The controversy over club versus country seems never ending and when you thought that only applied to football players in this country, well now cricket has taken over and the battle continues.
As soon as Kieron Pollard smashed a six over midwicket to take T&T to a nine-wicket victory over Guyana at the regional T20 cricket tournament last week, that was mission accomplished and next thing on the minds of the cricket fans was whether or not he would be there to do the same thing when T&T plays in the Champions League later this year.
There have been calls from local officials for every effort to be made for the players to play for the red, white and black. T&T Cricket Board (TTCB) director Baldath Mahabir even went on to suggest that since this was the last tournament of its kind for T&T, that an appeal be made to the conscience of the IPL club owners to have the players represent their country.
You see, the issue at hand is that T&T has already qualified for the Champions League. In a few weeks time, the IPL will get off in India and we have five players attached to clubs taking part in this tournament. The men heading to IPL are Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Samuel Badree and Kevon Cooper.
Should anyone of their teams qualify for the Champions League, then a situation will arise where the player will have to choose club or country. At the tournament in 2012, three players choose club over country. Bravo decided to go the way of Chennai Super Kings (but did not play in the end due to injury|), Narine played for the IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders and Pollard played for the Mumbai Indians.
Now another similar situation could arise this time around. I have in my possession a copy of the contract for players taking part in the Champions League.
Section 2.7 states that the player is free to play for their country and there is no situation where the home board has to buy out any contract from an IPL club. The players can play for their country and their country doesn't have to pay their clubs anything.
On the other hand, if a player decides to play for his club, then his home board gets a transfer fee of US$150,000. The Hon Minister of Sport Anil Roberts then made a tremendous effort last season to get Pollard, Bravo and Narine to play for T&T. He went to Cabinet and was able to get TT$5M to deal with the three players. Out of this sum, TT$3.3m would have gone to the players because this was what they would have earned by playing for the their clubs, and Roberts was left with TT$1.7m to negotiate performance-based bonuses for the players.
Well, in the end the players did decided to play for their clubs still and this begs the question, why? There must have been something other than a Champions League contract binding the players to their clubs.
Now is the time for the players to come out and tell the population what is going on. It seems from my distant view that the IPL teams are pressuring the players to play for them. I have been to three Champions League tournaments as a journalist and have noticed very keenly the working of this tournament.
This tournament is geared towards the Indian teams, and is of course controlled by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Imagine, after all their efforts, the T&T team still has to go through a qualification phase of the tournament, while up to the fourth place IPL team gets in–unbelievable. Is this a true Champions League?
Well, in my opinion this is just another tournament for Indian businessmen to play with their very expensive toys and hence they would do everything in their power to have the best players play for them. It matters not to them whether a strong T&T team puts in a magnificent showing in order to spark interest among youths in the Caribbean. It is all about the IPL, and if you are ever lucky enough to witness the Champions League you would see even the fixtures are tailored to the IPL teams. I guess this is a situation where money talks and, well,...you know the rest.