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Money spelling the end of the international cricket?
by Gulu Ezekiel
Jul 19, 2008
The new ICC Chief Executive from South Africa Haroon Lorgat appears to be an honourable man. He also appears somewhat naïve. When I read his comment on the latest fallout from the IPL - "My folks always told me to be careful because money is the root of all evil" - it brought a wan smile to my face. It also reminded me of the words from a '70s pop song: "Money may be the root of all evil, but it also solves a lot of our problems!" That could well be the theme song for today's professional cricketers. Their lot has been much improved over the last 30 years thanks largely first to the Kerry Packer revolution of the '70s and then to the vast sums of money coming in from the Indian cricket industry since the '90s. But the recent windfall of the IPL, ICL, Stanford 20/20 and other sundry 20/20 leagues mushrooming all over the world must have them dancing with joy!

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) plans for their own league on the lines of the IPL have been temporarily thwarted. It came under fire from some counties and the media who saw it as another nail in Test cricket's coffin. As if cricket does not have enough thorny issues to tackle, we now have the bizarre scenario where the President of the Sri Lanka has intervened to allow his nation's cricketers to represent their IPL franchises rather than play for the country on their tour of England next year. It really boggles the imagination! Of course, the Lankan players have a point that they committed to the IPL before their board hastily agreed to the tour dates to fill in for Zimbabwe. So what is to prevent a bunch of Sri Lankan cricketers or those from other countries prematurely announcing their retirement from international cricket in order to make themselves exclusively available for IPL, ICL, etc?

It is bound to happen as the ICC is yet to decide on a 'window' to be kept free in the international calendar to accommodate the IPL. And has anyone noticed how the schedule for next year’s season has crept up from 46 days to 50? IPL commissioner Lalit Modi had to be restrained by his mentor IS Bindra and others when, flush with the success of the first season, he announced to the world that the IPL would shortly be played over two seasons per year! If the ICC cannot find seven weeks in their packed calendar to accommodate one IPL season, imagine the dilemma when - and this is surely inevitable - Modi and his minions are free to extend their gravy train to 90 days or more per year? There is also the 10 days to be squeezed in for the IPL's Champions League this September.

Meanwhile, the ICC's own 50-overs Champions Trophy meanwhile continues to be the stepchild of world cricket which no nation wants to host and few want to compete in. Already Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf has dropped out, ostensibly on religious grounds. Pakistan is surely one of the most dangerous nations in the world and Andrew Symonds has started making his usual noises about not wanting to travel to Pakistan for the Champions Trophy in September. Then again, when the serial bomb blasts killed dozens in Jaipur in May, there was no exodus of foreign players from the IPL, citing security threats. Double standards? You bet! There are other ominous signs to indicate the end of international cricket is far closer than one could have ever imagined. And the Frankenstein's monster that threatens to consume its creator is of 'official' making.

India's limited overs captain MS Dhoni has decided to skip the three Test matches in Sri Lanka this month due to fatigue. He played in the IPL (where his team lost in the final) despite suffering from a bad back and bruised fingers. No doubt these injuries were aggravated during the IPL and affected his performance while playing for India. But it is pretty doubtful if we will ever see a cricketer deciding to take a break from the IPL due to fatigue.

Only the most die-hard cricket fans would have heard of Graham Napier. The Essex all-rounder has been taking the domestic 20/20 competition in England by storm this season and last month broke the world record for most sixes (16) in an innings. Napier has never represented England. His stated ambition? To get a nice, juicy contract with the IPL. Same is the case with England's Sikh spin bowler Monty Panesar who has been pleading his case in his recent columns. Another one to let slip recently was South Africa's fast bowler Dale Steyn who played for Bangalore Royal Challengers, the second-last team in the IPL this year. Steyn called his stint in India "... a paid holiday... you only had to work hard if you felt like it". Of course, he later apologized for his statements.

The cat is, however, out of the bag.
 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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