In & out: Faf’s pay load in the pipeline

2014-10-12 15:00

In the few days since I joined Twitter, I’ve learnt that Kevin Pietersen released a book, Graeme Smith delivered a lecture (of all things) at UCT and Faf du Plessis did a photoshoot at Maboneng Precinct in Joburg.

If that wasn’t enough, I also learnt that the gorgeous Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova, who recently won the China Open in Beijing, tweets in English.

Who would have thought?

It’s well known that upon being invited to play under the Star-Spangled Banner, Sharapova declined and stuck to representing Mother Russia.

Whatever her reasons, from the outside it seemed she’s a patriot who wouldn’t necessarily succumb to wooing from the other side of the Iron Curtain, however tempting the cash incentives and endorsements must have been.

Financial incentives in South African sports no doubt pale in comparison with those on the professional tennis circuit. Not too long ago, this paper reported on how Proteas players get almost R47?000 for playing a test match, as well as a R35?000 win bonus.

Sharapova netted about R10.5?million for her victory in China. Her cash prize for winning that one tournament was probably a lot more than what most mid-career South African cricketers playing locally have earned since they turned pro.

In the same week as Sharapova’s triumph, we watched Faf help his IPL team, the Chennai Super Kings, to victory in the glitzy Champions League T20.

The Super Kings amassed more than R27?million for claiming the title.

If my new (and I might add, overflowing) inbox is anything to go by, Faf has been on the receiving end of some derision for taking time off while the rest of the boys slog it out for their country next month in the antipodes.

After the news broke, some readers were left asking why he was available for his IPL franchise but not for his country. Surely, they intimated, representing one’s country should be prioritised over – to put it bluntly – making money on the subcontinent.

What we fail to understand, perhaps, is that Faf’s Proteas stipend alone is hardly adequate to cover all the spa treatments and facials he needs to maintain that natural winning glow.

The hard, cold truth of the matter – as much as cricket purists like some readers and myself find it difficult to swallow – is that playing cricket full time is a career choice and, like any profession, it’s driven by financial gain, coupled with some sort of passion. (Unless, of course, you find yourself on a career path involving journalism, where the pay is nothing more than okay and the passion wanes with every sip of cheap whiskey.)

So it seems the time has finally come for guys like Faf to get in on the same commercial action tennis players, footballers, golfers and just about any professional athlete other than cricketers have been enjoying for decades.

Sometimes it doesn’t really matter which you’re choosing to prioritise, club or country; what matters most is that you’re exploiting your talent to its full financial potential.

I guess Sharapova got lucky. Not only is serious-money tennis an individual sport, it’s one where patriotism doesn’t factor prominently. If she went with either country, her personal brand would have been strong enough to carry her to the same or similar amount of dwarf gold buried deep inside that mountain of sports riches. And it just sohappened she came off looking like a patriot in the process.

– @Longbottom_69 is an armchair cricket critic. He’s trying to resist the urge to constantly check Twitter because, as they say, self-promotion is the thief of time

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