Given all the hullaballoo surrounding the Club vs. Country debate, infuriated further by the reactions of cricketing stalwarts such as Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga towards their respective National cricket boards, there is an increasing need for the debate to be clearly thought of and sorted from the players’ point of view.
First things first, it’s the cricketers who run the game and NOT vice versa neither are the Officials , high or low, associated with the game. The contours of the game, positive or negative, are shaped by the players and it is they who need to have the final say. Some of you could argue blaming the players’ skewed priorities and such but for the successful men they are, success at this level can’t come without sincerity and an enormous amount of hard work, these genuine men need to be given an ear along with a delicate balance of sound mind-heart judgement towards judging their priorities as either right or wrong.
The INDIAN PREMIER LEAGUE (IPL) has, off late, become the scapegoat with Test cricket “aficionados” blaming the league for the overall decline of test cricket or test match attendance to say, with the majority of them going to the extent of squarely faulting the league for the dwindling quality of test cricket and cricketers around the world. Before we further go about blaming the league and its products, some facts need to be considered along with some clean cut analysis of events and situations post summer’08.
Consider this, Lasith Malinga after his stupendous performance in the 2007 World Cup ( remember the 4 wickets in 4 balls!!!) had found himself out of favour with the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) contracts the immediate season as he had fallen prey to injury, whose reason can be attributed to his art of slinging tearaway fast bowling. It had taken him more than 18 months’ time and append to that the extra baggage of missing the entire cricketing calendar and you now know that the impact of the injury went well beyond the realms of an unfit physical state. In the meantime, Mumbai Indians had paid a whopping amount (by any yardstick in cricket) to hire his services for the IPL, well aware of his injured state. It was his performance in IPL 2009 where had taken 18 wickets that brought him back into limelight which resulted in a culmination of events reinstating his place in the national team. He has repeatedly thanked the IPL for his return and cricket would’ve been poorer without a character like Lasith Malinga given the premier challenge of facing his Yorkers hurled with surgical precision or those magnificently disguised slower bouncers. He has led Sri Lanka to numerous wins since his return till a illuminating performance in the current World Cup. Now, hasn’t Sri Lanka benefitted from his return? For a trader of Malinga’s skill, it’s hard to imagine the shelf life of bowlers extending beyond 34-35 and then comes the question about his future. Can Lasith Malinga necessarily attract a lucrative contract from any of those premier channels? Does his peculiar (and astoundingly skilful and difficult) art own a platform for coaching?? Now, is it wrong for someone to be loyal and attracted to an event which gives skill the perfect platform over other formats (read tests)? Is it wrong for an international bowler to think for a stable income given his board’s rather in different treatment, low payments and taking into account that his colleagues on the other side of the strait end up as millionaires behind an Audi steering wheel?
How about this when Gayle comes up with a stern reply concerning the victory over the English in the Stanford 20-20 match where he says “You wanted it, we needed it”. He had later gone on to say that he used a part of that money as part of his mother’s treatment!! Now, are we to blame the cricketers for wanting the extra amount given their short shelf lives and short lived fame. These are the stories you read about the more famous Gayles and Malingas, imagine the utility of the fame, recognition and money to the lesser cricketers who remain a Sherpa all through their life never to become a mountaineer despite having all the skill in climbing but lacking the sophisticated resources required to start an expedition and earning a name for themselves. Increasingly players from the lesser paid countries will face such questions and it’s grossly unfair on them as individuals. Go through the Shane Bond story for further testimony to the fact.
From an Indian perspective imagine the ripper of a delivery which disturbed the furniture of an in-form and settling Shane Watson during the India Australia Quarterfinals in Ahmedabad, what’s the first name that comes up for that miserly start and that all important wicket?? Ravinchandran Ashwin, IPL’s gift to Indian cricket and had Watson stayed on, one can never really convince me if Sachin Tendulkar would have ever got that ride over the young shoulders with emotional war cries and the cathartic reverberations in front of his home crowd?? Can you? Can one imagine what would be the state of affairs if the cricketers stop playing for some reason?? Personally, my article would have never seen the light of day or to be more specific, I wouldn’t have penned it down neither would there exist any platform called SPORTSKEEDA.Sounds bitter but true.
IPL doesn’t demand extraordinary cricketing skills to sustain; a balance between average cricketing skills fused with some good behaviour ensures your life is made. The BCCI will not have to spend a lot of time over pension plans neither will you end up hearing any sad stories of medals, memorabilia etc. being traded for that extra money. For all we know, power, fame and money pushes through most roads in the world and after leading a largely uncommon life in absolute spotlight, IPL ensures more than anything else that the average cricketer has the last of the resources to live a decent life and support the non-celebrity half of his career.
From a more cricketing point of view, we surely don’t need another Packer era and a 45 day window in between the Indian summer will ensure that the team owners go happy, the advertisers go happier and more importantly the audience and the Chief Protagonists(read: players) go the happiest. I am sure no one would ever mind a retired Shane Warne coming on to bowl for 45 days of cricket neither would any of us mind the charismatic Gilchrist dispatching the bowlers with disdain, an Iqbal Abdullah strangulating World Cup final centurion Mahela Jayawardene or Muttiah Muralitharan being sent out of the ground by a Ravindra Jadeja to snatch away a match. These are all win- win situations with the experience for one and some stability for the other. For a youngster like Wriddhiman Saha or a Shreevats Goswami, while taking guard for the Indian team on debut there will be less than half the pressure than it was for the likes of Sanjay Manjrekar and Vinod Kambli. I bring about this comparison because the mentally stronger players are bound to bring home the bacon but the above mentioned senior cricketers( two extremely talented cricketers they were) were ones who had become victims of pressure and plagued to a large extent by theWhat if question. What if I fail? What if I never make it big? What if I don’t get another chance? Now , you’ve got the IPL as an emphatic answer to dispel all those doubts and utilise the league as the supplementary paper to pass. Ask Shaun Marsh, Dirk Nannes and Ryan Ten Doeschate to name a few.
For all the Test Cricket lovers, agreed there’s nothing quite like the thrill of a closely fought test match (Chennai ’01 vs. AUS, Mohali ’10 vs AUS or Edgbaston ’05 Ashes) but just like how Hollywood can never survive on the likes of Hurt Locker and Kings Speech without the Hangovers and Pirates in between, cricket too needs its equivalent of Harry Potter. Something low on content and literary quality but high on adrenaline and thrill.
The IPL is more like the birthday party or the anniversary in an average man’s life generally fraught with liabilities and other regular problems, a day when everything’s forgotten to enjoy for a brief moment during the party. The party which lets some enjoy and some make a living out of. Just like any average human being would crave for that one special day a year, cricket too needs its special moments, for that “smile that goes the extra mile”.Published 15 Jun 2011, 15:23 IST