It’s like the perennial story about the snake that began to devour its own tail. Knowingly or unknowingly, today cricket too is eating its own tail with much relish. Never in the history of the game has it degenerated to a pitiful point like this, where it is groping in the dark to fight against a fire breathing money dragon with only a bat in its hand, while the sounds emanating from the Bollywood rave party blares down the streets of Mumbai.
The present bunch of cricketing kids have transformed from a league of white clad gentlemen a half a century ago to a superrich clan of Nadals, who think that they are bigger than the game and act just like that.
Just to stress that point listen to this little anecdote. A while ago a prominent Lankan superstar cricketer, while turning out for the Indian Premier League tournament, got injured. Like a good lad should, he was back in Sri Lanka and began his treatment with a physio attached to Sri Lanka Cricket. In about ten days the cricketer was back on track and was going back to India to continue his stint with his league team. Ironically, the cricketer wanted the physio who attended on him to join him. Everything for the physio, who was to be his personal attendant, was on the cricketer’s account. But the Lankan authorities did not see this as a viable proposition. The physio had to stay back to nurse the rest of the Lankan cricketing brood. A fire breathing superstar will always count himself as a person of exclusive treatment.
The T-20 version of the game and its unmanageable offspring -- the Indian Premier League -- have brought so many problems to the authorities.
The other day the question about an official window to the IPL was put forward to the outgoing ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat at a forum. This issue has been bugging the ICC, the game’s policymaker, since 2008.
The first person who tried to take the bull by the horns was the then Sri Lanka Cricket Interim Committee Chief Arjuna Ranatunga. While the second version of the IPL was in the offing, Ranatunga’s administration tried its best to fit in a tour of England, but most of the senior players involved had already signed lucrative IPL contracts and if they dishonoured the agreements they may have had to face serious consequences. History shows that the tour did not materialise and the IPL won the day.
Since then the Lankan authorities are rather choosy when it comes to tours in or outbound – they do not want to upset the applecart, because if they hurt the Indian authorities, it is finally felt by the Lankan bottom-line – at least the BCCI would see to it.
Yet the ICC keeps a poker face on the IPL when it comes to that window question. Lorgat explained it this way: “The consequence of that (an IPL window) is what do we do with the Big Bash League? What do we do with other premier leagues -- Sri Lanka is launching one, Bangladesh has one. I know people might say the IPL is ‘the premier league’, but once you provide a window for one particular member, you have to be conscious of the fact that you may well have to do it for other members. Hence why we have not been supportive of a window specifically for any one of those domestic leagues."
Yet the pressure that apparently emanates from the IPL towards the cricket bodies of individual countries is huge.
Although an official ICC window for IPL is not granted, each country’s board would be fully aware that such a domestic tournament is in the air while scheduling their FTP tours.
This is the case with New Zealand. The New Zealand board and the players have reached an agreement that will try to avoid scheduling international series that clash with the IPL. But it is an unwritten understanding that governs Sri Lanka’s tour arrangements vis-à-vis the IPL.
There is a school of thought – especially the past national cricketers who are in favour of the present breed striking gold and are happy for them. They think that a window for them to join the money-minting golfers and the tennis players should be kept open.
Yet we feel that it should not happen at the expense of a national cause. Now rich boards have stayed away from the IPL. For instance, England Cricket Board conducts its early summer schedule in April. So does the Australian Cricket Board. As a result the current “in” cricketers from England, who are enjoying a wave of success in international cricket, are missing from the IPL. Yet, the West Indies team who toured England during that period had a bunch of novices and the line read very bland. Only after the IPL was over, the names of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Keiron Pollard are being associated with the once champion team.
The middle income cricket boards like Sri Lanka, New Zealand and the West Indies have to play the IPL game in order not to antagonise the BCCI. After one version of the IPL was held in South Africa even the cricketers of that country have become huge draws in the IPL.
At the same time, Lorgat is also asking the question about the other mushrooming T-20 bashes. If they also begin to pay well and keep to their promises then the cricketers will be more likely to be part of the honey pot. The T-20 bashes will need the better players to keep them alive and the big players will need the bashes to keep their bank books alive.
At the same time there is another complaint about the IPL. They say it is usurping most of the multinationals for advertising at IPL and when it comes to bilateral FTP events they fight shy to come in. This means the FTP is also getting throttled in a way.
There is an honest risk of the big players opting to stick with the bashes while the bilateral FTP engagements are growing thinner in cash and player glitter.
Isn’t it that cricket is eating its own tail?