September 18, 2008

Mike Holmans

That's rich

Mike Holmans

Vulgar, tasteless and divisive. Such are the adjectives attached to the Stanford Twenty20 jamboree.

It is allegedly divisive because if the 'England XI' beat the 'Stanford All-Stars', the players who actually play will get a million bucks each and the four who sit in the dressing room will only get a quarter of a million, and those England players who only feature in the Test squad won’t get anything at all.

What a terrible prospect. There will be big differences in the income levels of the various members of the various England squads, and this will have a hugely damaging effect on team unity, or so we are told.

Things could get as dreadful as they are in the Indian team dressing room, where Sachin Tendulkar is a squillionaire and Gautam Gambhir is not. I am sure there are tensions in the Indian dressing room, and that some of the fault lines are between the seniors (mostly very rich indeed) and the juniors (not yet very rich but hoping to be so), but they do not seem to be caused by money. If you, dear reader, are in your mid-thirties, consider how many 20-year-olds you know who aren’t irritating, and then think what it must be like to be cooped up in a dressing room with a bunch of them.

But we do not need to go to India to see inequality of income. There are already vast disparities in the England dressing room, even among the centrally-contracted. Those at the bottom of the scale get about £200K from the ECB, while captain of everything Kevin Pietersen gets something more like £500K. And that’s just basic pay.

The top order get paid considerably more by their bat makers for sporting the company logo on the face of their bat than does James Anderson. There are pictures of Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood on large advertising hoardings promoting exciting ranges of menswear and the like, but none featuring Matt Prior. Attaching his name to a ghost-written mid-career “autobiography” is unlikely to have left Flintoff or even Monty Panesar a poorer man, but insomniacs have yet to be afforded the opportunity to be bored silly by a similar tome featuring Alistair Cook. And so on.

Tastelessness and vulgarity seem to derive from the huge purse riding on a single game as though this was something totally new rather than a return to cricket’s origins. When Lord Frederick Beauclerk and the Duke of Devonshire competed for purses of 5,000 guineas in the 18th century, the stake was the equivalent of a million quid today. Substantial prize money for single games was commonplace until the mid-19th century, when the balance of power shifted.

No longer did the gentry have the basic assurance that the money would simply slosh around between one very rich person and another: the riff-raff professionals had become so good at the game that they would walk off with the dosh. The lower orders could not be trusted to know their place if they acquired great wealth, so the practice of offering large purses ceased, replaced by the hypocrisy of ‘shamateurism’. But really, how terrible is it that players should be able to rake in huge jackpots by winning games of cricket as well as by standing around in a studio in borrowed gear and letting the resultant photographs adorn billboards?

There will be problems caused by the influx of new money. Some players will gamble, drink or otherwise fritter both the money and their careers away, and some who miss out for unlucky reasons will no doubt get insanely jealous.

But the most plaintive predictions of the imminent collapse of civilisation seem to emanate from former players whose experience of international cricket was slight. Having ridden the gravy train in the second class carriage for a couple of suburban stops, they object to a new generation being pampered in first class on a round-the-world tour and from a position of moderate comfort presume to tell the newly rich how bitter and twisted they should feel about the newly very rich indeed.

What was that about vulgarity and tastelessness again?

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Posted by Marcus on (September 20, 2008, 7:59 GMT)

Why is it that every time an English or Australian writer criticizes the Indian board, or even not criticize something involving England or Australia, they have to be racist? That strikes me as somewhat of a double-standard.

I think the $1m purse is a bit too much, but I think that generally Stanford's been very good for West Indies cricket. Just look at what the WICB has planned for the money brought in by the T20 series- such as expanding the first-class season and re-establishing the A-team. If this is just a another part of Stanford's process, then I think we should all tolerate a little "vulgarity."

Posted by Gerard on (September 20, 2008, 6:35 GMT)

Comparing the Stanford money to a captain's bonus is a ridiculous argument. Of course the English captain gets paid more than the rest of the team, and the players will have no problem with that.

What they will have a problem with is teammates who participate in a tournament designed to undermine the game of cricket for ridiculous amounts of money (no, a million dollars is not 'a bit of extra cash', it's an amount that no player could possibly need).

Any player who participates in this baseball competition should expect to lose the respect of their colleagues (and fans) if their commitment to the national team is ever less than total (eg Andrew Symonds).

