Cricket faces sobering scenario – report

TMG Digital

THE Federation of Cricketers’ Associations’ (FICA) “International Cricket Structural Review” that emerged on Thursday reads like most of SA’s recent scorecards, and not in a good way.

The document includes a quote from former SA captain Graeme Smith: “There is a conflict within players around the world under the current structure. The game has a great opportunity to provide clear global direction in relation to its structure, and must to find a way to give meaning to each game. Every match must matter.”

That’s on the second of 42 pages of, mostly, woe.

In an overview titled “Time for collective thinking”, FICA executive chair Tony Irish sketches a sobering scenario.

“Cricket derives the bulk of its income from international competition and therefore the 3500-plus professional players, as well as administrators and employees in the game worldwide, rely on the economic engine-room that is international cricket for their livelihoods,” Irish wrote.

“However, the international product is cluttered, lacking in context, confusing, unbalanced and frequently subject to change.

“Test cricket, a treasured format of the game, and bilateral oner-day cricket are rapidly losing spectator appeal in many countries and consequently their commercial value is under severe threat. We understand that many of the game’s host broadcasters hold similar views.

“The new, parallel market of domestic T20 cricket is challenging cricket’s structures and economic model and doing so in an already over-full schedule.

“There is a growing divide in wealth and resources between the wealthy and less wealthy cricket nations that make up the main stakeholders in the international game.

“Against a backdrop of confusion and uncertainty, professional players are trying to build long and meaningful careers.

“There are multiple markets and choices open to them and their loyalty to their countries, and to the traditions of the game, is being tested like never before.”

Is Irish, good trade unionist that he is, making things sound worse than they are? Not if the answers to a question in the document’s player survey – “Would you consider rejecting a national contract if you were paid significantly more to be a free agent (only playing T20 leagues such as Indian Premier League and Big Bash)?” – are taken seriously.

Overall, 49.1% answered yes. That went down to 39.3% for English and Australian players. But 58.6% of New Zealanders, Sri Lankans, West Indians, Bangladeshis and South Africans replied in the affirmative.

It’s not difficult to understand why. If a contracted England player cracks the nod for 10 tests, 15 ODIs and five T20s in a year, he will bank the equivalent of more than R12.5-million. A contracted South African who plays the identical slate of games will make just more than R5-million.   

As if that wasn’t bleak enough news for aficionados, the report calls for “the volume of T20 international cricket to increase in place of some test and ODI cricket”.

It’s cricket, Jim, but not as we knew it. At least, it won’t be.