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June 1, 2012

England cricket

Players are professionals, not patriots

Samir Chopra
Kevin Pietersen punches through the off side, Pakistan v England, 3rd ODI, Dubai, February, 18, 2012
Kevin Pietersen's decision should be treated with the same tolerance that is displayed when it comes to professionals in other fields  © Getty Images
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Kevin Pietersen's decision to retire from international ODI and Twenty20 cricket has sparked ample comment, some of which has included perceptive analysis of ECB player policy and the influence of the IPL on modern cricket. The coverage has also, unfortunately, employed some depressingly familiar language - 'mercenaries' and 'hired gun' for instance - and proved yet again, that getting sports fans and writers to consider players as true professionals is a pretty difficult task. Whether patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel may yet be a topic for serious dispute, but what seems incontrovertible is that appeals to nation; national pride and national duty can still push buttons like nothing else can.

If Pietersen has decided that the best way to make a living, spend sufficient time with this family, gain recognition for sporting posterity, display professional excellence, and enjoy playing cricket (that is, work) is to concentrate on Test cricket and Twenty20 league cricket, the last criticism he should be subjected to is that he has somehow let down his 'nation'.

Rather, his decision should be treated with the same tolerance that most of us are used to displaying when it comes to professionals in other fields, who change employers, ask for salary raises and changes in working hours, and sometimes even immigrate to other countries, sometimes leaving behind family and friends. Sometimes these professionals take salary cuts to spend more time with their family. There are a whole host of actions that reasonably-minded human beings can take in order to increase their professional worth and personal happiness; by and large, we are used to indulging these, as we recognise the decisional autonomy of the worker.

But somehow this tolerance breaks down when it comes to sportsmen who 'represent their nation'. We accuse them of carpetbagging, of selfishness, of prioritising their personal interests above all else, and a host of other sins. Somehow, we treat national cricket boards as employers that can make demands over and above the ones other employers are able to, most notably by dumping guilt-trips on players for not being 'loyal to the nation'.

It is worth remembering that 'national' boards are wage-payers and workplace-providers like other employers; they should not get a free pass in our evaluation of their terms of employment just because someone 'represents the country' as their employee. For too long, 'national' boards have exploited this association with the 'nation' to get away with abusive labour practices. It is high time fans and journalists stopped aiding and abetting them by using a language inflicted with contempt to describe the choices that professional sportspersons make on a daily basis.

Much of the angst very visibly on display in most IPL-centred debates could be avoided if those participating in them could alter their perceptions of cricketers just a little: the players are not flag-clad patriots, but professionals with passports.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by RohanMarkJay on (June 5, 2012, 18:32 GMT)

Samir Chopra nice article I concur. Love reading your write ups. They are excellent! Thanks.

Posted by Rupert Greaves on (June 4, 2012, 16:02 GMT)

Kevin Pietersen has decided to retire from the shorter forms of cricket (Internationally). His reasons known only by him. Other players such as Malinga and Shaun Taitt have retired from one form in order to prolong life in the other form. There was no fuss then as far as I remember, so, what is the problem now? Shouldn't he be free to make his own decisions as he sees fit, or should a player wait until his country says "you are no longer being considered for selection?" People are peeved because they like to have a say in when a player should be dropped. Not so this time. Caught with the pants down. Remember when he was failing?

Posted by Paul on (June 4, 2012, 9:40 GMT)

KP is a complex character-leaving South Africa, association with Nottingham, HAmpshire, Surrey, England--all of which has ended in tears at various times. Why? Is this the fault of the above clubs, associations that there has been [or will be] rifts and fissures. He is, a remarkaby selfish cricketer who takes that word to new heights. I look at him and an examination of his innings will-apart from his 158 many years ago-will reveal he is not someone you would want to guard your life with in a cricketing sense. The sooner England move on with players, less talented maybe , but who actually want to play for the team and their counties and country. Players of the ilk of Bresnan, Prior, Anderson,Cook are beacons of this sort. It is no coincidence that England are doing so well under Strauss/Flowers--they epitomise team first and self after. Not so with KP --forever a disruption, wherever he has gone and will go in the future-a talented cricketer but a very flawed personality.

