Read the signs. The West Indies players in individual capacity at the IPL ruled the format. Try to gather them under the West Indies flag and you get a flat, anaemic unit — as if forced to take the field.
In fact, as a national team they are so unenthusiastic about playing their favourite T20 format that they are languishing below Ireland in the ICC rankings. Kevin Pietersen, arguably the best entertainer in the game and a great advertiser for the shorter format, has chosen to retire from it, not bothering about the responsibility that he carries as an iconic player towards the international circuit. It’s like Roger Federer withdrawing from the Grand Slams to play exhibition matches only!
A sound source also confirms that around 30 Pakistani players have been signed up to play the SPL (Sri Lanka Premier League).
If given the choice, and I can confirm as the views have been shared with me, most would only play the League circuit where they feel wanted and are better valued. In fact, you are given to believe that most players around the world are treating their selection for international matches as a springboard to land up in the lap of a franchisee!
The intense expression on the faces of top Indian players to perform at the IPL games is another strong signal that either the guys care more about franchise cricket or find the competition more exciting than the tedious grind of international cricket.
The international cricket management hit a new low when the Sri Lankan players were forced to play on an empty stomach for almost eight months while being on national duty. Naturally, their performance and morale took a beating! Just look at the results of the team during the period they were not paid: Sri Lanka lost to Australia at home, were beaten by Pakistan in Tests, ODIs and T20 and taken down by South Africa. The entire critical run was witnessed by the managers of the game who didn't care to fix the situation. The Lankans were allowed to slither downhill quite happily!
Ravindra Jadeja is a clear case of how inconsequential international cricket has become. The all-rounder is yet to play a Test match — the ultimate level for judging a player’s calibre — but got picked for US$2 million at the IPL auction. The market forces are reading the value of a player based on a different scale, and international cricket is not the benchmark any more.
The lack of expression from the players when it comes to international cricket is understandable. It stems from flawed governance and skewed distribution of resources. The selection inconsistencies and low income sharing of the produce with the players, who have significantly contributed towards it, makes it a fractious environment.
Add to it a tired international calendar that pits strong against the weak, Asia v Asia, dwindling cash receipts at the counter, and you get a perfect storm! The errors in the system are now getting magnified because it has a competitor in the shape of franchises.
It is not a compact surrounding, but still streets ahead of how assets should be handled. Players have peace of mind and pockets full of goodies.
The cricket boards all over have to come up with a healthy plan that breeds nationalism and takes care of the material needs of the players to offset the lure and charm of the ‘League bling’.
I think they are already late in this exercise since the players, after being exposed to good management and opportunities, are charged up to retaliate against what they believe has been a dictatorial set-up where they have been engaged in a master-slave relationship.
And their trust in franchise model is not for money alone. It is about recognition also, best against the best that inspires them to be a rebel.
With meaningless international contests taking shape in front of empty stands and formats being allowed to eat into each others territories, it is building up towards a fantastic recipe for disaster!