By Suresh Menon
Gooch has said that the IPL auction, which has made some England players incredibly richer, was a distraction and led to the horrendous showing in Sabina Park.
Those who remember these things from their schooldays know that it is not money which is the root of all evil, but the love of money which is the root of all evil. And now, if former England captain Graham Gooch (and a few sundry reporters, columnists and players) are to be believed, then the mere thought of money is the root of all evil - in this case, evil being a Test match defeat in the West Indies after being bowled out for 51 runs.
Gooch has said that the IPL auction, which has made some England players incredibly richer, was a distraction and led to the horrendous showing in Sabina Park. Now you can call the auction any number of things - a cattle market being one of the more colourful - but to blame it for England's performance is ridiculous. Yes, there is a huge amount of money available, and yes, the English players who missed out last year are keen to give cricket a shot in the arm by kindly allowing themselves to play for the various teams. But from that, it is a giant leap to doing badly in a Test halfway across the world.
Sadly, England lost out on a million-dollar pay out when the Stanford millions went to the West Indies after a match they lost. So clearly the West Indies are not affected by thoughts of millions, whether Stanford's or the IPL's; it is a specifically English problem.
Both the English players and their Board have jumped through the hoops provided by the Indian Board in order to be able to play in the IPL tournament, and it is bad form to bite the hand that feeds. Players from all over the world realize there is a truckload of money to be made for six weeks' work, and even those who are embarrassed by it have the grace not to question it, but count their blessings one by one. Australia's Michael Clarke alone has botched his copy book by pulling out because he thought he should have had a higher base price (if you believe Lalit Modi) or because he wanted to spend more time with his family (if you believe him - but that story sounds thin).
There is nothing wrong with professional sportsmen going where the money is; what is irritating is the gloss they sometimes paint over the good, old-fashioned gold rush. They are not breaking any laws, there are no moral issues involved (the tournament is legal, a specific window has been created for it, teams are willing to pay in the millions) at the player level - you could argue against the concept and the fallout, but that is not the player's problem.
Usually it is the former players who missed out on the moolah who tend to sound all moralistic. Mr Graham Gooch loved to play for his beloved country so much that he was willing to chuck it all up and captain a rebel tour in South Africa, then banned from international cricket. He was banned for three years for placing money above country.
If, as Gooch has suggested, professional cricketers are so easily sidetracked, then one must call their professionalism into question, not the IPL auction. It also takes the focus away from the fine West Indies bowling, and the issues within the team which is all very convenient.
But is IPL the reason Andrew Flintoff swung out wildly to be bowled? If so, then this is cricket's version of a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil setting off a tornado in Texas.