x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Cricket players have earned right to play in lucrative IPL

England's Matt Prior and others are frustrated that cricket players of far less ability are cashing in, while he and his teammates miss out on lucrative contracts because they miss the business end of the IPL season.

England cricket player Matt Prior has been outspoken about the dearth of IPL opportunities for some players. Paul Thomas / AP Photo
England cricket player Matt Prior has been outspoken about the dearth of IPL opportunities for some players. Paul Thomas / AP Photo

Michael Holding once told of the first time a payment from Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket reached his bank account in Jamaica.

"I went into the branch with my passbook to have it updated," he said. "It was the first time I'd ever seen four figures in the credit column."

Late in December last year, when the first Wisden IndiaAlmanack was launched, one of the chief guests was CD Gopinath, who had played cricket for India in the 1950s. He spoke at length about his experiences as a player.

"We were given an allowance of 50 rupees a day," he said. "We usually called it smoke money. And if a match ended in four days, you didn't get the fee for the fifth."

Another former player said, off the record, that catches were often put down for that very reason. Even if it meant coming back for a few minutes on the final day to finish off formalities, it made perfect sense to those that earned so little.

Matt Prior is not exactly struggling to make ends meet. But his views on the Indian Premier League must be listened to, because he sums up the feelings of a group of players, mainly English, who feel that they're missing out by not being part of it.

"The IPL and these Twenty20 competitions are not going away," he said last week. "People love them and the players enjoy playing in them, so there are going to be more and more people getting frustrated at the lack of opportunity to play in the IPL. So things may have to change in time."

It does not matter if Prior has sponsored Hugo Boss suits, or a Jaguar car. What matters, in his eyes, is that players of far less ability are cashing in, while he and his teammates, No 1 in the Test and one-day international rankings not long ago, miss out on lucrative contracts because English players miss the business end of the IPL season.

Consider these numbers. Kane Richardson, far down Australia's pace pecking order, went for US$700,000 (Dh2.57 million) in the recent IPL auction. James Anderson, the second-best pace bowler in the world, has never been offered an IPL contract despite expressing his interest.

Sachitra Senanayake, a 28-year-old off-spinner who has played just nine times for Sri Lanka, went to Kolkata Knight Riders for $625,000. Graeme Swann, one of the leading practitioners of that craft, has never got an IPL deal.

Comparisons may be odious, but all of us make them. When you are among the best in the world at what you do, and you see someone with pedestrian skills take home far more money, there is bound to be a part of you that resents it.

And it is not just money. IPL matches are usually played in packed stadiums, in a carnival atmosphere. When Kevin Pietersen speaks of the buzz around the event, he is only echoing what dozens of others feel. Players are performers as well, and every performer loves that kind of adulation.

A generation ago, Teofilo Stevenson, the Cuban heavyweight boxer refused to turn professional - "What's one million dollars compared to the love of eight million Cubans?" he said - on patriotic grounds. Those days are gone.

Sportsmen like Prior know their worth, and no one who has ever changed jobs for a significantly higher salary has any right to judge them.

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