The players involved in the international series between England and Bangladesh, West Indies versus Zimbabwe and New Zealand against Australia are totally immersed in their respective battles and fully focused on the need to perform for their country.
One eye, however, will be glancing curiously towards the Indian Premier League (IPL), and those who will be flying to the subcontinent to be involved once their international duties have ended will be salivating at the opportunity of participating in the sports rising star. Make no bones about it; the IPL is the hottest form of any new sports competition you will find anywhere on the planet. The addition of two new teams to the competition next year will take the number to 10 and I think there will be two more teams introduced a few years down the line in 2018, when the new television rights will be up for grabs. The group of eight franchises would not have been too happy at their pot being diluted by the two new teams coming in next year. They all would have said a collective "no" to any more teams joining during the current 10-year television rights deal.
The IPL runs a six-week playing schedule and next year that will almost double. The Cricket World Cup is also being held in India in 2011. This International Council Cricket (ICC) competition will start in February and finish in early April. There are international series that have been locked in for many years that will take priority over the IPL, but I feel 2011 will be the first year that there will be a clear window for all the world's top players to participate in the lucrative Twenty20 competition.
I concur with players like Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist that the ICC need to create a window in the international calendar to accommodate this event. If a window is not created then you will begin to see more players retiring from Test cricket and heading to the IPL for the full season. And who could blame them? Just for a moment, place yourself in the players' shoes. Brendon McCullum is playing for New Zealand at the moment and has an IPL contract worth US$650,000 (Dh2.4million) with the Kolkata Knight Riders. He will miss half the tournament because of his international commitments and be out of pocket to the tune of $325,000.
His playing fees for New Zealand during this time will amount to $20,000. If there was a smaller discrepancy between what was earned representing your country and playing in the IPL then there would be no issue. But $305,000? The ICC cannot see this as being fair in any employment sphere. I can see the game following the path of football. It is not about the players not wanting to play for their country, they should not have to be placed in a scenario that makes them choose whether they have to or not.
It is about the governing bodies scheduling international windows around the IPL so the players can earn money in what really is a short career. Where it gets complicated is there are still many leagues in each of the Test playing nations that home players participate in. In the future, players and supporters alike need to get their heads around cricketers playing for one IPL team and then playing for their international team.
Football fans must get used to seeing the likes of Didier Drogba play his club football at Chelsea and international football for the Ivory Coast. He does not play in his country's domestic league. Domestic competitions will be a breeding ground for future talent and those on rehabilitation programmes from injury or those out of form and looking to get back in to the national team. These domestic leagues will still play an important part in the world of cricket and need to have the appropriate funds and resources to flourish.
These leagues will inevitably run at a loss, as they do now, but you cannot function without them. They are a kind of research and development fund employed by corporate businesses. The ICC need to work with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to solve these issues. It seems that the relationship between Fifa, football's governing body, and the English Premier League works fine, so why can't we create an environment where the IPL and ICC walk hand in hand rather than the ICC walking four steps behind?
The need for diplomacy in the boardroom may have been a mitigating factor when John Howard, the former prime minister of Australia, was appointed as the chairman in waiting to the ICC board. He is a cricket fanatic who will take up the role next year, but the man he was chosen ahead of, Sir John Anderson, of New Zealand, is an extremely competent and res- pected, long-serving cricket official and astute businessman throughout Australasia.
Sir John's cricketing credentials are far superior to that of Howard. But this is a very strategic play by Australia to wrestle some initiative and power back because the ICC are in danger of becoming a toothless tiger when it comes to dealing with the BCCI. I am glad to see Alastair Cook enjoying success as the England captain in the absence of Andrew Strauss in Bangladesh. He is a fine player and the logical heir apparent. He reminds me a lot of Stephen Fleming in his demeanour. The opening batsman is articulate and not prone to rushes of blood to the head. I think England are in very good hands with him at the helm. I also agree with giving Strauss time off for the tour.
The cricket authorities can send out the wrong message when they leave players out of tours or important matches. Sir Alex Ferguson does not go in to a press conference and spend the entire time justifying his decision to leave his star player, Wayne Rooney, on the substitutes' bench for a match. It is a case of this decision being the best for the player at the time and one the selectors believe will not hamper the team's ability to win a series.
Too many column inches are devoted to speculation about cricketers not being picked. If a player is not chosen and the team lose then it is the selectors who should come under fire. Rotation in modern sport is a good thing. Boring comments covering why someone is not there is just that. Boring. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org