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Two peas in a pod; Gayle and Harker - Suneer Chowdhary Column
by Suneer Chowdhary
May 17, 2009
There is a rather deep connection between the shenanigans of Chris Gayle and the practical and almost to say, pleadings of David Harker; both of which does not forebode a very pleasant outcome in the near future. The root of this joint lies in the exponentially dwindling stock of the purists' favourite form of the game, the test match cricket. While one has been a reluctant captain and one of the hardest hitters in the game today, the other is a chief executive of one of the smaller counties in England, and they have a gripe that is borne out of the lure of the lucre; something that has further been caused by test match cricket.

In a freewheeling interview, Gayle had bared it all; his unwillingness towards captaincy, and his clear-as-crystal preferences for the twenty-something game in general, and IPL in specific, as the underlying meaning came across. Harker, on the other hand, cannot help but count the steep reduction in profits from gate receipts - something that still forms a large chunk of the English county revenues - due to the staging of a game in the middle of May, when the rain accentuates the already reducing crowd interests for test cricket.

The reason for both their grievance is on similar lines; test cricket isn't earning the bucks that they would want and so, in their different ways have repelled this, once perceived as exciting, format of the game.

From a cricketer's point of view, Gayle's is not an isolated case that has come out in the open; there has been a list of open or muted dissonance. Gayle and Kevin Pietersen have had a texting-history going for them, when the former managed to taunt the latter for not having the opportunity to earn the mega-bucks in previous edition's IPL and Pietersen replying with an indirect threat to the ECB to tear up his contract if not allowed an IPL window, while the entire Sri Lankan team - and this includes the skipper Mahela Jayawardene - rebelled against the Sri Lankan board's head, Arjuna Ranatunga, for having dared to organised a test series that would have coincided with the second edition of the IPL!

Shaun Tait's reaction was veiled behind 'an opportunity to meet Shane Warne and learn from him', when he was disallowed an appearance in the tournament by Cricket Australia, but one can almost be sure of what his real motives were. Andrew Flintoff's insistence on flying down to South Africa despite carrying a niggle did nobody any good; neither will England be able to utilise his services for the ICC World T20, and nor did M.S.Dhoni manage to extract anything useful in those few games that he featured for the Chennai Super Kings.

And it is not as if IPL cannot be replicated. Another couple of such almost-as-rich leagues and the test match cricket will be as deader than a dodo, with no chances of revival.

It has often been said that the ICC needs to guard the game of cricket in a manner that protects its interests ensures inclusive growth. Unfortunately, and to quote Dan Brown's Digital Fortress, 'Who will guard the guards?' On one hand, there is an increasing worry of the effect that the IPL and the over-kill of T20 may have as an advertisement for the five-day format, and on the other, there has been a mandate by them to introduce an IPL-like model in the USA. While personally, I see this as a step in a right direction - and cricket in USA needs to be developed and that can happen via the T20 medium - one does not find the ICC doing much to bring in enough crowds to the stadium, or coerce enough audiences to switch on their televisions for a test match.

And for those who have grown up to relish the game in its truest form, it is probably in the twilight its existence. Harker, for all his wish to get games for Chester-le-Street, may not bid that extraordinary sum to have a a rather long, 'monotony' of five days of a game interspersed with rain and empty stands.

He may soon not remain in minority.
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