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Beating Them at Their Own Game
by Gulu Ezekiel
Feb 16, 2008
Beating Them at Their Own Game

By Gulu Ezekiel - Dreamcricket Special Columnist

For a cricket fan in his 40’s like this columnist, the most remarkable aspect of the birth of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been the virtual stampede of players around the world to come to India and cash in on the venture.

Apart from the ‘official’ IPL, today’s cricketers also have the rebel Indian Cricket League (ICL) and mainstream cricket to choose from. Talk about being spoiled for choice!

For decades cricket fans of my generation had to swallow the bitter pill of taunts and abuse from visiting cricketers, journalists and officials who would enjoy traditional Indian hospitality and then write nasty articles or books about their travails in the harsh conditions of the sub-continent. Some of this whining crossed the line into racial abuse.

As recently as 2002 I found myself sitting next to the BCC cricket correspondent in the press box during the ODI against England in the Capital. My ears were burning as he carried out a steady, non-stop stream of whingeing and invective against everything from the weather, to the state of the pitch and everything else in between.

Why even the current Indian coach Gary Kirsten from South Africa has gone on record condemning India in his diary from the 1996 tour. Today Kirsten has happily signed on the dotted line to travel the length and breadth of this country that he claimed had more cows than cars on its streets! Money—bags full in this case—has a strange way of changing people’s mind. Imagine playing cricket in April and May in India, even if it under lights. I find it hard to suppress a chuckle at the dramatic change of events.

Tim May of the Federation of International Cricket Players—a toothless body with no Asian representation--last year went on the record stating professional cricketers might have to turn to performance-enhancing drugs to survive the grueling international calendar.

Is it not amazing that May is now busy being the middle man between Australia’s top cricketers—disgruntled at having hurdles put in their way by their country’s officials—and Cricket Australia?

Australian cricketers have raised the status of their ‘Baggy Green’ caps almost to religious levels. The whole elaborate tribal ritual of awarding the national colours to a new player has been the envy of the rest of the cricket world.

The dream of every young Australian male for over a century was to don that cap one day.

Today that dream is likely being replaced by one of calculating how much money he can earn playing 20/20 cricket—the biggest bucks for the shortest possible span of time.

Why go through grueling international travel around the world away from your home and family for year after year when you can earn five times as much for 45 days work playing hit-and-giggle cricket?

Just as Jagmohan Dalmiya was a hate figure for the non-Asian cricket countries after he took over the ICC back in 1996—despite turning the world body into a cash cow and raising the financial status of players around the world-- today the BCCI is being condemned in the foreign media for luring away their players and jeopardizing the game.

The case of former England captain Mike Atherton, now a widely respected columnist, is an interesting one. Atherton has joined the bandwagon of largely Western condemnation and foreboding surrounding the IPL and ICL. But can he honestly put his hand on his heart and swear he would not have succumbed to the lure of lucre too if he was still in his playing days?

Therein lies the hypocrisy. I am the first one to put my hand up and express my scepticism over this stunning new venture. Being a traditionalist myself, I too have misgivings over the future of mainstream cricket if it does succeed, though for the record I am convinced the IPL will be a flop just as the ICL has been.

However what we are seeing today is Western-style market-driven forces in play. Is it so tainted all of a sudden now just because a “poor Third-World nation” like India has adopted it so expertly and beaten the West at their own game?

 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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