It may be that the issue will settle down and there should, for once, be slight sympathy for the ECB. They played their hand ineptly but it was probably a hand they had to play. When Sir Allen came calling they worked out that if England did not take the money, someone else would. Sir Allen might have said jolly nice things about the ECB, but so long as he could lure an international side he was probably not worried who they were. The details were hammered out quickly – and much made of the need to help West Indies cricket.
In itself, a money-match is not a problem. Once Kerry Packer had, in the late 1970s, persuaded the greatest players of the day to side with his breakaway league rather than the traditional system, world cricket has been a professional game. “We’re all whores,” sneered Packer at the administrators of the time. “What’s your price?” The price he found, and as Mr Stanford found when he started to negotiate with English cricket this year, is a relatively cheap one. Those approaching this week with honesty – an honesty that has been decidedly thin on the ground – realised that the only meaningful thing of the whole week was the destination of the cheque.
I say that we should see it for what it is: an exercise in making a fast buck and appeasing players who have missed out on the Indian Premier League. Don't be too surprised by the vulgarity of the whole thing, or the inadequate facilities they are playing in. Just let them get on with it, and then we can all start tuning in again when the serious stuff starts in India.I don't blame the players at all for taking up the opportunity to make $1,000,000 a man. Good luck to them.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo