So, we have a 8 team tournament, where in each side plays 14 games - 56 games in all. Assuming each P20 side plays the every other side twice (like in the IPL), you will have a minimum of 144 games there. In 2008, 15,643 overs were bowled over 47 Test Matches (about 332 per Test Match out of a possible 450), while 9384 overs were bowled over 112 ODI games (involving the 10 Test playing nations, whose players, these mercenary tournaments will attract). The 200 extra T20 games now scheduled for 2010 will add 8000 overs to the international cricket calender. It will target the very best players, those on whom the game depends to produce the spectacular incomes that the IPL produces.
Some will say this is a good thing, even though i would disagree. It uses up the only available off-seasons in the international calender - the English summer for players elsewhere, and the month of April-May for most of the International Cricket world (except possibly tours to the West Indies). It adds about 30% in terms of cricket played in the year (by international cricketers).
This is just from two T20 leagues. What if the Australians and the South Africans also build their T20 leagues. They will most likely be able to offer pay cheques on par with those offered by the IPL. If this is the case, then imagine a really talented batsman, who will come of age in the post-IPL age. Lets say he's 28 years old, had played about 50 Tests, made about 4000 Test runs, made about 12-15 Test hundreds. At which point, he is guaranteed a multi-million dollar income playing T20 cricket. What choices will this player make? At what cost to cricket? Lets leave aside issues of worth, and value and quality. Lets set aside for the moment the argument that T20 cricket is a silly, ridiculously narrowed version of the game (toy cricket if you will) which cannot match Test Cricket as a cricketing contest.
The current popularity of the IPL is because it is using up reputations made in Test Cricket. Whatever Lalit Modi may tell you about Kamran Khan, the IPL did not invent the idea of plucking talented youngsters out of obscurity (see Pakistan Cricket, and every other type of Cricket in the history of the world). Besides IPL franchises did not go for about 100 million dollars each because of the promise of Kamran Khan (or even promising youngsters from the Ranji Trophy like Yusuf Pathan and Swapnil Asnodkar). That money was paid for Tendulkar and Warne, Pietersen and Jayasurya.
The continued success of T20 cricket (financially - thats about the only good thing about it. It would be nice if they could lose the cheerleaders), depends on the continued development of great players - for which i will argue, Test Cricket is vital. The ECB may just have gotten the balance right by involving County sides in its version of the IPL (assuming the 18 sides are going to the county teams), for even with increased foreign player participation, this will raise the profile of the County sides in the English summer and may even rub off on the profile of the county championship. This is precisely what the BCCI missed in its desire to find people to throw money at "franchises" like a bollywood villain at a wiggling vamp in an item song (in the classic heyday of the item song). They could have produced a IPL style T20 tournament involving the top tier Ranji Trophy teams - thereby raising the profile of the Ranji Trophy itself.
But Mr. Modi will tell you that they had to respond to the ICL, and that this had to be a commensurate effort. The BCCI and the ICC have more or less defanged the ICL now. The BCCI may just find in the coming years, that this was a pyrrhic victory. By marginalizing Ranji Trophy cricket, they are in effect marginalizing the best arena for the development of the great players that they need to fuel these franchises. In recent years India has become the commercial and financial capital of Cricket. The IPL may have been a daring leap into the unknown, but India must make sure that this does not become a leap away from Cricket as we have known it for a hundred years now. The IPL as a tournament lasts almost as long as the World Cup does. The difference is that it is played every year. It involves a similar multi-national multitude of players.
Where does Mr. Modi (or Mr. Manohar for that matter) see Cricket 10 years from now? For that matter, where does Mr. Clarke of the ECB see it? For possibly the first time in the history of cricket, its bosses are going to have to seriously think about these questions. The cricketing enterprise has now diversified to the point where, without such a vision, and without long term strategy, things could get out of hand very easily. There is, to use a well worn cliche, a golden goose in the house. It must be exploited wisely for the benefit of the house.