FORMER West Indies opener and ex-CEO of the TT Cricket Board Suruj Ragoonath said Cricket West Indies (CWI) and cricket boards around the world will have a “herculean task” to keep players motivated and willing to represent their respective teams because of the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL), which became richer after a new deal.
The IPL is now pushing for an official two-and-a-half-month window in the calendar so that all the top players would be able to compete in their tournament.
Ragoonath believes that the longer format of the game is under threat.
The IPL announced a deal on Tuesday with Disney Star and Viacom 18 worth over US $6 billion over a five-year period from 2023 to 2027.
The deal is 2.96 times higher than the previous IPL rights deal from 2018 to 2022 which was worth US $2.55 billion.
Prior to the latest deal, IPL players were already among the best-paid athletes in the world.
CWI has had their challenges keeping players interested in representing West Indies. Oftentimes, West Indians are among the top picks in franchise cricket drafts around the world and some have chosen these leagues ahead of West Indies in the past.
West Indies were well-represented in the 2022 IPL which concluded at the end of May as 17 players were involved.
The West Indians chosen in the 2022 IPL auction were Dwayne Bravo, Nicholas Pooran, Jason Holder, Shimron Hetmyer, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Rovman Powell, Dominic Drakes, Alzarri Joseph, Sherfane Rutherford, Fabian Allen, Obed McCoy, Evin Lewis and Kyle Mayers.
They joined Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Andre Russell who were retained by their respective franchises.
The total price paid for the West Indies players was US $10.855 million.
Russell ($1.6 million), Pooran ($1.433 million), Holder ($1.166 million), Hetmyer ($1.133 million) and Shepherd ($1.033 million) were all signed for over one million.
Ragoonath said CWI has a tough task to keep their players passionate about representing West Indies.
“It is a herculean challenge for the West Indies Cricket Board (CWI), for any board for that matter because you cannot match that kind of money.”
Ragoonath said players may choose franchise cricket over country.
“One ought not to blame the players for choosing because they have a limited shelf life as far as their careers are concerned and they want to choose where they have the maximum return on their skills.”
The IPL, which lasted over two months this year, is expected to be contested over two and a half months from the 2024 edition as more matches are being planned.
The lengthy IPL may affect the international cricket calendar which is already a packed one as players may have to choose between the IPL and representing their nation or region.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Jay Shah said the BCCI is “committed” to international cricket.
Ragoonath said CWI must try to increase their player pool as players will be lost to franchise cricket.
He added that cricket is developing in the US and players will also be attracted to those leagues.
Test cricket has decreased in popularity and Ragoonath said the longer form of the game may no longer exist in years to come.
“We are risking right now the extinction of the long format, four-day cricket and so on. Players who would eventually be playing long format cricket would be players who just can’t get T20 contracts and therefore those will be the lesser (skilled) players, therefore competing internationally (would be more difficult). We would become even worse of a competitor than we are right now and we are extremely poor at the moment.”
A two-match Test series between West Indies and Bangladesh bowls off on Thursday in Antigua.
Ragoonath said, “Given the financial aspect of the IPL and what it is earning not just as a product, but what players are earning for playing the players will continue to prioritize the IPL.”
He said players may only play IPL and not even participate in other franchise tournaments.