As of Tuesday, an IPL match was billed as the second richest sports match in the world in rights value, ahead of even England's Premier League football's approximate $11.8m per game. There will be nitpickers who will try to dampen our burgeoning #proudfeels by pointing out that the Premier League's "bumper central revenues" will be hitting $10bn at some point for their 22-25 rights cycle across 1,900 matches (380 per year).
The IPL's major rights value at ₹48,390 crores (approx $6.2bn) are more than halfway up that particular tree but aside from the money, the break-up of the number of IPL matches expected over five years, that's the fine print worth dissecting. In 2023 and 2024, IPL will stage 74 matches like it did this year. In 2025 & 2026, that grows to 84 matches per season and in 2027 it will be 94 matches. That's 410 matches per five years at Rs118.02 crore per match.
Fifteen-odd years ago, there were passionate arguments over international cricket commitments being prioritised over the IPL 'window'. That window has now been widened across a considerably larger portion of the façade of the game - and will continue to do so. "Ultimately, India could become like the US in baseball or basketball: the home of a league so lucrative and so international in its player pool, that would no longer need the cash it once generated from bilateral international fixtures." That's from Crickonomics: The Anatomy of Modern Cricket, a newly-released book by sports economist Stefan Szymanski and cricket journalist Tim Wigmore.
Crickonomics is a collection of 20 essays around the state of the modern game, using data to arrive at conclusions or stir arguments. It uses the Soccernomics (written by Szymanski and Simon Kuper) structure of providing answers to broad questions in the game using data and reading patterns. Soccernomics was updated from an original 2019 book "Why England Lose: & Other Football Phenomena Explained by Szymanski & Kuper full of meanderings through the whys and hows of football.
Crickonomics takes us through cricket's current contemplations in a similar manner, including its most nerdy chapter titled, "Did the cold cost India a Test series victory in England?" It features the "first systematic study of the impact of temperature on Test performance" in which we read of the construction, if you please, of an "index of temperature advantage." So utterly English cricket and so utterly barmy that you would think that Crickonomics mainly comprises many a whimsical wandering.
Not so. Szymanski-Wigmore see the signs and follow the shifting of tectonic plates on Planet Cricket. Wigmore is co-author (with Freddie Wilde) of the excellent Cricket 2.0: Inside the T20 Revolution and a close follower of T20 franchise leagues. T20 has already changed cricket, as much if not more, it could be argued, than Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. To start with, T20 has upended an old essence of the game, making the batsman the attacker (because wickets do not require protection) and turning the bowler into a defender.
Next month the ICC will release the new Future Tours Programme (2023-2027) after its July 23 to 26 AGM. The FTP may show us how more T20 'windows' are being "upsized" across the international game. January 2023 is expected to see the launch of T20 franchise leagues in the UAE - the International League T20 (ILT20) and in South Africa and the US's Major League Cricket aims for a mid-2023 launch.
These new leagues will be staged alongside IPL, Pakistan's PSL, Australia's BBL, Bangladesh's BPL and the West Indies' CPL plus England's Hundred. Crickonomics lists a Federation of International Cricketers' Associations' findings from 2018-2019 which counted 541 players with overseas contracts in "short-format leagues" and 124 players playing in at least two franchise teams. Between November 2019 and March 2020, Crickonomics says, there was only one month "without a major short-format league in the world game" - and that was June, when the ICC CWC 2019 was being held.
Having transmogrified cricket's economic model, what T20 franchise leagues further promise to do, particularly in a post-Covid era, is what even Kerry Packer had not imagined. In the chapter, "The Strange Conservatism of Kerry Packer and why Covid-19 Will Accelerate the Rise of Club Cricket", we are presented with the possibility of cricket finally falling in step with the other large aka loaded global team sports - football, baseball, basketball, American football, ice hockey - where club leagues trumps country fixtures.
Packer's World Series Cricket (1977-79) held six years after the first ODI featured "Super Tests". While WSC did introduce much that was radical - commercialisation, floodlights, coloured clothing, professional salaries, the book says somewhat mischievously, "Packer did not challenge the orthodoxy that international cricket was the highest version of the sport."
That orthodoxy today, the book predicts, is about to be challenged from within by what Crickonomics calls the game's "middle classes". Covid has shown them that it is far simpler and lucrative to stages league over internationals. The CPL T20 featured 33 matches in 24 days, the time it would have taken to fit in two bilateral white-ball series of three ODIs and three T20s each.
Crickonomics offers many other engaging digressions to dip into - women's cricket, the rise of New Zealand, Afghanistan in Germany - but on this day and at this time, its reading of the tea leaves is spot on.