Hosting IPL matches in England could help draw new, young and diverse audiences to cricket, claims Surrey chairman Richard Thompson … as warring counties devise imaginative ways to get money flowing again
It is a world away from the bitter cold and even snow that will greet the start of a county cricket season on Thursday that is crucial to the financial future of the domestic game.
Still, Surrey’s ambitious hopes to host Indian Premier League matches in England’s biggest cities, as soon as the post-Covid world allows, could be just as important to the game’s recovery as anything in our 18 counties.
With a season where the ECB has been betting heavily on their Hundred competition kicks off with a new Congressional County Championship, thoughts on the Kia Oval have turned to a more glitzy bailout.
Surrey boss Richard Thompson plans an imaginative way out of the post-pandemic crisis
Joe Root will line up for Yorkshire as the County Championship kicks off on Thursday
Richard Thompson, one of English cricket’s most progressive stewards and a man never afraid of upsetting the ECB’s feathers, plans an imaginative route out of the game’s post-pandemic crisis.
Bringing IPL teams to England could, according to the Surrey chairman, be the ‘silver bullet’ the ECB is looking for to attract a new, young and diverse audience.
And the project, which is likely to be supported by the governing body, could begin with a practice match between Surrey and a high-profile IPL team.
“You could organize IPL games the same way the NFL and Major League Baseball play legitimate games in London,” said the Surrey chairman. Sportsmail
The IPL will be expanded to 10 teams next year, so there will be extra rounds and a later finish in June. London would be an obvious base, but I also see matches in Birmingham and Manchester.
Rajasthan Royals actually base their training academy in Surrey and we know their owner Manoj Badale well. He runs the British Asian Trust and spends a lot of time in the Oval. Many clubs have a relationship with the IPL and we certainly have a decent one. ‘
A spin-off of the plan, Thompson believes, would ensure that India’s best players are recruited to play in a Twenty20 Blast competition that Surrey fears will be undermined by the ECB’s desperation to get rid of the Hundred. a success this summer.
“I remember we signed Virat Kohli in 2018,” said Thompson. Unfortunately, he was injured and did not come by, but the interest aroused was extraordinary. Counties so rarely get to see these superstars that it’s all about finding a way to get them in the Blast or the Championship too. ‘
Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals base their training academy in Surrey
Obviously, while Surrey may have toned down their original objections to the Hundred and will be hosting the Oval Invincibles in July, they are still concerned about the impact on the county’s landscape, especially the highly successful T20 Blast.
“Our point was always, ‘Can the game handle four sizes?” Thompson said.
For starters, we’re losing 12 players to the Hundred, which means Surrey will have a virtual academy side to the 50-over league this season and that will diminish in quality and value.
“We all want the Hundred to succeed because the game is betting on it so much. You cannot spend this kind of money or reach new audiences. But looking at the Blast schedule and the lack of television games this year, it’s very hard to see how it can compete.
‘We have six home games in twelve days. In 2019 we first had a million live spectators for the Blast, but we don’t get close to that now if you expect people to actually go to games every other day.
The County Championship kicks off Thursday amid ambitious plans for the domestic competition
This will be the first year of seeing how the whole Blast versus the Hundred thing will work. It just shouldn’t be one at the expense of the other. ‘
But Thompson is optimistic about cricket’s future after Covid, as long as there are crowds for most of a summer starting behind closed doors on Thursday.
“I would say we got through the storm, but as much as there is more blue sky, there are still a few clouds,” he said.
‘There is still uncertainty. The vaccination program should give people the confidence to come to cricket and feel safe. As long as we are able to have a full house in five months for our India Test, and also for the Hundred and the Blast, which we should be doing, then we are on the way. ‘