It's the arrogance behind Rajasthan's righteousness that irks | Mike Selvey

The IPL franchise's attempt to impose itself is irritating but the ECB will inevitably look to see what's in it for its own benefit

"The new face of cricket" was our headline on Tuesday morning, accompanied by a picture of cheerleaders "coming to a ground near you. So why would the ECB want to block it?" That's odd, I thought, because I was one of a small number involved in naming the new format and I could have sworn that Twenty20, with accompanying razzmatazz such as cheerleaders, dancers, bouncy castles and Atomic Kitten had been played successfully in this country since 2003.

The question was lightheartedly rhetorical, of course, but contained in the piece were a number of sound and serious reasons why the England and Wales Cricket Board has every right to be concerned about its ramparts being under siege from Rajasthan Royals.

I can understand the ambition of the Indian Premier League side to expand their interests. They may be part of a growing multi-million-dollar entity (although as Forbes magazine points out, roughly only one quarter as wealthy as the $2bn (£1.3bn) some claim for it) no longer making a loss on running costs but they have operated for only a few weeks a year. So there is no harm in trying to find ways to keep the wolf from the door.

And I can just about stomach yet more ethical and moral insights into Test cricket from Shane Warne, a fellow who speaks with spellbinding insight on his specialist subject of playing but whose rent-a-gob probity in other regards is diluted somewhat by a positive test for a diuretic which can be used as a masking agent and acceptance of money from a dubious subcontinental bookmaking source for providing "information". No matter that he is only answering questions posed to him. It is still drivel.

What really irks, though, is the sheer arrogance of Manoj Badale, Warne and Sean Morris, men who speak not of cricket but in the language of franchises, marketing models, brand awareness, business opportunities and bottom lines in trying to impose something upon a structure which is already overseen by another organisation. Not without a by-your-leave anyway, either from the ECB nor, it transpires, the Board of Control for Cricket in India, under whose auspices IPL is run. Badale and Morris might argue with good reason that their approach to link with Hampshire and other sides around the world and play a festival in this country has nothing to do with the IPL beyond their status as a franchise and therefore is strictly an initiative within their personal remit, but if the BCCI are correct, then good manners might demand a formal approach first.

The ECB did not see this coming. No mention was made at its one-day cricket symposium last week, on one of which panels sat Rod Bransgrove, the Hampshire chairman who has agreed to get into bed with Rajasthan and rename his county side appropriately. Bransgrove is a mighty successful businessman and something of a maverick too, who has a considerable personal stake in Hampshire. He wants a return and, besides which, any deal of his can only be enhanced if it has a built-in piss-off-Giles-Clarke factor, as this new alliance undoubtedly has. If the ECB chairman does not speak from the highest moral ground when it comes to hawking a team in search of big money, then his concerns about these planned exhibition games (for that is what they are) being played during the latter stages of its own domestic competition, and how, for instance, they cut across its deal with BSkyB for televising cricket, are real. As is the issue of a crowded or at least unruly domestic schedule that it is in the process of trying to defragment.

I imagine that somewhere along the line there will be a sensible accommodation. Badale is pushing to see how far he can get but no one is immune to progress or innovation: the ECB, an organisation which, lest we forget, is the counties', will be looking to see what is in it for its own benefit. No doubt it will sanction something for a price and, beyond the unedifying thought of other counties grovelling away with the begging bowl, there cannot be much harm in a name change and some different shirts. The idea that Hampshire supporters will automatically transfer off-season allegiance simply on the basis has to be fanciful, surely? It is enough trouble getting sufficient interest in Hampshire.

To be honest, I do not really care if Hampshire or Leicestershire or Middlesex or whoever want to sell themselves to a franchise. It will not disrupt the county competitions nor impact on international cricket at any level, which would be my concerns. Nor does it bother me if Cape Cobras or Victorian Bushrangers gain Royal approval. I do have a problem with the involvement of Trinidad and Tobago, however. Last time I looked, these two islands formed not a franchise but a country, for goodness sake – like India only smaller. Their national colours, in which they play one-day cricket, are red and black not the Rajasthan blue. It is different. How can you have a player exchange, as mooted, between a club and a country? How indeed can you sell out a country? Where is the pride to be had in that?


Mike Selvey

The GuardianTramp

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