Shocked, outraged, disappointed. A varied yet familiar reaction to Shakib Al-Hasan’s banning stemming from involvement in a corruption scandal.
Al-Hasan had been the toast of the cricket world at the ICC World Cup only a few months ago as Bangladesh’s star player. A delight with bat and ball, Al-Hasan was the ointment cricket was searching for, an embodiment that the game was going to be okay in the world’s lesser powers.
So if Al-Hasan, Bangladesh’s captain, a hipster’s best friend and a lock for the ICC player of the year conversation is all of these things, why did it come to this? Why throw it all away?
At this point, it should be noted this isn’t the first time this issue has reared its head. It’s been conducted before by Pakistan in England circa 2010 and Hansie Cronje in 2002 with a group of faceless Indians and in other lesser known incidents.
Every time, we see the same response. Anger, shock, outrage, rinse, repeat.
Impurity can’t penetrate the sport regarded as the ‘gentleman’s game’, except when it does because the players are human. And it can because the ICC and cricket’s powerbrokers in India, England and Australia have helped fester conditions which allow it.
Central to this discussion is the parity brokered in world cricket’s revenue which is heavily lop-sided towards the ‘big three’ and leaves scraps for the remaining entities.
While 2017’s revenue plan rectified the issues created by the 2014 model, the breakdown, according to a BBC report, essentially is this: India receives $405 million dollars, almost three times more than England’s $139 million, which comes in at second place.
Australia sits roughly in parity with England, while South Africa, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, New Zealand and Bangladesh are allotted $128 million. Zimbabwe’s allotment falls to $94 million while Ireland and Afghanistan get a slice of $184 million with all the other associate nations.
It’s an improved situation for minnows but India’s contribution still dwarfs anyone else. Now, this pay structure does allow greater payment to players but importantly, India and England, Australia players have a greater platform to draw entitlements as do their organisations. Taking a hit can be easily counteracted.
This possibility is less likely at the next tier. A report from the Sydney Morning Herald states the minimum retainer at Cricket Australia is $286,000, meanwhile, an AFP report in 2017 stated the top earners in Bangladesh – including the likes of Shakib Al-Hassan – earn $6,500 (AUD) a month for their efforts. $286,000 – excluding bonuses – per year compared to $78,000; which do you rather?
Hypothetically, an extra $20,000 from a bookmaker would be less tempting to an Australian or Englishman than it would to a Bangladeshi under current conditions.
The ICC allowed the big three to take the power and the money associated with it, and while the impact wasn’t immediate, when a butterfly flaps its wings eventually the wind changes.
There’s nothing right or noble about what Al-Hasan did, but, money does make the world go around and if Al-Hasan situation highlights anything, it’s that there is a fight at the bottom of the food chain.
Given the powers that be contributed to this mess, they should spare themselves the indignity of being surprised by its saddening results.