November 3, 2012

You gotta feel sorry for cricketers

When they aren't getting dumped by T20 franchises, they must endure jargon-filled scolding from their other employers

You may think the IPL is the chilled glass of Bollinger in the exclusive bar at the pinnacle of Mount Entertainment; the epitome of cricket loveliness; an extravaganza of celebrity-waving, million-dollar slog-sweeps and enormous foam fingers.

But it has an unpleasant underbelly. No, I don't mean Dermot Reeve. Every November, when the franchises think no one is looking, they launch a secret cull. Dozens of cricketers are cut loose. Some of them find out by text. Others are not so fortunate.

"I didn't even get a chance to warn my wife," said one Australian who nearly played in a Test match. "She came down to breakfast one morning, tears streaming down her face. I asked her what was wrong. She said, "Is it true that the Cutack Colonoscopies don't want you to carry the isotonic drinks out for them at the strategy break anymore? Oh darling, what will we tell the children?"

Many Australians, dreaming of a fresh start in a country where spiders don't nest in your toilet, were lured to the IPL with the promise of lots of money, free sunglasses, and lots of money. Now, abandoned by their franchises, their careers have hit rock bottom. Many will have to go back to playing Sheffield Shield cricket. Cricket charities fear some might even resort to hanging around the County Championship, hoping to get a game.

Of all the franchises indulging in this frenzy of payroll prunage, it's no surprise to see that Hyderabad Name-To-Be-Announced have released 13 players, although it is a slight surprise to see they've kept 20. Pune's list of rejects is even longer, a who's who of last year's fashionable dashers, bashers and flingers, the results of an orgy of shopping, now all out on the pavement. How much for this Ryder? What about Stevie, is he still the new Shane? Oh that's where Tamim went, I wondered what had happened to him.

You have to feel sorry for cricketers; if it isn't franchises dumping you on the T20 scrap heap, it's administrators going all 17th century on you. This week we discovered that the spirit of Oliver Cromwell lives on at the WACA, where the naughty seat is now a naughty bench on which an entire squad of Scorchers will be spending ther weekend, reflecting on how they let themselves, their state, their grandparents and their goldfish down.

Well, not all of them. Nathan Coulter-Nile didn't take part in the festivities in Centurion. In a previous era of Australian cricket, this would have marked him out as a bit of a problem, a poseur, a bloke not to be trusted by other blokes. And 30 years ago, a drinking session so epic that it not only wiped out the next day's training session, but the following day's as well, might have been marked by a presentation, a silver trophy and a celebratory crate of ales.

But this is 2012.

"A full and independent review will be carried out to identify underlying issues that may be impacting on teams representing the WACA. A code of conduct and behavioural guidelines will be developed with education opportunities identified and resources made available to both players and staff. There will also be an individual focus on counselling strategies as needed for members of the playing group."

Strewth. No wonder they turn to drink.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England