The public cricket spectator needs a 'Home' team image, when watching or viewing his favourite sport, not a hotch potch team of dead beat aged misfits thrown together by the lure of excessive pay. These mercenaries should be given the boot from their former employment and not reinstated when the whole sorry mess goes pear shape. However money being the order of things most important, will probably find these prodigals coming home for another feed of the fatted calf.
The big money for small cricket offered by the Indian Premier League has not enticed every international cricketer to sign up. As the eight IPL franchises enter the biggest player auction ever held in Mumbai today, England opener Alastair Cook is adamant that playing for his country means far more than a hefty bank balance.
"We get very well looked after as England players," Cook said in Napier. "When I was 10 years old I didn't dream about playing in an Indian Twenty20 league, I dreamed about playing for England, and I'm very happy with what I'm doing."
Your country needs you: England and Essex opener Alastair Cook
Like most players when the whiff of easy money is scented, England's elite know about the IPL and its illegitimate relation the Indian Cricket League. Yet, Cook reckons the subject has hardly been aired in the dressing-room, allaying fears of a Kerry Packer-style defection of the best players.
"It's not been an issue for England players," he said. "Nothing is bigger than wearing the Three Lions and playing for your country and I can't see anyone giving up playing for England to go and do that."
Saving yourself for the demands of Test and one-day international cricket would seem a sensible move for those at the start of their careers, which is why three Australians, Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnston and Brad Haddin, the latter heir apparent to the soon-to-be-retired Adam Gilchrist, pulled out of the IPL yesterday.
For well-established players it is different and it is unthinkable that players like Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff have not been sounded out, if not for the impending IPL tournament that starts in April, then certainly for future ones held over the next five years.
At present, every Test-playing country bar England is represented among the 82 players listed on IPL's website. So far, there are 31 Indian players, 11 Aussies including legends like Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, 11 South Africans, 10 Sri Lankans, eight from Pakistan, five from New Zealand, three West Indians, two Bangladeshis and a single player from Zimbabwe, Tatenda Taibu. Each is guaranteed around £80,000 just for signing on.
That England is not represented even by recent international players suggests a deal done between the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the England and Wales Cricket Board. After all, the English season has been set in stone since the 19th century and IPL's decision to hold their tournament between April 16 and June 1, when the final is played, encroaches on that in a harmful way.
Unlike the ICL, which has seen its overseas players like Chris Read and New Zealand's Shane Bond essentially barred from returning to representative cricket, each country's board has given the IPL their blessing. In return, Lalit Modi, the BCCI's vice-president behind the competition, is adamant that players without a No Objection Certificate from their respective board will not be signed.
For the moment, England players on central contracts would appear to be controlled by the ECB, though for how long once lawyers start filing restraint of trade orders is any one's guess. What seems obvious is that it will become a growing concern unless a window for IPL, convenient to all, opens up in the schedule.
Modi's take on the competition many feel will rent cricket apart, is that it will revolutionise the game, but in a way that benefits all interested parties.
Other interpretations exist: one being that it is an elaborate ruse to get international cricketers to stop complaining about playing too much cricket by proving money's revivifying effect on tired minds and limbs. Another is that it is TV's latest attempt to have a cricket match on screen every hour of every day.
Such saturation coverage can cause viewer overload, something that appears to have happened in Australia where for the first time in 29 years Channel Nine did not broadcast a match it had the rights for.
For IPL and their television paymasters the warning is stark: you can have too much of a good thing.
Last night there were only a dozen people among approx 300 viewing the Aus/Sri Lanka cricket in my local club .
Saturday, 1 March 2008
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