza had his own take on who the crown of this season will go to.

“I always go for the underdog and you know, seven years of Hamilton — I love the guy, I supported him at the start, but I would love to see Verstappen win the race. He’s such an exciting, dynamic driver, I love the way he drives, extremely aggressive. And it would be nice to see him win it here in Jeddah, that would be cool. 

“We’ll see what happens but I think I’m on Team Verstappen on this one,” he concluded. 


Sebastian Vettel invited Saudi women to karting event to learn about their lives

Sebastian Vettel invited Saudi women to karting event to learn about their lives
Updated 04 December 2021

Sebastian Vettel invited Saudi women to karting event to learn about their lives

Sebastian Vettel invited Saudi women to karting event to learn about their lives
  • The German Formula 1 driver said wanted to hear their first-hand accounts of recent changes in the country what life is like for them in the Kingdom

JEDDAH: In an effort to learn more about life in Saudi Arabia and recent changes in the country, and as an activist for equality, Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel said that he organized a special karting event this week for women in Saudi Arabia.

In comments shared on social media, the German driver, who races for Aston Martin, said he hired a karting track in Jeddah on Thursday and invited some Saudi women to race so that he could hear their first-hand accounts of what life is like for them in the Kingdom.

Vettel said: “It’s true that some things are changing here. There are a lot of questions that have been asked and I have asked myself. So I was thinking of what I can do. I really tried to think of the positive side.

“And so I set up my own karting event today, under the hashtag Race for Women, and we had a group of seven or eight girls and women on the track.

“I was trying to pass on some of my experiences in life and, obviously, on the track; to do something together to grow their confidence. Some of them had a (driving) license, others they did not. Some of them were huge Formula 1 enthusiasts, others had nothing to do with Formula 1 or racing before today.

“It was a good mix of women from different backgrounds and a great event. Everybody was extremely happy,” he continued. “And I was, I have to say, very inspired by their stories and their backgrounds, their positivity about the change in the country.

“It was important to get to know some of these women. And I think it was a very, very memorable and inspiring day and a great way to kick-off the weekend by focusing on the positive.”

Vettel will compete in the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on Sunday, Dec. 5.


Hamilton seals practice double, LeClerc crashes out on day one of historic Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

All eyes will be on Jeddah on Sunday for the race, but for a fully focused Hamilton and Verstappen, Friday was all about finding an early edge. (AN/AFP)
All eyes will be on Jeddah on Sunday for the race, but for a fully focused Hamilton and Verstappen, Friday was all about finding an early edge. (AN/AFP)
Updated 03 December 2021

Hamilton seals practice double, LeClerc crashes out on day one of historic Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

All eyes will be on Jeddah on Sunday for the race, but for a fully focused Hamilton and Verstappen, Friday was all about finding an early edge. (AN/AFP)
  • Verstappen leads Hamilton by eight points — with nine wins to seven — and is looking for points in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi to seal a maiden world title

JEDDAH: History was made on Friday as Formula One drivers took to the streets of Jeddah to get to grips with the circuit during the opening practice sessions ahead of the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Months of hard work and planning came to fruition as Lewis Hamilton pipped his title rival Max Verstappen by five hundredths of a second in the first session, and stretched the margin further ahead of the pack in the second evening session. 

The two world championship title contenders were clear of their rivals and well on top during the first two sessions, to the delight of the crowds in the grandstands.

All eyes will be on Jeddah on Sunday for the race, but for a fully focused Hamilton and Verstappen, Friday was all about finding an early edge in one of the tightest F1 championship battles for years.

Teams wasted no time getting drivers out on track to collect data on the championships’ newest circuit, and it was a good first run out for the drivers, with Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas claiming third in the first session — while the honor of first F1 driver round the record-breaking Jeddah Corniche went to Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr.

Grip was expected to be at a premium given the new asphalt, but drivers reported it was better than expected. 

“Grip seems pretty high in general,” Esteban Ocon said over team radio. “I think it’s a big surprise, everywhere, traction through the mid-corner.”

First impressions of the track appeared positive from the rest of the field with Bottas declaring the circuit “cool,” and Mercedes’ sporting director, Ron Meadows, complimenting Race Director Michael Masi at how well circuit personnel had prepared the track surface overnight.

