I read paragraphs like this and I shudder:
“The Caribbean Premier League and the English T20 Blast loom as possible platforms for Australian players to bide their time in the second half of the year. Under normal circumstances, CA must provide no-objection certificates for players to take part in overseas T20 leagues, but pushing players out of contract would open up the market in unprecedented fashion – not only in terms of competitions, but also the commercial and sponsorship rights of players.” – Daniel Brettig writing for Cricinfo.
When the best players in the world turn their back on the international game and its most vaunted traditions like the Ashes and look instead to play in as many T20 leagues as possible–like mercenaries sailing the seven seas looking for loot–then that will be what finally kills off this game.
I am not saying it is the players’ fault, nor am I say it is the fault of Cricket Australia, for who is at fault really doesn’t matter, for in the end an Ashes boycott would truly be the beginning of the end.
Sure, the sport might survive, but it wouldn’t look like the sport we all know, it would be a shadow of its former self. Picture the IPL but 12 months a year. And the players, and Cricket Australia, need to both take a step and realize what they are doing to the game they supposedly love. David Warner was quoted in the same article linked to above as saying that “if we don’t have contracts we are going to have to find some cricket to play somewhere else because that’s what we love doing,” If you love the game so much, Mr. Warner, then have some respect for it.
Again that’s me having a go at the players. Which is only half fair. In a second article (which I recommend wholeheartedly) Mr. Brettig takes a deeper dive on the unfortunate affair saying, in part, that “the inability of either party to communicate effectively with the other is the greater problem, one with roots going back at least five years.” That’s it. That’s all it is. The toxic atmosphere created by both sides’ inability to communicate like grown ups is threatening to postpone the Ashes and cast a long, dark shadow over the whole of the game. It’s time for both sides to do what’s right: pull their socks up, shake hands, make up, and cut a deal. The sport you love–and that has made you a lot of money–is on the line. And it is on the line not just for you, but for the next generation of young cricketers and the generation after them and the generation after them.
Many folks will read this and point to the Major League Baseball in the early 1990s–Brettig himself references this and mentions that it cost the league over $700 million–and those folks will say that despite the financial losses, baseball is stronger than ever. Attendances are up, owners and the union have avoided a single day’s work stoppage for over 20 years, players are fairly compensated, there’s revenue sharing to allow smaller market teams to compete, and finally there is a performance enhancing drug policy with some teeth it. And all those things are true. Baseball is stronger than ever. But it’s also nearly unrecognizable to those of us who grew up with it. Inter-league play, endless playoffs, games that last forever, little to no player loyalty, teams holding cities hostage demanding tax payer funded stadiums as ransom, instant replay, and on and on. The survived, but to survive it had to change, and those changes made the game worse, not better.
Of course that’s just my opinion. Cricket needs to change to survive too, and maybe this how it survives, by becoming a loose knit collection of international T20 leagues. Maybe this is what brings it the Olympics, and even, yes, to America. But I don’t think so. So let’s have it, Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketer’s Association. Come to the table. Figure it out.
I am tired of writing about things like this. I am looking forward to actually writing about something that happens on the field instead of in a boardroom. Thankfully the first ODI of the Champions Trophy is just two weeks away. The tournament opens with England playing Bangladesh at the Oval. This is, truly, a must win match for both teams if they want to have any shot at making the knock out stages. For, as I pointed out in my last post, it’s an uphill climb for both of them.
And that’s why I rather like these quick-hit tournaments. For the lower seeded teams it’s more or less three knock out matches, and for the higher seeded teams it’s three hazardous icy patches they need to negotiate. That packs a lot narrative into a short tournament, and I am very much looking forward to it.