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Million Dollar Monkey

Oh the joys of self publishing. The joys of the internet. Send the PC police to arrest dongles. I don’t care – he doesn’t exist. Besides, the term “Million Dollar Monkey” was not my idea. It was Sven Gorsky – he made me do it.

The first IPL auction was very, very interesting. The $US 1.6 million forked out for M S Dhoni may have raised a few eyebrows. That is 32% of the team salary cap for about 8% of the squad. But remember that M S Dhoni is the new face of India. He may not be an official icon but he is none the less, iconic.

The second most highly paid player is Andrew Symonds. In the aftermath of Monkey Gate and the Sydney Test, it was suggested that the Australians were jeopardising their status in IPL. Like most of the things said following Monkey Gate, that has been proven to be bollocks. One of the central characters, the monkey himself, is laughing all the way to the bank.

Here are some interesting points:

The five iconic players – reserved the to play for their home franchises (Tendulkar, Dravid etc) are all million dollar men but I wonder if they are happy. Their pay was determined by adding 15% to the next highest paid player’s bid. For example, Tendulkar will captain the Mumbai team. Jayasuriya was the highest paid player won by Mumbai at the auction. He commanded a cool one mill. So Tendulkar’s contract is 1.15 mill. Nothing to snivel about but a long way short of Symonds and Dhoni. The teams committed to icon players were burdened with the guarantee of paying a motza for at least two players, whereas non-icon franchises had full flexibility.

The Indian players have done the best and that’s no surprise. The “I” in IPL is for India. IPL is about India, Indians, Indian crickets fans and most of all, Indian cricket players. He may be in good form, but after at just 19 years of age and after one international season, Ishant Sharma is the highest paid bowler ($950k). Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan and Suresh Raina may be household names in India but are not so well known around the world and they have come out with upwards of $600k – $700k. IPL is about India and the rest are along for the ride. And they should be counting their blessings.

David Hussey waxed his brother’s tail by almost 100% – $675k to Michael’s $350k. Many of the Australians seemed to earn less than expected. That is, Australians that are expected to tour Pakistan (if the tour proceeds). A distraught Ponting ($400k), Hussey and Hayden ($375k) all seem under paid, especially when you look at the Indian players. Keep in mind that if a player can only play half his matches, his pay is pro rated. If you do half the work, you get half the booty. Guys like Cameron White ($500k), David Hussey and of course, Gillie ($750k) are smiling. Take into consideration that players like Warne and McGrath only got as much as they did because of their “base price”. All players had a base price and that was determined by a rating from A to F. It’s a bit like those Fantasy Cricket competitions you can enter and you need to mix up your gradings. In fact, I think those cheeky buggers at IPL used the player gradings from the last World Cup Fantasy Cricket comp. The only “big time” Australian to get the truly big bucks is Brett Lee ($900k). And he’s a Bollywood star, for crying out loud.

Which brings me back to Andrew Symonds. Roy and Cricket Australia are on course for a showdown. I would not be surprised if Symonds does not play for Australia again after this season. If the tour of Pakistan is cancelled then we don’t have a problem. If it does go ahead, Symonds has already said that he won’t go. That’s fair enough – players are entitled not to tour. However, I wonder if Roy may think he might just go and have some hit and giggle over in India seeing he’s got nothing else to do. If I worked for CA (and I never would) I would not be standing for that. Roy is contracted to them and that means if he doesn’t want to play, he isn’t allowed to play somewhere else. Roy is a good bloke and honest to a fault but he’s also a capitalist – he appears in 16.2 ads per hour during cricket telecasts, and I presume, not for free. Matters of money must be separated from matters of conscience – it’s just common sense. Roy’s “fightin’ words” will have spurred CA into striving to make the Pakistan tour go ahead. I believe that exploration of a shorter tour is a direct result of an intention to battle IPL.

Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin and the next captain of Australia, Michael Clarke elected to pull out of IPL to “concentrate on their international careers” (although it has just emerged that Pup wants to spend more time with his sick father). What does that mean? The implication must be that participating in IPL will be detrimental to the development of budding international careers. I don’t see how the actual playing in IPL – against the best international crickets in the world – would do that. However, losing favour with administrators and selectors would have a rather significant impact on your career. What exactly did James Sutherland say to the lads? Why are the senior players apparently unworried?

Andrew Symonds is going to have some choices. a) Tour with Pakistan with everyone else. b) Miss the tour, sit out IPL while the Pakistan tour is on and lose about $AUD 700. c) Miss the tour, play for IPL and never play for Australia again. I think it will come down to that.

IPL – Bigger than Ben Hur

Make no mistake, IPL is no ordinary TLA (Three Letter Acronym). It comes with all the money, power and majesty that any corporate bullshit bingo player could ever dream off. As I hinted recently, IPL is coming, it is here to stay and a storm may be brewing. Perhaps it won’t be of WSC proportions but a few feathers may be about to be ruffled. I think that Cricket Australia should get ready to make way – for crying out loud, CA is only a puny two letter acronym. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI – they sure knew what they were doing when they went with a whole FOUR letters) is starting to flex its significant muscle and if this summer in Australia is any indication, I reckon CA will roll over.

