The former England captain's take on the fortnight in cricket

'India is the catalyst for the freelancer crisis'

Players as free agents, West Indies' dilemma, the ICC awards, a two-tier Test structure and more (08:57)

September 28, 2009

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The Tony Greig Show

'India is the catalyst for the freelancer crisis'

September 28, 2009

There shouldn't be talk of banning West Indies from international competition just yet - they ought to be given time to sort out their problems © Getty Images

Champions Trophy round-up Last week I picked South Africa, Australia and India as my favourites for the Champions Trophy. I also said I was reluctant to underestimate Pakistan. Now that Pakistan has comprehensively beaten India, and Sri Lanka have upset South Africa, things have changed but not too dramatically.

It seems to me that the Wanderers pitch holds the key because it is fast, bouncy and also two-paced. South Africa and Australia will both be hoping for a Wanderers semi-final, while Sri Lanka and Pakistan would prefer to play at Centurion, where conditions are similar to those at home.

At the time of recording New Zealand have got off to a great start against Sri Lanka, but I have no strong inclination to change my prediction of an Australia-South Africa final. But Sri Lanka and Pakistan are now my preferred other semi-finalists.

It's a risky business predicting the outcome in any limited overs tournaments, and Australia will be a little worried about their overall form, especially after their match against the very weak West Indies. South Africa will certainly have been rocked by their defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka, but these things happen and good teams recover. South Africa have the added problem of their so-called jinx when it comes to winning a major tournament, but I think that is now a thing of the past.

West Indies' participation in the Champions Trophy There has been plenty of debate about whether or not the ICC should have barred West Indies from taking part in the Champions Trophy on the basis that their team after losing at home to Bangladesh is no longer in the top eight. I don't think this would have been fair. The unrest in West Indies cricket has been around for a long time and in situations like this, when it does seem that things have well and truly come to a head, there is no point in the ICC imposing itself on the WICB and their players. It is now up to these two groups to resolve their issues once and for all. If they don't do this before their scheduled tour of Australia then there is no doubt in my mind that Cricket Australia will seek a replacement team. It's acceptable to allow West Indies cricket time to sort out their issues, but not too much time. Hopefully the compromise they come up with will be a lasting one, but I am certainly not holding my breath. There is so much bad blood between the factions that lasting peace in the current climate seems highly unlikely.

The two-tier Test structure The concept of a two-tier Test structure is doing the rounds, and while the teams who are likely to end up in the top tier will not be unduly worried, it's the group in the second tier that will be opposed to having their status changed. I am not in favour because the only reason we are in this position is because we have allowed weak teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to retain Test status when they clearly don't deserve it. West Indies could find themselves in a similar position if they don't resolve their problems.

I am more inclined to encourage the ICC to withdraw Test status from those countries not living up to the standards we expect in Tests. Here again we have a problem because the votes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe tend to go to India, who have no intention of backing any move that will reduce their influence. This is where we need to see change. India has to take control of some of these major issues. We need to hear what Sharad Pawar and his colleagues think should happen, so we can then form a view on their logic. In the meantime I would maintain the status quo.

The absence of South African players in the ICC awards shortlists It is ridiculous that no South African player features in the final shortlists of the ICC annual awards. How is it that a team can perform so well as a unit and also have eight players in the top 10 in the batting and bowling rankings for Tests and ODIs and still have no representation? That's just not on, and I can certainly understand why the South Africans are crying foul. All I can suggest is that those given the responsibility of making this decision did so in a haphazard way. The ICC is always in search of credibility and whether they like it or not this is not the way to go about acquiring it. Perhaps they should have a good look at those they have selected to make these decisions.

