Australian Cricketers' Association survey

Twenty20 freelancers are game's biggest issue

Alex Brown

December 23, 2009

Comments: 24 | Text size: A | A

Mitchell Johnson feels off colour and gets a pat from Ricky Ponting, Australia v West Indies, 3rd Test, Perth, 19 December, 2009
Tired and emotional: Mitchell Johnson and his fellow international players need more time off to avoid burn-out and excessive fatigue, according to the Australian Cricketers' Association © Getty Images
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An overwhelming majority of Australian cricketers believe players will turn down central contracts in order to position themselves as Twenty20 "freelancers" in the coming seasons, prompting the Australian Cricketers' Association chief Paul Marsh to describe the issue as "one of the biggest cricket has faced." The findings, published in the ACA's annual survey of national and state cricketers, also revealed almost a quarter of Cricket Australia's 25-man contract list would consider declining future offers from the national board to expand their playing options.

Asked whether they envisaged Australian players following the freelance path taken by Andrew Flintoff earlier this year, 67% of surveyed cricketers responded in the affirmative. Of those, 22% of CA contracted players said they would consider making such a move now, with another 39% stating they were unsure. No players had considered the move previously.

A reduction in touring commitments, greater earning potential, fewer physical demands and the avoidance of scheduling conflicts with the IPL were among the factors players said would be taken into consideration when deciding whether to pursue freelance careers. Almost half the cricketers surveyed said they were open to the idea of early retirement to pursue careers in the IPL, with another 30% listed as unsure.

But not all was doom and gloom for national boards. In a promising development for the game's traditional employers, the prestige of representing Australia was rated by both state and national players as the factor that would most weigh on their minds when deciding whether to play as a freelancer, indicating that the lure of IPL riches has not entirely replaced that of the baggy green cap in the hearts, minds and pockets of Australia's cricketers.

"The reality is that the boards no longer have a monopoly over the players' services," Marsh told Cricinfo. "There are new and lucrative options available to players and not surprisingly many around the world are giving serious consideration to their futures. Our players are well paid, but a competition such as the IPL in many cases provides more money for less work. That's a proposition most people would accept in a heartbeat.

"As such I think the issue of freelancing will be one of the biggest that cricket has faced. I hope, for the game's sake, we can find a solution that doesn't see players choosing IPL over international cricket. The survey reinforces that our players still have a desire to play international cricket so in order to retain them, those running the game must firstly ensure that the scheduling of international cricket doesn't conflict with events such as the IPL. Secondly, a period of player leave must be factored into the schedule so that players can play international cricket and IPL as well as having an annual break to allow their bodies to recover and so they can spend time with their families."

Saturation scheduling was highlighted as the greatest concern held by players in the poll. Only 18 % of CA contracted players said they supported the Future Tours Programme in its current format, with 78% voting for a world championship Test model. Entering the final stages of a 2009 campaign in which Australia were scheduled to play 13 Tests, 39 one-day internationals and nine Twenty20 matches across seven countries, only 29% of CA contracted players felt the current scheduling mix was appropriate - down from 43% last year.

Almost 80% of Australia's elite players felt too many ODIs were being scheduled - more than double the figure from 2008 - and most felt bi-lateral 50-over series should be restricted to five games. The management of players' workloads by resting them from selected 50- and 20-over matches proved most unpopular - 86 % were against the ploy.

 
 
"The reality is that the boards no longer have a monopoly over the players' services" Paul Marsh
 

To alleviate the issues of over-scheduling and IPL conflicts, Marsh called upon administrators to include nine-week annual windows in the new FTP, which will run from 2012 to 2020. He also implored boards to grant players an additional annual leave period to reduce the risk of player burn-out.

"We believe these windows must be provided if the international game is to retain its elite players," he said. "The ICC and its member boards need to accept that less international cricket will need to be scheduled moving forward. The opportunity for these boards is to make each game of international cricket more valuable and we strongly believe greater context is the answer. In our view international cricket desperately needs context in the form of global Test, ODI and T20 championships so that every game has meaning amongst players and fans."

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by chokkashokka on (December 23, 2009, 20:44 GMT)

Cam123 and Minuszero echo my sentiments on this. This is a sport which generates a tremendous amount of money, so anyone who is crying for reducing the number of matches is wasting their time and energy. Not going to happen - no board is going to turn down an invitation to make money and why should they? Let the whining cricketers in this survey take the break voluntarily if they are so concerned about burnout. There are many more hungry guys out there who are talented and waiting for their chance. As for IPL and freelancing, every cricket player has a right to secure his family's future. If the Boards want their best players not to freelance, then they'll need to open up their pocketbooks. Simple rules of the free market. The answer is larger rosters and player rotation so there can be more central contracts, competition, less injury, more matches and more money to counter IPL. The retired cricketers of the past wish they were playing in the current system - survey them.