Here is the situation: IPL runs over March and April. There is to be a big auction on 20 Feb where all of the contracted players will be bought by the various IPL franchises. How exciting. That is with the exception of so called iconic Indian players. These players are not for sale (but don’t worry, they will be handsomely paid) – Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh and Rahul Dravid must play for their home cities (full details of the action http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/ipl/content/story/335706.html). Players have until the day of the auction to sign their contracts.

This is where the problems lies for Australian players and CA. Many of us will have noticed that months ago most of the Australian team provisionally signed with IPL. Not many paid attention and CA said nothing. What was IPL and it was ages away and who cares about T20 cricket anyway? Now, with the first IPL season rapidly approaching and conflicting with the tour of Pakistan, there is a conflict. CA is trotting out the line that they have concerns that there could be conflict of interest between IPL and CA sponsors – now that one really does belong in the corporate bullshit boardroom. It is about control and money for CA. A tour is money for CA and control is, well, control. It’s what cricket boards have always strived for.

CA has right of veto over players signing contracts that are in conflict with CA contracts. BCCI has said that they will respect that, and official tours that clash with IPL. CA has also said that they support IPL and want it to succeed. Of course, they do – if their boys can be paid about the same amount as the annual CA contract for six week work, all’s the better. It takes some of the pressure off CA to show the money. However, BCCI, through Lalit Modi are turning up the heat. They are pushing the 20 February deadline and have indicated Australian players can take part in the tournament without “no objection certificates” from Cricket Australia. Them’s fighting words. (http://content-aus.cricinfo.com/ipl/content/current/story/336347.html)

Of course, there is an easy “out” here. The Pakistan tour has been in danger of being cancelled for some time, due to valid security concerns. It will be very easy to get a letter from ABC Security Consultants saying that it is not safe to tour. That is sad for Pakistan and it is a real worry that players might be tempted to use excuses for not touring, in order to make more money. However, it’s all well and good to be principled and pure (whatever that means in this context) but let’s face the facts – IPL will not be beaten and nobody wins a war. The ACB (CA when they were still a TLA) didn’t achieve anything in the WSC cricket war except to play a part in making wounds that took a decade to heal.

I say let Ricky and the boys join Simon Taufel and all the greats and ex-greats in India for a six week slogathon. The annual event will be good for the coffers, good for moral, good for the players bank balances (why are moral and bank balances so inextricably linked?) and we won’t have to worry about not playing enough T20.

One Day Cricket has had its Day

Aside from sledging, racial slurs and political argy bargy, one of the hot topics of discussion in the cricket world is “How much Twenty20 cricket is too much?”. Nobody seems to know the answer. The one thing agreed upon is that demand is high and that T20 is here to stay.

The main problem with playing more T20 is that the cricket calendar is already full. Between Test cricket and One Day cricket, there is not a lot of playing time available. But what is the purpose of T20 cricket and what is it competing with? That is, if more T20 is to be played, what form of the already established games will have to make way?

Make no mistake: The purpose of the T20 cricket is to make more money from cricket by exploring new markets. It is cricket’s Holy Grail – getting people to watch cricket who don’t already do so. For example, citizens of the USA do not tend to like cricket – the traditional game is too slow, the game runs for too long and half the time, you don’t even get a winner! With the rise and rise of India, perhaps the USA isn’t so important, but you can see what I mean. You should also be aware that all Indians love cricket (a well know fact) but most have a definitely leaning towards ODI cricket.

Let me ask this: What is the purpose of ODI cricket? What were it’s origins? The very first One Day international was in 1971 in Melbourne. A Test match was abandoned due to rain and for an exhibition, a one day match was played. One day cricket remained a bit of hit and giggle for the players and a novelty for fans for the next few years. The 1975 World Cup showed the potential of One Day cricket as a crowd pleaser. It didn’t take long for somebody with a serious business brain to latch on. That was one Kerry Packer (RIP). The World Series Cricket (WSC) revolution starting in 1977 changed cricket forever and ODI cricket was the main vehicle for that. It brought cricket to the masses. The money came rolling in. Packer (RIP), by weight of numbers, in the area of money, fans and players routed cricket the administration.

That was the origin of 50 over cricket and its reasons for existing are not dissimilar to T20 cricket. Cricket administration wants to spread the gospel of cricket and in doing so, feel the love in the coffers.

