JOHANNESBURG – I was chatting to a good friend of mine, also a sports writer at another newspaper, about rugby last week when he said: “There’s just too much rugby.”
We had moved on to whether either of us were interested in the Barbarians, featuring a whole bunch of South Africans and coached by Rassie Erasmus against Argentina at Twickenham. Neither of us could be bothered. There is too much rugby.
There is also too much cricket - really meaningless cricket. Of course, not so meaningless if you’re a player lining your pockets.
Eoin Morgan arrived in the country this week from the UAE, where he’d been playing in a T10 tournament. If he gets there in about a year and half’s time, Morgan will also play in the England Cricket Board’s "The Hundred" tournament. If that happens, then as a senior pro Morgan would have played in five different formats of the sport: Test (first class), 50 overs, Twenty20, Ten10 and "100 balls". Is there any other major sport with that many formats?
Morgan mentioned again how he saw the T10 as the format to take cricket into the Olympics.
But when does it all become too much for fans? Never mind just trying to follow all the different leagues around the world, how about formats - T10, T20, 50 overs, and Test matches? Don't forget the sixes!
Rugby just has too many matches - they really need to reduce Super Rugby and make the Rugby Championship a biennial tournament - and competitions.
The EP Kings were playing Benetton Treviso in a PRO14 game in Port Elizabeth in the first week of December. That’s ridiculous. But at least rugby’s problems can be solved. It’s a case of garnering the will to solve them.
But cricket? Because the sport is so beholden to India and the finances generated there, everything in one way or another is geared towards either appeasing India and securing finances as a result or offsetting the losses when India don’t tour a particular country.
It’s why Cricket SA has the Mzansi Super League. For now it's losing money - a lot, if some insiders are to be believed. However, it’s a risk CSA is willing to take in the hope that at some point in the future - relatively sooner (in the next 5 years, say) rather than later - it can eventually start making money.
The trouble is, there are so many of these leagues now. The IPL garners the most attention and therefore most of the money. The Big Bash does okay in Australia but is still struggling to break even. Other leagues in Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Caribbean and a T10 tournament in the UAE can attract money, but not on the scale of the IPL, and there are doubts about just how financially viable they are. And in 18 months' time there’ll be "The Hundred".
Is all of this really sustainable? It can’t be. It’s also very convoluted too, but Morgan reckons there’s room for all these different formats.
“Every country around the world has a different set of fans, people do things differently. It’s very applicable to your own set of fans you want to attract. If it means cricket needs to be tailored to different countries to grow the sport and get people exposed to the sport who would not get involved, then I’m a fan of it.”
I don’t agree. Basketball is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and doesn’t need five different formats for it to be popular.
Somewhere it needs to stop, lest cricket completely loses its identity.