Posted by Paul on (June 4, 2012, 9:40 GMT)

KP is a complex character-leaving South Africa, association with Nottingham, HAmpshire, Surrey, England--all of which has ended in tears at various times. Why? Is this the fault of the above clubs, associations that there has been [or will be] rifts and fissures. He is, a remarkaby selfish cricketer who takes that word to new heights. I look at him and an examination of his innings will-apart from his 158 many years ago-will reveal he is not someone you would want to guard your life with in a cricketing sense. The sooner England move on with players, less talented maybe , but who actually want to play for the team and their counties and country. Players of the ilk of Bresnan, Prior, Anderson,Cook are beacons of this sort. It is no coincidence that England are doing so well under Strauss/Flowers--they epitomise team first and self after. Not so with KP --forever a disruption, wherever he has gone and will go in the future-a talented cricketer but a very flawed personality.

Posted by Rohit Gajaria on (June 4, 2012, 7:09 GMT)

I support Kevin Peterson.The Reason Being that Cricket Players should be allowed to represent whatever form of Cricket they want to play.It's pretty much up to a player to decide because then he can give he can give his heart entirely to that form and KP has said he would like to play for England in the T20 World Cup but the ECB isn't allowing him.

Posted by Jayaesh on (June 3, 2012, 21:42 GMT)

I fully agree with you Samir, i mean there is so much double standards shown by these so called fans,on one hand they love there Barcelonas ,madrids,man u's of the world but when same thing happens in cricket they are up in arms.I think entire oppossition to IPL is based not only on purist's dislike but an trrational fear that club cricket will take over country,even if it happens so what why one should treat our national team as some sort of holy cow.Lets take a example of upcoming Euro's(Football ) in June,most of the players are physically batterd after an ardous long 9 month season with there clubs and yet all these clubs are never questioned by the media weather long season has burnt out players for there respective national teams.Cricket fans/media need to learn from other popular sports who have club driven structure.

Posted by longmemory on (June 3, 2012, 21:01 GMT)

@Zeeman: forget wikipedia, why don't you go just about anywhere in India and you'll get a much better sense of the "economic estimates for India for the next few decades." Guys like you are typical of many a middle class Indian convinced that we are the world's next great power when literally a majority of our country's citizens have no access to adequate food, clothing, shelter or bathrooms.

Posted by Chat on (June 3, 2012, 17:25 GMT)

It is absurd to compare national cricketers to ordinary people working for a salary. Now, I understand KP's reasons for doing so. But, sportsmen represent their country. Fans adore them and respect them for that. Fans hold them in high esteem, just like they do the Armed forces during times of war. So, they have to be ready to take the praise as well as the blame. I do not think that any cricketer should be expected to put country before self. But, they have to manage both, period.

Posted by grizzle on (June 3, 2012, 17:04 GMT)

Zeeman: Why don't you look up the estimates for the per-capita income of India and the fraction of its population that are below the poverty line? I am an Indian myself, and recognize the strides that India has made in the last couple of decades, but these kinds of comments make my blood boil! In any case, this article has little to do with India or the influence it has on the world of cricket, and more to do with whether KP's decision was justified.

Posted by Ram on (June 3, 2012, 12:16 GMT)

A sportsman represents his country, unlike an average John Doe who is employed in a company. What he does makes news and he is the role model for many. Imagine the impact it would have if Tendulkar could suddenly declare that he wants to play for England - many Indians became his fans because he was Indian and was proud to play in Indian colors - now if he jumps off to England because he got more pay, this would be disowning many of the fans. You want to enjoy the limelight ( made possible only because of fans without which a cricketer would be nothing) but you don't want to give back anything?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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