Sunday, February 17, 2008

Of Traitors, Capitalist Cricket Economies, Cricket Television, and Eating More Pie...

In Dubai, I have come across a high number of British, Australian, and Canadian expats employed in high profile consulting firms, investment banks, and law firms. While these Western expats is a more recent phenomenon, I know thousands of Pakistanis and Indians who have spent the best part of their lives making a living in the Middle East.

I also know many Pakistanis who grew up in Pakistan, went to the US for college, and have stayed there working for the Microsofts, Googles, and Amazons of the world. And, I recently read that a number of American IT and Finance professionals have relocated to India, where they are employed as directors, CFOs, and CEOs in leading Indian companies or MNCs with offices operating out of Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore.

Out of the 7 bloggers on wellpitched, 3 are part of the US workforce, 2 work in Dubai, 1 lives and works in London, and another is pursuing his MBA in France. All 7 are from Pakistan.

All these people who are working in countries which are not their countries of origin are doing so for their own reasons but ultimately it all boils down to one factor - a better lifestyle / a higher standard of living as compared to their home country.

Are we all traitors? Just because we have left our country of origin in pursuit of higher salaries doesn't make us traitors, does it? Surely not!
So why is it that when a cricketer decides to quit playing for his country to pursue an offer from a county or a club or decides to skip a test tour for the same, is he branded a traitor? Isn't he also looking for a higher salary, a better lifestyle, a secure future? Surely he is. They call them professional cricketers and yet they expect them to dedicate their lives to a single employer. How unfair is that?

The launch of the IPL has led all national boards to express concerns regarding players choosing Indian clubs over their test teams. Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds have been the most vocal cricketers raising concerns of how the IPL could lure away test cricketers on the fringes of retirement. The ECB have voiced concerns about the impact the IPL will have on county cricket.

Pakistani cricketers have already accepted bans from their domestic teams to take part in the ICL. Justin Langer and Shane Warne have informed their counties that they will be missing the initial part of the season cause of the IPL. Australian cricketers are hoping that they don't have to tour Pakistan so they can take part in the IPL. They even waged a contract dispute with their employers so they could accept IPL offers.
No one denies that earning half a million to a million dollars for 2 months of playing 20-20 cricket in one country is more lucrative than earning half of that for playing a full season of tests and ODIs in 4 different countries. Then why not allow the cricketers a higher standard of living?
Just like the best Pakistani bankers maybe cutting deals in Dubai, the best American IT professionals maybe developing softwares in India, the best Australian cricketers could be hitting fours and sixes elsewhere. When the former are not labelled traitors why the latter?

As it happens in the corporate world where Goldman Sachs and Merrl Lynch vie for the best finance professionals by making counter offers, Microsoft and Google introduce new employee benefits to retain their best developers, McKinsey and Booze Allen fight it out to get hold of the top MBAs from Harvard and INSEAD, why can't the national cricket boards, the English counties, the IPL, the ICL, and other cricket leagues coexist and vie for the best cricketers without branding them as traitors?

Maybe there has to be a middle ground but I think banning one league because it is not run by the national cricket board, trying to schedule another when no cricket tours are taking place, or seeking to cancel a tour so that national players can take part in the IPL is all too monopolistic and against the best interests of the game.

In a capitalist, or rather an ideal world the ICC's FTP, the counties, IPL, and the ICL should be able to coexist and the professional cricketers should be allowed to choose whom they want to play for. You will find some cricketers who would give up millions to represent their country, and on the other hand, you will also find some who will give up playing for their country for a few hundred thousands. Its exactly the same situation as an employee choosing a higher pay for long and stressful work hours as opposed to one opting for a lower salary for a more relaxed job. Thats called being professional and choosing your employer and not being a traitor.

Competition never hurt anyone. Not only the cricketers will be the ones benefiting - all those ruling the game, i.e. the ICC, the national boards, the I whatever Ls, the broadcasters, the advertisers and sponsors all stand to benefit. Imagine the increase in the pool of cricketers these people will be able to choose from. Imagine the range of talent that could be unearthed. Imagine the amount of cricket that will be shown on TV. Imagine all the money that will be generated from the game.
Why try eating more from the same pie? Work on expanding the size of the whole pie and let everyone eat as much as they can!

And all this without calling anyone a traitor.

Make your pitch on this post...

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4 Pitched:

  1. David Barry said...

    This might be the first time I've ever argued against a more free-market model ever... I feel a bit dirty.

    I agree with most of what you're saying. Cricketers who sign up to the ICL shouldn't be banned from playing ICC-sanctioned cricket, and players who choose IPL millions over country are not traitors. Any Australians who do so will frustrate the hell out of me, and I'll probably get angry at them, but I can't really hold it against them.

    But I don't agree on competition. Competition is all well and good in theory, but you don't want too many teams, or otherwise the talent gets spread around too thinly and the average cricket game becomes of lower quality. If doubling the number of teams allows you to find one talented player, you'll have to put up with dozens of club-standard cricketers. And I mean club as in sub-state level.

    You've been writing about how the pentangular tournament is good, with all the star-packed sides. That's because you've concentrated the best players in Pakistan into five teams.

    And most of all, I want Test matches to remain the highest level of cricket, played by the best players whenever possible.

  2. Q said...

    I see where you're coming from David and thats why I mentioned that maybe there is a middle ground. I'll come back to that.

    I agree that the Pentangular is good cos the best talent is concentrated in 5 sides. Australia produces the best cricketers in the world cos they have the first class structure of 6 teams that can easily compete with international sides.

    But I would think that if the likes of Ponting, Hayden, Lara, Inzamam, etc play alongside other average / mediocre domestic cricketers in various leagues around the world, overtime the quality of cricket of the average players will become good to very good and maybe even excellent.

    India will probably benefit the most out of the IPLs and ICLs because their young domestic cricketers will learn something from international stars in every game. In 5 years we could see the best international cricketers coming out of India. Surely 20-20 is not the from of crkt that will produce test stars but good batsmen adjust to all forms and learning a trick or 2 from the best in the business will do no harm.

    Coming back to middle ground. I think you also agree David that ODIs is a dieing form of crkt and a shorter World Cup is probably the only ODI tournament worth having.

    Scrapping out 5 and 7 match ODI series and restricting the tour exchanges to test cricket with maybe 1-2 ODIs could leave ample time during a year for an IPL, an ICL, and any other league that can come up like Stanford, or Pro20, or PPL, etc.

    My arguement is more on the lines of allowing the ICL to be an official league and not branding cricketers leaving their countries for clubs as traitors.

  3. Anonymous said...

    i would not brand them as traitors, but there is a fact that you have looked over. We as professional or students in my case aare investing in our own self. Whereas these players have been developed mostly under program sponsored by their respective boards( not very successful in pakistans case recently.)
    So like in the corporate world players are tied down by long term contracts. So i believe they shouldn,t be alllowed straight away to seel there skills to the highest bidder.
    We need to find a middle ground or else we will end up like the English footbal team they have the biggest stars but the worst national team.

  4. Q said...

    Thats a valid point AMK...definitely the cricketers owe their national boards for having a domestic structure in place and the age group cricket in place.

    But if you look at it the other way - if all these leagues start to coexist in cricket an IXL could spot a 15 year old talented boy in the nets at the Gaddafi and offer him a contract to play for Club X under 15.

    The 15 yr old boy will have way more options to consider.

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