The sex dossier I never thought that I would live to see the day when a coach, or anyone else for that matter, would put in writing suggestions to cricketers on what they should or shouldn't do sexually on the night before a match. Well, it's happened. The Indian players have now got a dossier explaining explicitly what they should do. The advice appeared under the heading "Does sex increase performance?" and went on to say, "Yes it does, so go ahead and indulge," before detailing the benefits of a good sex life and even suggesting "going solo" if no partners were available. According to the dossier, "having sex increases testosterone levels, which causes an increase in strength, energy, aggression and competitiveness". Gary Kirsten expressed his deep hurt at the quotes attributed to him, that he has been trying to encourage the players towards sexual activity. The former South African opener said the report was prepared by mental conditioner Paddy Upton just to provide information to the players - not for implementation or to be used as team strategy. Thank God for that.

"I am not in favour of a two-tier Test structure because the only reason we are in this position is because we have allowed weak teams like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to retain Test status when they clearly don't deserve it"

Why the modern cricketer prefers freelancing England's Andrew Flintoff has refused an ECB central contract and chosen, instead, to become what is being described as a freelance player. What Flintoff is saying to the ECB is that he doesn't want to be bound to the terms of this type of contract, which naturally requires the player to make himself available to play in all of England's games. Flintoff no longer needs the security of a guaranteed wage because he has made enough cash, and now he wants to be able to pick and choose when he will be available to play for England.

There is a good reason why he has decided to go down this path. He has made enough money to dictate to the ECB, and he wants to make more by seeing to it that he is available for the IPL and every other money-spinning Twenty20 tournament going.

The coming English summer, England will possibly have matches that clash with the IPL, so obviously he will not be available for England. But when the IPL is over he may then let it be known that he is available again. Alternatively he may choose to have a break or go off and play elsewhere. The ECB have no option other than to treat Flintoff as if he has retired. If they don't, they run the risk of other England players doing the same.

The England authorities could refuse to grant him the letter of consent required for him to take part in the IPL, but they will be hesitant to take a firm stand against Flintoff for fear of once again being taken to court and beaten. This happened in the late seventies when the Australian board tried to stop Kerry Packer's World Series players from earning a living.

Mind you, this is different in so much as in those days our problem was that we were paid so badly that we were justified in seeking to secure our futures. Flintoff, on the other hand, could retire tomorrow and be financially secure. It won't be long now before many of the cricket boards around the world realise that they had better come up with a formula that accommodates all those with a vested interest in the game. When this happens they will realise that India is the catalyst for the crisis and they will have to find a way of seeing to it that India is part of the plan to ensure that players remain loyal to their respective boards.

West Indies are the first to seriously feel the impact of the security offered by the IPL. This guarantee of big money for only two months work has fortified the West Indies players, who in the past have been inclined to compromise with the WICB. Now the WICB have players who aren't any longer financially dependent on playing Tests, ODIs or Twenty/20 matches for West Indies.

I would be highly surprised if quite a few cricket boards around the world aren't already ganging up in an effort to extract from India further undertakings regarding the participation of non-Indian players in the IPL. These undertakings will not only relate to firming up on the letter-of-consent process, but also some form of reimbursement by India for the use of players from other countries. After all, why should India be allowed to profit from the assets of the other cricket boards in the world? This is not fair and simply can't last.

Posted by redneck on (September 30, 2009, 1:11 GMT)

i dont think people understand these no objection certificates are almost worthless to boards such as england and australia's as there are strong anti restriction of trade laws in these countries that prevent the ecb for example stopping flintoff from playing in the ipl as flintoff could go to court and force the ecb to issue the certificate! simply the bcci must compensate the other national boards for haviing their players participate in a bcci sanctioned event. in return the icc could create a window for the ipl post 2012. this way no one looses out! knocking tony for having played in world series cricket is wrong as this ended up making the game better, forced boards to pay players their worth and revolutionised the way cricket was broadcast. the ipl is solely for india and the bcci's benefit and is disturbing other nations cricket!

Posted by the-anti-mule on (September 29, 2009, 20:48 GMT)

Wow. I am just amazed at the level of defensiveness and failure in logic in recent articles by well known writers, cricketers, and commentators when it comes to bashing the IPL and Twenty20 format or defending ODIs.

Can we please have some intelligent debate?