Posted by balajik1968 on (December 23, 2009, 18:03 GMT)

Wow, finally some Aussie accepts that Symonds was an overrated cricketer. By the way, the BCCI is also trying to address the issue of burnout. Maybe the money in the IPL is huge, but it does not in any way compare with football, tennis or hockey. Maybe some are concerned about injury and point to Flintoff and KP. Thing is Flintoff played 5 odd IPL matches and KP 6, so no point blaming the IPL. The IPL has thrown up a new set of challenges to international cricket, it is upto international cricket to sort things out. Blaming the BCCI and IPL for every thing is just not going to work. A cosy Australia-England twosome ran (and still runs to a large extent) cricket. People are not comfortable with India challenging the status quo. I am not saying everything the BCCI does is perfect,but the ECB & CA have no monopoly on what's right for cricket.

Posted by TwitterJitter on (December 23, 2009, 16:46 GMT)

More posturing by Australian players to get a better contract from their boards. There are hardly 20 non-retired cricketers from Australia contracted to IPL and will be even fewer after the next auction. They are just using IPL as a threat to blackmail their boards into getting more benefits. Also, there won't be any window for IPL because the home board (BCCI) does not want it as it will restrict its future expansion.

Posted by shark.tooth on (December 23, 2009, 10:21 GMT)

IPL is just ruining cricket. Anyway its not officially approved by ICC. START THINKING OF BANNING IPL to save the traditional forms of cricket. In few years you will find good players moving straight into IPL and sorts than playing for the country, if proper regulations are not made and greed is not cut, where it has to be. Being an Indian I can vouch, how expert are we to make others greedy and at the same time make our coffers overflowing

Posted by Cam123 on (December 23, 2009, 3:07 GMT)

I think that the most disappointing outcome here is the 86% of players against a rotation system. Look at baseball, starting pitchers (the most over-worked player in any single game) end up playing maybe one in five matches while batters probably play 4 out of 5 games (or more). This allows a lot of games without too much player burnout. It widens the group of players, which may be the primary cause for not supporting this approach as it splits the pot of money, but this will be good for the sport in terms of attracting talent. As for the salaries, with more games the pot of money might just get bigger as well? Finally, just to rebut the supposition on fans getting burnout - I don't buy that at all. It is restricted to the players (and possibly commentators)? In that case a rotation system should definitely help. I mean, don't mandate it or anything, just play a lot of games and have the team managers/coaches/captains figure out how to handle the busy schedule.

Posted by eyballfallenout on (December 23, 2009, 2:33 GMT)

it will end up like soccer, teams will stop there international stars from playing for there country in case of injury, also sponsors will stop them playing a game that is promoting there competitors.Its going to be horrible, but that is the way sport has gone. Its not the players fault, any one would leave there job for 5 x more money and less hours. Look at players like Symonds Hodge S clark jaques etc. All overlooked by selectors for whatever reason. They will just leave and play overseas.

Posted by popcorn on (December 23, 2009, 1:00 GMT)

While NO Cricket Board can stop a cricketer from playing in the IPL, because it would tantamount to restraint of trade, there is nothing to prevent a Cricket Board from NOT selecting such a player for ODIs or Test Cricket,who opts for Twenty20 instead of a Central Contract. This will wake up cricketers - then they can display their true intentions - they cannot have their cake and eat it too. There are countless players waiting in the wings to wear a Baggy Green - or their Country's Cap. This will truly demonstrate that the Game is bigger than the Cricketer - they can put their money wheir mouth (or heart) is. Cricket Australia has displayed great courage in telling Andrew Symonds to get lost - and the ODI and Test Team is none the worse for it - in fact,the Team is better off without this disintegrating character.

Posted by bobagorof on (December 23, 2009, 0:22 GMT)

Historically, domestic players have had an 'off-season' to recover and to spend time with their families - however, many of them choose to play in the domestic competitions in other countries (such as England or South Africa) during this time. As the IPL is a domestic competition, I don't see why space should be made in the International calendar for it - space is not made so players can go play in England or the West Indies. If the player is free at the time and wants to play, good for them. I do agree, though, that the scheduling of International matches needs to be looked at - I've never seen the point of a 7 match series (5 is enough). Players do need to have a break now and then, so a generous 9 week window (most workers get half that per year) of non-international cricket would work well. If players choose to go play the IPL in this window, that's their choice - but then they can hardly complain about too much cricket if that's how they spend their break.

Posted by Sharksfan on (December 23, 2009, 0:18 GMT)

I think the IPL is fun cricket, but not good for the game. This needs to stop. There isn't enough money for all the boards to give the cricketers the amount they get in the IPL. The ICC, BCCI, and IPL are ruining the future, and unless the players pick international cricket for more work, over IPL for less work and more money, T20 will take over. Player burn-out contributes to this too.

Posted by MinusZero on (December 22, 2009, 23:16 GMT)

If they want to go after the money, let them. Any sportsman only has a limited life where they can play at their best. This is a career for many, not a sport. Would an career accountant be held back from earning extra money by doing free-lance work? No. Whats the difference

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