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Switch Hit vs Straight Bat

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The two events that traditionally hail the start of the English cricket season are the MCC vs
 Champion County match at Abu Dhabi and the annual publication of Wisden. Views expressed about the
IPL in the latter have led to an interesting war of words between one of our leading cricket writers
and one of our top players.

The 149th edition of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack is the first to be edited by Lawrence Booth, who
has previously reported on cricket for three national newspapers. As editor of this most famous of
sporting publications, Booth’s duties include choosing the Five Cricketers of the Year and expressing
his opinions on the state of the game in the influential ‘Notes from the Editor’ section at the front.

To say that he’s not happy with the influence that India has over modern cricket, to the detriment
of Test cricket, is putting it mildly: “The skewing of Indian sensibilities away from Tests would cause
less alarm if the powerbrokers were on top of their brief ... India have ended up with a special gift:
The clout to shape an entire sport. Some national boards would struggle to survive without an Indian
visit. But too often their game appears driven by the self-interest of the few.”

His target is clearly the IPL – and this has attracted comment from Kevin Pietersen, who is currently
playing for the Delhi Daredevils. Speaking about this and the negative publicity the IPL generally gets
in the press over here, Pietersen said: “It saddens me because I have had an amazing time at the IPL.
It’s down to a lot of jealousy, I think.”

KP’s opinions on this are rather predictable given that he’s playing in the IPL. But frankly, he’s
got a point as there are no doubt some in the English cricketing establishment who are jealous
of the IPL’s success. After all, the ECB pioneered Twenty20 but squandered an opportunity to set
up a tournament to rival the IPL by allying themselves with the American fraudster Allan Stanford
(currently awaiting sentencing following his convictions in the USA).

Negativity about the IPL in England doesn’t just come from the press and the ECB, however. With
just two frontline England players taking part and players like Graeme Swann, James Anderson and
Ian Bell not getting bought by any of the IPL teams, it’s frankly unsurprising that English cricket fans
don’t really care.

But Booth’s concerns about the decline of the Test format are valid. England are only playing a
three-Test series against South Africa later this summer – the one that will decide whether or not
we stay at the top of the world rankings – in order to fit in five ODIs against Australia as well as the
five-match ODI series and three Twenty20 games against South Africa. What does that say about our
priorities?

It’s a debate that will continue to rumble.



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