Hamilton continued his on-track dominance over his rivals as he led the second session by six-hundredths of a second over Bottas, with Verstappen nearly two-tenths back in fourth.

The session was a calamitous one for Ferrari driver Charles LeClerc, who crashed heavily with five minutes remaining, his car suffering considerable damage.

The Monaguesque lost control at turn 22, already pinpointed by teams and drivers as one of the hardest corners on the circuit.

With two sessions under their belt, one at sunset and another under the lights in the evening, the drivers will be looking to push their times down even further when the final practice and qualifying sessions get underway on Saturday.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by eight points — with nine wins to seven — and is looking for points in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi to seal a maiden world title.


‘Valued’ Joelinton reaping the benefits of Eddie Howe’s faith

‘Valued’ Joelinton reaping the benefits of Eddie Howe’s faith
Updated 03 December 2021

‘Valued’ Joelinton reaping the benefits of Eddie Howe’s faith

‘Valued’ Joelinton reaping the benefits of Eddie Howe’s faith
  • The Brazilian forward has been one of the success stories since the arrival of the new manager
  • Matt Ritchie and Jamaal Lascelles return to the fold for the game against Burnley at St James’ Park on Saturday

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed how making £40 million Newcastle United flop Joelinton feel “valued” is getting the best out of the Brazilian.

The forward has been outstanding since the arrival of Howe, putting in a man-of-the-match, all-action display on the right-hand side in the 1-1 home draw with Norwich City on Tuesday, in a game that saw United down to 10 men in the ninth minute.

Joelinton is a figure who has starkly divided opinion on Tyneside since his 2019 arrival from Hoffenheim for a club record fee.

And while his first couple of years with the Magpies may have seen Joelinton labelled a frontline failure, Howe believes showing the player a bit of love is making a huge difference to this “outstanding” talent.

“Joe has been fantastic for me. We really like him,” said head coach Howe, speaking ahead of Newcastle’s game against Burnley at St James’ Park on Saturday. “He has a good mix of physicality and technical ability. His work rate has been a real feature of his play, he has covered every blade of grass for the team — a real selfless mindset.

“We are really pleased with him, but we think there is more to come,” Howe added. “We have made him feel valued. There’s just eagerness to prove himself. We think he is going to be a huge player for us.”

The South American striker, who netted his first goal of the season in Howe’s debut match in charge against Brentford, is expected to retain his place in the side against Sean Dyche’s men. Howe argues Joelinton could play any number of positions, such has been the versatility shown since his arrival.

Howe said: “Against Norwich he started as a No.10, then moved to a No.8, into midfield. In terms of his best position, he can play in a number of areas. He has already played three or four positions for me, and played them well.

“He has work ethic, a high technical level, physicality, the ability to score, and you have an outstanding individual.”

United have gone 15 games in all competitions without a win this season, 14 of those have come in the Premier League.

And it’s not lost on Howe that no team has ever stayed in the top flight having not won in their opening 14 games.

“We are so desperate for those three points,” he said. “There were so many positives to take from Tuesday, although it wasn’t the result we wanted. The manner of the performance in the circumstances was really, really encouraging.

“So, if we can go into (Saturday’s) game with the same fundamentals, the same fight and spirit, I back the players to get the win sooner rather than later. A win would transform everything,” said Howe. “It would transform the feeling of the squad, the fans, the confidence.”

Howe also revealed that, despite a bruising encounter against Norwich, he has no new injury concerns ahead of the Clarets clash. And while Ciaran Clark sits it out following his straight red card in midweek, Matt Ritchie and Jamaal Lascelles return to the fold.

“We have a few bumps and bruises, but hopefully nothing too serious,” said Howe. “The squad has come through unscathed and of course we have the two boys returning from suspension.”

One player who remains on the sidelines, however, is defensive stalwart Paul Dummett.

The 30-year-old is yet to kick a competitive ball this campaign, and Howe said Dummett is still a long way from doing so.

“He is back running on the grass with the physios but still has quite a bit to go through to declare himself fit to play,” he said.