Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Tony Becca: Better pay does not mean better play

Published:Sunday | January 24, 2016 | 1:00 AM
Australia’s players (from left) David Warner, James Pattinson and Shaun Marsh celebrate the wicket of West Indies captain Jason Holder (right) during the first Test match in Hobart, Australia, late last year.

Once upon a time, cricket was played mostly for entertainment and for fun, first-class cricket and Test cricket for a little pay, for one's country, and for glory.

Times have changed, however, and while cricket is sometimes now played for fun, today, it is looked upon as a profession for some, especially the recently popular T20 version.

Test cricket, still considered the best of cricket by a vast majority of players and fans, is, however, gradually losing ground, or has lost ground in the popularity stakes.

Whereas Test cricket still means something to those in cricket, T20 is the order of the day. It is the thing to play, for young and old cricketers alike, it is the thing to watch, and the thing which everyone wants to play.

And the reason for that, apart from the entertainment, the music, including the drums, the dancing girls, the flashing lights, and all the things that greet a towering hit for six or a blinding bit of fielding, is money, lots of money.

 

NO OBJECTION CERTIFICATE

 

Everyone wants to play T20 cricket to the extent that a No Objection Certificate is required from the country of a player who wants to play it. The No Objection Certificate is to prevent a drain of players on Test cricket, otherwise players would leave the Test game for the lucrative T20 game at the drop of a hat.

Right now, especially in the West Indies, there is a war going on between Test cricket and T20 cricket, so much so that many fans believe that the West Indies Test team would have been much better had they had the services of the likes of Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo, and Lendl Simmons.

The West Indies, because of the schedule of their domestic tournaments and the lack of money to pay their players reasonably well, suffer most of all the Test-paying countries and more than the likes of New Zealand and South Africa.

Many of the world's cricket people lament the fall of the West Indies, however, or so they say, and they keep trying to find a solution to the problem, with many suggesting a "window" for T20 cricket. Nothing has worked.

 

PAY TO PLAY TEST CRICKET

 

Recently, however, the former England player Kevin Pietersen came up with a suggestion. He called on the powers that be to change the order of things, to improve the pay to play Test cricket in the poorer countries, and Jason Holder, the young captain of the West Indies, quickly supported it.

The suggestion was to improve their pay to compete with the pay to play T20 cricket so that the players would play both versions of the game, or at least would not leave Test cricket to play T20 cricket.

That sounds good, except for a few things.

Cricket, it has always been said, especially recently, is business, big business, and no business pays out what it does not make. Cricket is poor in Jamaica, and the West Indies these days. Hardly anyone watches cricket at any level in Jamaica or in the West Indies these days except when it comes to the privately-owned T20 competition, and West Indies cricket makes no money, at least hardly anyone pays to see cricket in the West Indies.

Why, it may be asked, should those countries who love cricket and those who pay to see cricket subsidise those countries who do nothing to develop the game, those countries which do not even go to see it being played?

Cricket is no different from anything else in life. What you put in is what you get out, most times. If you put in nothing, you get back nothing. It is as simple as that.

On top of that, there is no guarantee, at least not in Jamaica or the rest of the West Indies, that with more money will come greater responsibility and, therefore, more development.

The more money, from whatever quarter, will probably, more than likely, only bring greater swagger from the players.

Holder has since been denied a No Objection Certificate to play in the Pakistan T20 League by the West Indies Board, and from all reports, he is an angry man. It was a tough call, and it must be rough on both sides.

As a young man, Holder needs to look about his future, but as the West Indies Board, the board members must look about West Indies cricket, and as the West Indies captain, Holder is also obligated to do so.

He is expected to play in the West Indies domestic competitions so as to get to know the players and also to protect the integrity of West Indies cricket.

 

CHANGING TIMES

 

These are changing times. West Indies cricket is in a bind. It needs money to help itself grow, to properly pay the players, and to develop the sport. West Indies cricket was once the best in the world.

If the West Indies is to get more money for cricket, it must come from West Indies cricket. It must come from their own sweat and blood, not from handouts, or gifts, or what have you.

Hardly anybody watches cricket in the West Indies these days, and in Jamaica especially, hardly anyone remembers cricket, except whenever the West Indies lose a Test match and all the cursing starts. Why, therefore, should other people pay the West Indies to play the game?

West Indies cricket will only get stronger if it stands on its own two feet. It must stop employing foreigners in an effort to solve the problem of poor structure and poor performance, stop paying local people to do nothing, and start running a clean and lean ship.

The days of bringing in people from England to show the West Indies the way is long gone, by at least 66 years.

Money is needed, very much so, but it must come from within, from utilising good, honest, hard-working and knowledgeable administrators at all levels. It must come from the hard work, improved skills, and performances of the cricketers, all the cricketers, from full houses at matches, and from the support of sponsors and others who can benefit from the glory, from the triumphs of a successful and wonderful team.