Easy money time again for cricketers

2011-04-09 00:00

LAST night the Chennai Whatsits clashed with the Kolkata Something or others — forgive the vagueness, but it takes time to catch up, especially when so much has been spent trying to find Schabir Shaik’s grave.

Yes IPL is back. A long campaign awaits, 74 matches altogether, including a final series so complicated that it’d take the rest of the page to explain. Not even a week after the spectacular finish of the 2011 World Cup, the cricketers are back and wearing the apparently arbitrary attire of their T20 franchises.

Of course it is the future. Cricket is finished as an international game and hereafter faces a long and slow decline caused by a board that makes one-star decisions while staying in five-star hotels. Through no fault of the ICC’s admirable employees, cricket has become a corrupt and worthless activity and deserves nothing better than IPL, a format known for jiggery pokery, social excesses and cosmetic grins.

Fittingly the founder of IPL, Lalit Modi, can no longer set foot on Indian turf for fear of arrest due to financial irregularities. His mistake was to get caught. Along the way he offended not only the minster of finance, but also elements in the BCCI intent on conveying respectability. Modi was a remarkable organiser blessed with fierce energy and burdened with a bulging ego and private excesses.

Naturally the cricket community embraces IPL and almost all of the main players will turn out for one team or the other. Players and coaches can make a lot of easy money from it. Good luck to them. They are professionals trying to earn a crust, and it’s better than robbing a bank. Thankfully these days they are not obliged to attend all-night parties after the match or to spend an evening moving around as part of Modi’s entourage.

Lots of South Africans have signed up, including Albie Morkel, Jaques Kallis, AB De Villiers and Faf Du Plessis. Once he has sorted out his domestic arrangements, Graeme Smith will join the merry throng.

Only the English and the Pakistanis will miss the tournament. The English season is underway and most of the players prefer to concentrate on county cricket. Moreover, most of them have been on the road longer than Alexander the Great.

The Pakistanis felt dismayed and insulted to be ignored at the last auction. It was another abysmal episode. Rather than admit Pakistani players were too hot to handle at present due to security considerations — it’s easier to guard them when they play together — officials pretended that franchises all decided independently not to bid for them.

Lots of players will come and go due to domestic or national commitments, and several franchises signed seven or eight foreigners. Amongst the World Cup notables, Mahendra Dhoni will try to lead his Chennai side to a second triumph. That the team is owned not by a dazzled billionaire or a posing thespian, but by the BCCI chairperson confirms that cricket no longer takes conflict of interest seriously.

Amongst the internationals, Daniel Vettori and Mahela Jayawardena will captain their franchises whilst Kumar Sangakkara is also turning out. Sanga’s resignation as Sri Lankan captain was forced on him by an ungrateful board unwilling to support him against internal criticisms. Now the entire selection committee has resigned. Just as well the team performed brilliantly. Curiously ODI captains have been going down thick and fast. Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and South Africa are already under new leadership.

Like Vettori and Jayawardena, Sangakkara might relish the chance to smack the ball around. IPL has its upsides, including the opportunity for international foes to mix and match and to let down their hair without provoking a national outcry. Alongside DRS — it helps to defuse tensions.

Apart from the stars, attention will be focussed on the new sides. After a prolonged and turbulent debate, the IPL has been increased from eight to 10 teams, with Kerala and Pune joining the ranks. Geoff Lawson is coaching the southerners and shrewdly signed several relatively obscure Australians at knock-down prices.

Most likely it will be entertaining. It’s all part of the new cricket, a game that exists not for its own sake but to make money. After ousting them from the next two World Cups, thereby shattering dreams and hopefully provoking a schism in a game run by knaves and fools, IPL ought to invite Ireland and Afghanistan to take part. But it won’t happen. Heaven forfend that anyone in office might look beyond protecting their own position and back pockets.

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