It doesn't matter who wins the WT20

Blog Opinion

In Peter May's final column for C365, he looks at five topics that has caught his eye in the past week, and gives us his patented musings and insights. We'll miss you, Mr May!

In Peter May's final column for C365, he looks at five topics that has caught his eye in the past week, and gives us his patented musings and insights. We'll miss you, Mr May!

<B>Four more years</B>

Writing between the two WT20 semi-finals, we are certain to have a fourth name on the trophy in four events. With 2009 winners Pakistan gone we are left with runners-up from that year, Sri Lanka, and from last time, Australia, plus the never-been-close West Indies.

For the neutral, it hardly matters who wins. As long as it's not Australia, obviously.

Sri Lanka are everyone's favourite second team, a group of idiosyncratic talents led by the universally brilliant Mahela Jayawardene (anyone else these days find him reminiscent of Kim Jong-Il? Not personality-wise, just in a portly, waddling, apple-cheeked general sort of way?).

The Windies meanwhile are so important to world cricket as a team that is neither establishment Anglo Saxon or tyro Asian. As with South Africa, the game has far greater texture for their very presence; unlike South Africa that presence has been on the wane in recent years and it is a joy to see them where it matters.

So, why would a win for Sri Lanka or the West Indies on Sunday feel somehow less than their respective World Cup victories in 1996, 1975 and 1979? The obvious answer is that the format is somehow inferior, but that's not going to get you very far.

It is instead the frequency of the events: whoever it is in Colombo on Sunday will be not only the fourth winner <I>ever</I> but the fourth winner <I>in five years</I>. They will lose the title as soon as they have gotten used to it, and that disappointment will be cushioned with the knowledge that another chance to win it will come around soon enough.

The WT20 has to be moved to a four-year timetable if it is to achieve parity with the World Cup. As it stands it is little more than a Champions Trophy.

<B>If Durham v Leics = $1 billion, then IPL = ?</B>

Speaking to Paul Nixon a couple of weeks ago was a sharp reminder of the reality of betting-related corruption in cricket.

The former England wicketkeeper played in the Indian Cricket League, which in the integrity stakes nipped at the heels of Enron. But illegal Indian bookies offered Nixon a £5 million payday not in Delhi but Durham. At least $1 billion is bet in India on every televised cricket match, meaning that any pro cricketer can win the lottery a good few times a season if he is weak or foolish enough to take it.

The Indian Premier League drove the ICL into extinction on 'ethical grounds' without having its own security measures. And if Durham v Leicester attracts $1 billion, what is an IPL match worth? The colossal amounts of money on offer mean that players will be receiving inducements and pressures on a daily basis.

Complacency and ineffectiveness in how the game is run guarantees that a series of big T20 betting scandals is coming.

<B>West Indies: the revival has begun</B>

It has been very fashionable in recent months to slate the West Indies, probably because it is so easy. Their record in most places at most times in most formats is dismal.

But their success in the WT20 is evidence of progress under Ottis Gibson. Yes, they will always be better with their most talented players in the squad. But all are performing within a framework instilling professionalism and preparation, and the results reflect that.

Samuel Badree's continued progress speaks of a management team that is doing things properly: identifying the best players for formats; having plans and strategies beyond a handful of elite stars.

The Windies, like New Zealand, will always be a more volatile team on form lines because their small talent pools are vulnerable to raids from T20 franchise vultures. But if the Windies stay resistant to knee-jerk reactions in defeat then they will continue to improve under Gibson.

The bigger problem is that long-term progress requires intelligent management and planning above the coach's head at WICB level to manage and nurture playing resources. There is currently no such leadership.

<B>Ireland's time has come</B>

If you want to demonstrate that the ICC is less interested in the development of the world game than promoting the special interests of a minority then there are countless ways to do so.

My favourite is the difficulty faced by Ireland. As their talisman Trent Johnston pointed out recently, on merit they deserve parity at least with Zimbabwe and Bangladesh in funding and Test status.

Even in consecutive tournaments in Asia, eons away from their comfort zone, they have been the biggest threat to the 'big eight'. Yet the ICC has come closer to banning them from the World Cup than to taking seriously their Test candidacy.

<B>KP on offer for 50 quid a day</B>

In early 2005 my working week was dedicated to organising a website for the upcoming Ashes. We were approached by the agent of a young batsman on the fringes of the England side offering daily Test match columns for 50 quid a time.

For the player, these would continue to build his profile with the fans while he awaited his Test chance. For us, it was an insider insight on the cheap when we could hardly outbid News International for Andrew Flintoff. There was also the suggestion that the prospective analyst, something of a maverick, might actually break with the tradition of player columns and say something worth reporting.

I was in favour of signing him up for £250 a Test (the boxing correspondent would lose that sort of money in a lunch hour betting on mixed doubles tennis from the Luxembourg Open) but in the end we passed as the editor concluded, 'He won't have enough to say that's interesting.'

Seven-and-a-half years later it is fair to say we probably got that one wrong. Not only did Kevin Pietersen (for it was he) muscle into the starting XI, he dominated the climax of the greatest series of them all. Since then he has gone on to be the most talked about player in world cricket this side of Sachin Tendulkar. Of all the things you could accuse him of, 'not enough to say' would be down the list.

This week Pietersen has returned to the England fold with a severely restricted contract and no guarantee of touring India. There are dark mutterings that he plays for England mainly for the money (<i>Don't they all?- Ed</i>) despite earning $2 million for his ESPN punditry during the WT20 (a modest 2,400-fold increase on his 2005 rates).

Previously I thought this storm would blow over and Pietersen would be reinstalled for another few thousand Test runs. Now I'm not so sure. Neither party has made enough concessions in the peace treaty. England are apparently delighting in dressing Pietersen in a hair shirt (adidas, no doubt) and he is too volatile and foolish.

The ECB's satisfaction with its own unreasonable terms misunderstands both Pietersen and their own role.

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