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Global forces push cricket
Cricket, the old gentleman’s game played for centuries on many a village green, is now firmly lodged in the world of commercial sport—at least, the T20 variety of it. Billions of dollars are being invested in players, in stadiums and television rights, and in such a world, old notions—such as nationalism—are essentially irrelevant.
That is clear from the fact that, as reported by this newspaper on Wednesday, the efforts of Minister of Sport Anil Roberts to secure the services of this country’s brightest T20 stars, Pollard, Bravo and Narine, have come to nought—bowled by a yorker pitched at the minister’s boot.
Having paid big money for the services of the trio as major drawing-cards for their teams in the Champions League, the organisers want to see them playing for those teams. The consequences for the T&T team mean nothing to them. And since the IPL tournament is privately owned, the result is, as one official ruefully observed, T&T “simply had to take what we got in the end.”
And just in case the minister and the T&T Cricket Board were seeking to use T&T’s participation in the series as a lever to exert pressure on the franchise owners, the response is said to be an unwelcoming dismissal of the thought: the message sent loud and clear was that T&T could drop out of the tournament if it is peeved by the refusal to allow the players to represent their native country.
This refusal is not unprecedented in international professional sport. The T&T Football Federation has encountered many instances over the years of club teams being very reluctant and on occasion refusing to allow their contracted players to line up for T&T in international fixtures. The T&T cricketers are said to have been keen to put on their home team colours, but that makes no difference. West Indies cricket also has the experience of suffering from players choosing the professional tournaments over regional representation.
It is logical to expect that as increasing numbers of T&T and West Indian players become attractive to the franchise holders, many will choose the reality of earning revenues which will make them and their families finanically secure for life over the glory of representing their country or the region. Competing against those odds seems impossible and shallow-pocketed cricket boards and governments of the Caribbean would be unwise to attempt to compete at the level of financial reward.
It may be some consolation that having West Indian players engaging with the best in the world in the T20 game offers benefits for developing their skills to play for the West Indies, when that is possible. Back in the 1970s/1980s, when Kerry Packer and his league intervened, that professional involvement surely benefited West Indian cricket and helped to develop the discipline of perhaps the greatest cricket team of all time.
Perhaps the best that can be hoped for is for local and regional boards to offer legal advice to the players when they are signing contracts. In the meantime, globalisation is forging a brand-new world in professional cricket.
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