Posted by Naresh on (September 20, 2008, 3:14 GMT)

"the players who actually play will get a million bucks each and the four who sit in the dressing room will only get a quarter of a million"

This seems to be the major difference between Stanford and the other situations you described. It narrows down the "each man for himself" thing to very real terms. And it will be divisive - lets see. It will be good for India to have a divided English team coming to play us - maybe they will even get sledged likewise - what was that about "divide and conquer"?

Posted by raj on (September 20, 2008, 2:59 GMT)

Mike, I bet you dont have the courage to post my previous comment, in full. I have seen this time and again from your compatriots. I mean, do you guys even have a conscience and doesnt it ever prick you?

Posted by raj on (September 20, 2008, 2:58 GMT)

oh! yeah, of course, it is not vulgar. England are involved. Only ICL, IPL etc can be vulgar - because they are run by natives, stupid. Right, Mr Holmans? Seriously, I wonder what Mr. Holsman would have said if this had been organised by the BCCI. Well, usuallyEnglish and Aussie commentators dont bother about being impartisan - and their groundrules are clear, if BCCI is involved, then it is their greed. If Eng and Aus are involved, they are saving the game. I guess Mike will follow that tradition. I bet Mike will berate the BCCI in a few months for some greedy venture in Toronto, whatever, even shamelessly forgetting that this article would still be visible to people and his partisan attitude would be clear to objective observers. In any case, there are very of them in Eng and Aus so his livelihood wouldnt be affected. So I guess they will continue to peddle such mindless one-eyed, biased-towards-Eng-and-Aus articles.

Posted by Ashok on (September 19, 2008, 15:09 GMT)

Stanford's purse is not dictated by market forces. If so, the English or WI league would have done this themselves. The two teams are rather trivial and dull and cricket in their home countries does not pull enough money to justify Stanford's purse. But Stanford has a right to give his money to whomever he sees fit and it should be taxed appropriately.

Posted by tempestteacup on (September 19, 2008, 10:17 GMT)

I agree that the divisiveness of the Stanford games has been completely overplayed: there will always be disparities in the earnings of players in the same team. I don't even have a problem with the amount of money staked on the games - Allen Stanford has already stated his interest in 20/20 is based on business rather than personal enthusiasm, so we can assume he's 'done the maths' and reckons his investment realistically reflects the potential gains to be made.

However (there was bound to be one, right?), the problem is one of context and identity. Basically, the English and WI boards have hired out their cricketers to a private individual for his own edification/pleasure/financial gain. Fair enough, but why should anyone but those participating be interested in the result? The fact that nobody knows what to call the sides reflects how gripless the contest is. Feathering one's nest with Texan dosh may be understandable, but it does not a compelling sporting event make.

Posted by Oliver Chettle on (September 19, 2008, 10:09 GMT)

These matches are vulgar and divisive. There are several team sports in which twenty million dollars is chump change, but none of them put it in a glass box and play for it on a winner-takes-all basis. The analogy between these matches and two very rich men gambling for sums they can well afford is entirely spurious.

Posted by Swami on (September 19, 2008, 7:43 GMT)

IPL was not a success because of huge sums of money, but it was success because of entertaining cricket. People didnt flock to stadiums day after day because they wanted to see players getting rich, but because they wanted to get entertained. So lets not confuse IPL and Stanford. Stanford is an exhibition match between England XI and Stanford XI ( which theoretically can include Sachin Tendulkar or whoever Stanford wishes to include to maximise television audience ). There is nothing at stake in that match except the players purses.

Posted by Roger@1stSlip on (September 19, 2008, 7:10 GMT)

Mike/Steve/Ravi

Cricket followers around the world will not be impressed by the ridiculous level of prize money for players for a one-off game.

Cricket is not and should not be NFL or MLB. Didn't anyone tell Stanford that ?!?

As you suggest, the real problem here is that the ECB got tempted to get involved with the likes Stanford in the first-place.

I think it is reasonable to "dispute the abhorrent size of the prize " . If the ECB had done this it would have sent a constructive message of 'constraint' to Stanford who might then start to appreciate some of the long-standing virtues of cricket which set it apart from most other popular sports. It would also have sent a clear message to him that Cricket should not and will not be bought out at any price. Mike asked about what size such a prize should be. All I can say is that it should be alot lot less. Do you really want Americanism to get hold of cricket !?!..look what they've done to the world's financial system !!!

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