Hating the IPL is simply naïve

2013-04-18 14:42
Sport24 columnist Ant Sims (File)

It’s the most obscure thing to go to a cricket ground on a Wednesday morning with overcast skies cold enough to warrant wearing a coat, all while a stream of people kept coming through the gates at Lord’s cricket ground.

Both old and young pitched up on Wednesday morning to watch Middlesex take on Derbyshire while, elsewhere in London, a moderately-full members’ pavilion at The Oval watched Graeme Smith rally his Surrey troops and Alviro Petersen pile on the runs for Somerset.

It’s nowhere near the frantic, over indulgence of the IPL. Nobody is force-feeding advertising for its audience and there aren’t hundreds of thousands of screaming people going berserk whenever the ball crosses the boundary rope. In fact, it’s quite the opposite of all of that, yet there is a certain sense of charm to the county championship which kicked off in England last week.

That charm has been flogged like a dead horse in the past few weeks as those with a slight sense of entitlement and a few anti-IPL tendencies insist on comparing the two. Such comparisons are not only ludicrous, but also grossly unfair. They are vastly different formats played for vastly different reasons and to even insinuate parallels can be drawn is obtuse. Of course the aim of a of a four-day domestic competition is to feed players to its national team while a hit-and-giggle domestic competition generally aims to generate revenue to line all kinds of different pockets. What the two competitions do have in common, though, is the lure of foreign currency and even forsaking national team obligations or prospective national team opportunities.

While the IPL has been brash and crude in its approach to luring players into the freelance market, the County Championship has long been an attractive prospect for players not quite good enough to make the cut internationally and still offers plenty of opportunities for those who are good enough, but who want some sort of certainty instead of hoping their call up will come one day.

Alfonso Thomas is one such case. The 36-year-old is, arguably, one of the best death bowlers ever produced by South Africa, yet he has only ever played one match for the country. Thomas even opted for a Somerset contract over IPL commitments this season in order to have something a little more stable in his arsenal after being shunned by the Proteas, again. His case is curious and perhaps somewhat isolated and the only tragedy of it is that the Kolpak ruling forced him to miss out on a T20 domestic final with the Titans franchise. However, what Thomas does have in Somerset is security - something which he never had with South Africa.

Players like Petersen and Smith, on the other hand, have a chance to not only earn some good money, but also stay in good nick while their season takes a lengthy break, something which is particularly handy when South Africa won’t play another Test for at least another five months.

To compare the English County Championship to the IPL would be foolish and naïve. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that long before there were imported dancers and overzealous stadium announcers, there was the opportunity for journeymen to earn foreign currency and therein lies the rub.

While a lot of the criticism the IPL takes is warranted, the flak it takes for allowing players the opportunity to earn money is simply absurd. Despite popular belief, it’s unlikely that a flurry of players will down tools and suddenly opt for a freelance career simply because of a few mushrooming T20 leagues around the world. Job opportunities aren’t as freely available as many believe and the while a freelance cricketer is a quaint notion, it’s unlikely that there are enough players talented enough to pursue it. Even those who are will most likely opt for that route only towards the end of their career since very few, barring a fall out with their board, would so easily discount the honour of playing cricket for their country.

The IPL deserves criticism, a lot of it, but to dilute it and single out money-earning opportunities as the lone-ranger of destruction is a bit silly.

Ant Sims is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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