T20 league cricket tournaments are something which I probably will never be able to understand and empathise with.
Though I like the concept of players from different countries - who would otherwise have been arch rivals on the field had they been playing for their respective national teams - playing together as a single unit, sharing a unique bond and displaying the best of cricket; I also have been used to watching Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag playing as a team against Brett Lee or Andrew Flintoff.
I had almost recuperated from the confused state of mind that IPL left me with, when again, the Champions League T20 launched itself with a bang, giving me more perplexed thoughts, as well as a feeling of apprehension.
During the first couple of matches of the CL T20, I read a statement given by Piyush Chawla to a cricket website, saying ‘I am now a Shark’…!
The left out Indian bowler seemed to have no qualms for not being able t
o play for his national team. He is fine with representing England’s Sussex Sharks in the Champions League T20 rather than an Indian team.
After living through two seasons of the Indian Premier League and the inaugural season of the CL T20, an uneasy thought has started to bother me.
Is money over-powering the feeling of patriotism in cricketers?
Undoubtedly, the BCCI by-product tournaments have changed the state of things in the current scenario.
Not going into minute details, let me put forward a simple question. How do you expect a 19-year old cricketer to react, who still has not managed to break into the national team, but has been offered a position with an IPL team with a contract worth much more than what many matches with the Indian jersey could have earned him? Do you expect him to concentrate more on getting into the national squad, or give more preference to the cash-rich IPL, that fetches him money enough to enjoy a lavish lifestyle?
Unlike the situation earlier, a cricketer in India need not wait to get into the national team to get recognition and money. Tournaments like the IPL and CL T20 are giving it to him well before time.
In an attempt to ‘raise’ cricket talent in India, is the BCCI killing the feeling of patriotism from inside a cricketer. And this worry has slowly started to haunt the Indian cricket board’s members too.
A couple of days ago, Ratnakar Shetty, BCCI’s chief administrative officer, said that he was worried as the young players in the team are not focused about the national aspirations and goals.
His statements came soon after the Indian cricket team made an early exit from the ICC Champions Trophy, giving a shallow performance in the tournament. What made him worry even more was that the young players were not really affected by the loss and showed no signs of remorse after their poor display of cricket in front of seven other international teams.
“One of the senior players called up after the Champions Trophy and said other players [youngsters] did not feel it [the loss as much as him],” Shetty said. “He said there was no feeling whether we won or not. There is no sadness [after losing].”
“You can see the change in attitude and focus which seems to have gone to things other than cricket. They are attracted by the different style of entertainment that is part of these events. This is worrisome.”
“Some of these youngsters have become very big. Some of them feel that playing in Ranji Trophy is not as important as playing in the IPL.”
Well, of course it is not. Do you expect an alcoholic to choose water over wine? Why wouldn’t a young player opt for an IPL contract or a chance to play for an Australian domestic team, which would offer them a better pay-scale, than to wait for a chance to break into the national squad?
The answer to this question is something which we all know. What is worse is that we know that it is inevitable. Though still, for many senior players it is their commitment for the national team, which is more important than money-alluring tournaments. But for the young minds, a seed of a different lifestyle has already been sown by the BCCI; and as a result, an absolutely uncertain future awaits international cricket.
The site of watching India slugging it out against top cricket rivals Pakistan will probably lose its charm in the years to come. Players may no more take a ridiculous defeat against Australia personally, and may no longer have problem with it as long as their club is paying them well enough to support their sumptuous lifestyles.
If such a temperament persists, it would not only be the ODIs and Tests that would be in danger; Cricket as a game would be required to be saved then! Wake up!
(The views expressed by the author are personal)