The game of cricket has a reputation as a game of gentlemen. The gentlemen experienced the pride of representing their country on a regular basis, unlike the most popular world sport, football, where players play fewer games for their country than for their clubs. I am afraid that cricket will also become like football, where players will work hard to win the prize of money rather than to win the pride of representing their country. The numbers of global leagues are fading the real colour and charm of this beautiful sport.
Many world class players clearly prefer these glittering leagues over the feeling of playing for their homeland. This all started with the inauguration of the ICL (Indian Cricket League) which was a private league, unrecognised by the International Cricket Council (ICC). The cricketing boards and the ICC made clear to all players globally that participation in the ICL would mean a ban from international cricket. This warning, however, did not bother many players as they chose money over their country.
Some established players like Lou Vincent and Hamish Marshall, who were an important part of the New Zealand team, left for this private league. Many Pakistani players also went to the ICL, leaving behind the country’s pride behind. Cricketers like Imran Nazir, Abdur Razzaq and even the classy Mohammad Yousuf disappointed fans and moved on. This league took place for three consecutive years until the Mumbai terrorist attacks. As the ICL faded, the IPL (Indian Premier League) emerged.
The IPL is now the most popular league of all. Almost every big name in the cricketing world participates in it. There are huge sums of money awarded to players as match fees, and even more handsome rewards for outstanding performances. But the sad part is that the IPL isn’t doing much good for cricket.
The true fans are back in their countries; they want to see their countrymen performing in national colors. These leagues, however, are shortening international careers as players take early retirement and focus on representing their franchise.
Michael Hussey’s retirement is an example. Mr. Cricket was not a young at 38, but he was extremely fit and the Australian team needed him. The way Australia are suffering in the current Ashes series is embarrassing; many people would agree that if Hussey were a part of this team, the situation would not have quite so bad.
Kevin Pietersen also tried taking part-international retirement by quitting limited overs cricket for England. The ECB (England & Wales Cricket Board) took a bold step and sidelined KP, who no doubt is a key player across all formats for England. KP was left with no choice but to rescind his retirement and ask for forgiveness from the board.
These cricketing leagues are highlighting the greed in several the cricketers. There are a number of leagues being played around the world including the BPL (Bangladesh Premier League), the SLPL (Sri Lanka Premier League) and the latest, the CPL (Caribbean Premier League). I wish that cricketers themselves and the ICC would focus more on international cricket and encourage fiercer competitions among national teams rather than franchises. Cricket is getting commercialized rapidly and in order to keep the spirit of the game, international cricket needs more attention.
By Arslan Sheikh