|| AFP ||
Former England captain Andrew Strauss forecast Wednesday the Indian Premier League would eclipse American football's NFL to become "the biggest domestic sporting event in the world" as he praised it for sparking one of cricket's "great steps forward".
He also said the recent creation of a women's IPL would "accelerate" the growth of the female game in spectacular fashion.
A highly lucrative franchise T20 event backed by wealthy business figures and entertainment stars, the IPL has also led to the creation of similar competitions, such as Australia's Big Bash and the Caribbean Premier League.
In the process, players on the global T20 circuit earn a good living from cricket without having to represent their countries.
This has led to fears about the future of international cricket, in particular five-day Tests, but Strauss said issues of "overkill" had existed before the advent of the IPL in 2008 and were still evident at international and county level.
Strauss, delivering the annual Cowdrey lecture at Lord's, urged his audience to embrace the IPL despite fears it meant the game had "sold its soul".
"As the Indian economy grows, it is expected that by the time it reaches parity with the size of the USA in 2040, the value of the IPL is likely to be six times what it is today -- this is going to be the biggest domestic sporting tournament in the world, bar none," Strauss said.
- 'Earth-shattering sum' -
"If you allow yourself to keep bound up in the thesis that the purpose of the game is to bring diverse people together, whether playing or watching, and to allow cricket to educate and connect, then surely the rise of franchise cricket is one of the great steps forward.
"More players are playing in different parts of the world, experiencing new places and meeting new people, more and more people around the globe are engaged with the great game that we all love so much."
Turning to the new five-team women's IPL, Strauss said it would "accelerate" the growth of women's cricket.
"The first IPL franchises have just been sold for an earth shattering sum of £465 million ($572.5 million)," the 45-year-old former opener added.
"Women's cricket is truly standing on its own two feet and is likely to be in the top three sports for earning potential for any young girl with talent and an ambition to play sport professionally."
Strauss, meanwhile, said the attacking way in which England red-ball coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes had overseen nine wins from 10 Tests since taking charge in May, compared to a mere one in 17 before they joined forces, augured well for the future of the five-day game.
"I firmly believe that the Test series that capture our imaginations today -- the ones that we really look forward to -- aren't going anywhere," Strauss insisted.