In recent years, there has been talk of ODI cricket becoming tired and predictable. The boring 25 overs between 16-40 (25 overs), that is, the overs between when the fielding restrictions are lifted and the final 10 over slog, were pin-pointed as a deadspot. Rules were changed to add some spice and interest. Cricket Australia is reviewing the format and concept of ODI in the Australian summer. The triangular competition that drags on and on is tired – I would argue that the cricket is actually better than ever but the secret of marketing is new products. Half of the new things released in the world are not better than the incumbent – just newer. This will be the last such triangular series in Australia. What will replace it?

Here is my idea: Let’s just cut to the chase and remove overs 16-40. Oh. That’s pretty much what T20 does. Let’s do away with 50 over cricket, move with the times and replace 50 over cricket with T20. In simple terms, all cricket needs is two forms of the game.

1. Real cricket – Test cricket – must always remain.
2. Cricket for the masses. Who cares if it is T20, ODI (50 over) or whatever. As long as everyone enjoys it and it pays for Test cricket. Who knows, perhaps one day, things will evolve so that the rules become more like indoor cricket. Batsmen won’t be “out”, they will just lose 5 runs. That way, we are guaranteed a full length game.

T20 offers potential of double headers. Don’t worry if you need a full day at the cricket to unwind and get well oiled. You can have two matches per day (at the one ground). It allows both innings to be played under the same conditions. One of the big problems with day-night ODI matches is that particularly under certain circumstances, the team batting at night is significantly disadvantaged. And of course, if you just want one match, it can be played entirely at night, and on week days, you can go after work and see the whole match. I remember when I took my daughter to her first day nighter. It was very disappointing because it was all over before the lights came on! Australia routed South Africa and polished off the runs before it was dark. No such problems in T20.

Cricket administration around the world must accept that T20 is huge and must move with the times. If they do not, someone else will. Correction: Someone else already is. You may have heard of IPL and ICL. These are Indian based organisations geared to turning T20 into billion dollar industries. Many players and ex-players have signed with both groups. That includes most of the Australian cricket team! And while any dissent about this been kept fairly quiet, cricketing boards around the work are not happy. CA is not happy. NZC is not happy. Shane Bond is not going to play for New Zealand again at the request of NZC because of contractual conflicts. One of the articles on Cricinfo even today outlines the concerns of CA and that they might exercise power of veto over players participation in IPL. Folks, we don’t want another WSC war. We don’t need to have one.

IPL and particularly ICL are drawing on many retired players, and second tier Indian players (these are excellent players – a country of 1.1 billion does have the potential to produce more than 15 international standard players). However, the “real players” are involved and we haven’t seen the true impact as yet. The Shane Bond situation should send out alarm bells. There is a great deal of money to be made in T20 and it will happen one way or another. The ICC and local governing bodies need to react quickly and move with the times. The Australian Cricket Board (CA was formerly known as the ACB) took 2.5 years to move with the times when KP (RIP) shook things up in 1977. In 1979, the ACB were dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century. Of course, it had really taken them almost 70 years to move with the times.

Don’t be deluded into thinking that players are so well paid now, that a rebel competition could not succeed. While it is true that in 1977 players could easily take the moral high ground of the dispute – they were the key factors in a booming industry and were being paid a pittance. That’s how KP (RIP) got such overwhelming buy in from the players. We all know that the top players are paid a motza now but hands up who, no matter how well you are paid, would not like to be paid more. I don’t see any hands. The IPL and ICL are threats.

Cricket’s governing body could lessen the treats of IPL and ICL simply by flooding us with T20. Satisfy the demand with their own products. The best players, the supers stars, the household names are already contracted to them. They should go with the flow and unleash T20 on the world and retire 50 over cricket. One Day Cricket has had its day.

Appendix 1 – IPL and ICL.

IPL and ICL – what are they? What is the difference?

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is the brain child of The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) – it has official routes. If you want to own an IPL team you will need to fork out between $US 70m and $US 120m. It is still in formative stages, has a 1 billion dollar backing from Sony and many current players have signed.

http://premierleaguecricket.in/

The Indian Cricket League (ICL) is privately run but is a serious concern. It is running now. It comprised 6 teams at present but the vision is to expand to 16 teams by the third year. As already stated the player roster is mostly retired players and second tier Indians but there are some (ex) super stars in the list and some players who could still be representing their countries.

http://www.indiancricketleague.in/

Check out the six captains:

Chris Cairns
Stuart Law
Marvan Atupattu
Inzamam Ul Haq
Craig McMillan
Brian Charles Lara

And see if you recognise any of these names in the six teams.

Andrew Hall (SAf)
Darell Tuffey (NZ)
Hamish Marshall (NZ)
Imran Farhat (Pak)
Dinesh Mongia (Ind)
Chris Reed (Eng)
Ian Harvey (Aus)
Russell Arnold (SL)
Paul Nixon (Eng)
Abdul Razzak (Pak)
Chris Harris (NZ)
Nicky Boje (SAf)
Lance Klusener (SAf)
Nantie Hayward (SAf)
Mervin Dillon (WI)
Nathan Astle (NZ)