Finding a T20 window for cricketers
In 2010, as a fledgling regional cricketer, Kieron Pollard was made rich by the Mumbai Indians franchise, which paid BDS$1.5 million for his signature. He has remained with that Indian Premier League organization since then, annually increasing his earnings; and at age 27 is comfortably a millionaire.
That same year, Barbadian Kemar Roach was bought by the Deccan Chargers for BDS$1.4 million. Though the 25-year-old’s tenure in the IPL has not been as lengthy as Pollard’s, his association, brief as it might have been because of injury, has been a rewarding experience.
In 2012, the Kolkata Knight Riders made Sunil Narine BDS$1.4 million richer when they got his signature on the dotted line. He has immediately become their premier player, signed every year since at a hefty fee, and the first name on the team selection sheet. At age 26, Narine is a millionaire.
The stories of Narine and Pollard are similar to those of the likes of Dwayne Smith, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and a host of other regional cricketers who, unlike many of their predecessors of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, can reap decent deserved rewards from their professional employment.
These are ideal times to be a competent cricketer. Even better if one has the acumen and talent for the shortest and richest form of the game. But there is a catch-22 situation that has so far proved difficult for both players and cricket administrators. And once again it came home with the case of Narine.
Having been given a No Objection Certificate to ply his trade in India, Narine was subject to the policy of the West Indies Cricket Board, as a contracted player, with respect to making himself available for the West Indies team under whatever playing or training criteria the board dictated. He chose to remain with his Indian franchise, thus reneging on his contractual commitment. He has since been omitted from the West Indies Test squad, which seems to be the only punishment, since the board has already indicated he will be considered for the One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 engagements.
But what about the bigger picture?
The critical aspect of this situation, which is likely to recur, is not about punishment. The issue is what can be done to create a win-win situation.
Players must be allowed to earn a living. The life span of a cricketer is rather short in the scheme of things, ten to 15 years if fortunate.
But the game, as a nursery and provider of talent, and a source of attracting sponsorship for its longevity, must also be protected.
Sir Richard Richardson made the salient point that regional cricketers now accumulating great wealth have been so positioned as a result of coming through the nursery of cricket facilitated by the various territorial boards and the WICB.
While he stressed that he did not begrudge anyone making millions, West Indies cricket had to come before making money. Some might consider the comment simplistic, since the survival of regional cricket is also about making money.
What is needed as a matter of urgency is for the boards across the major cricketing nations to come together to ensure an annual window for the Indian Premier League to run its course without its encroaching on any international cricket. This is possibly the only solution for cases such as Narine’s.
It is almost impossible to ask men of reason and needs to turn their backs on millions, even in the cause of quasi-patriotism.