Posted by Zens on (September 29, 2009, 4:19 GMT)

Tony i think you watch other sports too. And you need to see how other sports such as Football and basketball have benefitted from corporate owned club events. Be it the NBA or the premiere leagues of the world. If you start saying that premiere league teams should pay home countries a premium to buy their players then it sure is a big joke. As Victor Hugo once said "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." So you may try to stop it butits surely aint gonne be stopped. I think what the world in general despises the most is losing power. Unfortunately I dont think its going to change level of cricket being played in India as can be evidenced by the fact that the English football team So all said and done IPL is here to stay whether you like it or not. One thing that needs to be done is it needs to be regulated and other countries need to follow suit so as tio make it a level playing field.

Posted by IndiaGoats on (September 29, 2009, 3:54 GMT)

IPL is just a business venture. Let it fight the market and succeed or fail. No one, including Tony, has any right to poke their noses into it. If he is concerned about the English players becoming freelancers, let him push ECB to deny that right to English players. Or, be satisfied with at least the provision for NOC.

Also, I don't agree with making an FTP window for IPL. Why should only one board's tournament receive this privilege? If ICC makes that move, then all countries and players should benefit equally. For example, BCCI/IPL should not have the right to prevent Pakistani players to participate in IPL. At the same time, Pakistani players should not feel obliged to keep demanding BCCI/IPL for their inclusion.

Posted by CrisSayHi on (September 28, 2009, 23:51 GMT)

Partially true. But what is wrong with that. It is not bad for the game or cricket to give more freedom to players. It is not wise to criticize it when there could be modification to address your valid concern. Each board should get some money from this tournaments (% of their players total) to use that for creating more opportunity for those who did not get chance. Because, board invests money, time and everything on their players and they should get some to keep it going instead of loosing money because of absence of key player due to injury or any kind of circumstances related to IPL. If I were you, I will write what extra could be done to make it better instead of trying to stop it. Face it - it is not in anyone's hand. Ask the players - Cricket is played by players, fed by people, not commentators. As long as people and players are okay with it, it should go on.

Posted by cvskrishna on (September 28, 2009, 20:00 GMT)

Tony's gripe comes from his involvement with ICL. He was hired by ICL to do similar things as he did during Packer era. Now that ICL is history he is not able to digest the fact that he will not get any money from India. He was in the party which took on BCCI and lost.

Pure and simple, gripe from sour grapes. You can not win every battle in life Tony, Grow up.

Posted by Homer2007 on (September 28, 2009, 19:45 GMT)

I completely agree with Mr Grieg that India is the catalyst for the freelancer crisis.

After all, didnt the Indian Cricket League initiate and then precipitate the freelancer crisis by recruiting mercenaries ( including about the entire Bangladesh team) to play in a private league?

And the ICL did not share a single naya paisa with any of the Boards whose countries they were recruiting from ( including India).

Say what? Mr Grieg was on the very same ICL Board? No way!!!


Posted by Quazar on (September 28, 2009, 17:54 GMT)

Tony, did Kerry Packer share revenues with the various cricket boards back in the '70s for using "assets they developed"? Did you players pay taxes from your World Series earnings to your home countries for nurturing you as citizens and sportsmen? The BCCI has many flaws, but in this instance they are playing fair by stipulating that players need NOCs from their cricket boards. They have no other financial liabilities to other boards, in my view.

Posted by Quazar on (September 28, 2009, 17:39 GMT)

"This happened in the late seventies when the Australian board tried to stop Kerry Packer's World Series players from earning a living. Mind you, this is different in so much as in those days our problem was that we were paid so badly that we were justified in seeking to secure our futures." Tony, you score 0 with that argument!!! Flintoff is no more mercenary than you boys were.

Posted by Vanchy on (September 28, 2009, 17:21 GMT)

Tony Tony Tony - I want some of that stuff that you are smoking. What's this thing about IPL paying the other Boards.... The cricket market is being driven by India with it's audience and so people do want to come and play there. The easiest solution is for the ICC to create a window in the Internation calendar. Why did the players including you go and Play in the packer circus? Balderdash.... Keep your private prejudices about the sub continent to yourself What you are peddling is unadultrated crap.

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