Mark Antony gave the word “honourable” a less than charitable meaning. In his eulogy at Caesar’s funeral he constantly referred to Brutus as “an honourable man.”
In the rush to praise James Sutherland and Cricket Australia for their “vision” in allowing private equity in a domestic competition, the fawning sections of the media have conveniently forgotten recent events.
For those with the attention span of a mating cicada, let me remind them that the ECB was similarly upbeat when Stanford descended in his black helicopter on Lords with his crisp 20 million dollars.
The subsequent images of Stanford with England players’ wives on his lap should have been a reminder that when you accept the devil’s money you sing to his tune.
If that was not enough then seeing Stanford in his orange prison garb should have alerted some consciousness.
The fallout from the third edition of the IPL is still raging. A minister has lost his portfolio. Two franchises have been turfed for “financial and structural irregularities.”
Corporates and individuals are being investigated for money laundering and collusion. The secretary of the BCCI, Mr Srinivisan, is embroiled in litigation instituted by a former office bearer. The old governing council of the IPL has been reconstituted and the jury is out and deliberating on the guilt or innocence of the previous incumbents.
Unfortunately, this jury may never return.
Cricket Australia points to market research that says Twenty20 will be the dominant form in the next five years. We are being told this is the way of the future. We are being told cricket cannot survive without the injection of Indian money.
The question you and I should ask is: “What are we not being told?”
We have not been told that Australia’s TV ratings were at an all time high for cricket in 2006-7. And just in case you need to be reminded, this was prior to the Big Bash.
Test cricket has been languishing with bland pitches, meaningless contests and a disregard for the paying punter. We have had some cracking series over the last three years and instead of building on this, administrators continue to take the easy money.
We should not so much praise our administrators as damn them. They have been sitting on their collective inertia for the best part of a decade. They have done nothing to energise the Sheffield Shield.
Happy, instead, to take the money from Cricket Australia and let it run as a loss leader.
Cricket Australia on the other hand seems proud that it can look at a four year cycle where three years budget for a loss and the fourth year a windfall. This current cycle sees India as the fourth year saviour.
It is only a month ago that Mohali produced one of the most watched Tests in recent history. The upcoming Ashes are shaping as a bonanza. Does this not say that Test cricket is healthy if the contest is meaningful?
The State Associations are as culpable as Cricket Australia.
Ever since the ICL, which came before the IPL, administrators have had an eye on the money on offer in India. The partnership of Cricket Australia with the BCCI in the Champion’s league has forever compromised its independence.
Another question worth asking is how much pressure has been exerted on State Associations to expand the Twenty20 content in their grade and junior competitions.
Grassroots administrators have always had to manage on a shoestring and Hail Mary’s. Now they may have to sing for their supper to an Indian potentate.
If cricket is in a crisis in Australia the blame is squarely with the administrators. And in privitasing a section of our domestic cricket they are mortgaging an asset that has never had any debt. In accepting private money they are setting an agenda that can see our National game in the hands of private enterprise. How long then before private enterprise demands the return it is entitled to?
There may be more money in the coffers in the immediate short term but you can rest assured that in the long term there will be less for the grassroots. The poor always get squeezed first. This is the way of the world.
And none of the above is a case against Twenty20 cricket. It is a case against private money and the compromises inherent in such a pact. There is a demand for Twenty20 but it is not at the cost of a reduced Sheffield Shield or a reduced International summer.
Every cricketer worth his salt, anywhere in the world, considers Test Cricket as the ultimate contest. Twenty20 does not produce Test cricketers. Test Cricket produces Twenty20 cricketers. There are always going to be exceptions like Warner, but they are not the rule.
In the final analysis Cricket Australia is being disrespectful to the legacy of past greats in its unseemly haste to embrace private money.