It is common knowledge amongst cricket followers that the Stanford Millions could revolutionise the sport in a way that five years ago was unthinkable. The offer from the Texas Billionaire, Alan Stanford guarantees a million dollars for each player in the winning team of an invitational match arranged between a team of Caribbean Super Stars and an England Xl that that is to be played in Antigua on November 1st; there will be nothing for the losers. The offer from Stanford is part of his proposal to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to launch their own version of the Indian Premier League of Cricket that has attracted players from all over the world on highly lucrative contracts. Stanford is prepared to invest billions into the project but its success is dependent on hasty decisions by the ECB.
The 20/20 game has brought cricket into the real world of commerce and media and has captured the imagination of a previously uninterested audience. It is easy to see why, the big hitting, blood and thunder style of the game is hugely exciting that even the most ardent anti-cricket fans have become interested. Domestic and International 20/20 matches are usually sold out well in advance and the game is still only in its infancy. Stanford wants the ECB to organise its own version of the IPL tips for betting based on the current County structure, with flexibility in mind to perhaps allow teams being made up from City’s and Franchises. The ECB already sanction its own 20/20 League and 20/20 Knock out cup, but Stanford’s financial input would benefit the players on a scale that a year ago even they could only dream of. The bottom line might well come down to whether or not a county or test match player would rather play for a million pounds a year in front of raucous, enthusiastic crowds or for peanuts in a half empty county ground.
There are some who think that all forms of the game can still be accommodated and test cricket betting in particular has no need to suffer. This of course is true provided firstly that the county’s and franchises make that contractually allowable for the players and secondly that the International Cricket Board (ICC) can make test cricket as financially viable. However ask a player if he would rather play for England in a test match at Lords for a modest fee or a 20/20 game on a Wednesday night at the Rose bowl for a million pounds a year, for most there is only one answer. The ECB and ICC have some serious thinking to do.