Members of the World XI that will take on Pakistan in the Independence Cup T20 series starting in Lahore from Tuesday are in Dubai to train for the historic tour. For West Indies star Daren Sammy, it’s an opportunity for cricketers from across the globe to play for a greater cause and help Pakistan cricket take another step towards international inclusion.
The World XI, which includes star names like Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Sammy, Tamim Iqbal and Imran Tahir among others, will play three T20 matches in Lahore and Sammy, who played for Peshawar Zalmi during the PSL final in Lahore this year, is glad to be part of the reintegration process.
“We have a reason, for a greater cause. Everybody here has accepted they are part of something more important than just themselves. For me, it’s a place where I have great connection. If we could be part of history and greater purpose of helping fans in Pakistan watch cricket again… it is a wonderful thing,” Sammy said in Dubai on Saturday.
“At the PSL final, once I stepped onto the field, it felt like playing in St Lucia. The people are just hungry for cricket. That’s what I told the coach (Andy Flower) when he asked me about my experience.”
When the PSL final was scheduled to be held in Pakistan, there was a lot of apprehension among international players regarding security. After a lot of deliberations, the match went ahead with players like Dawid Malan, Marlon Samuels and Chris Jordan in the mix. Sammy shared his PSL experience with his current team-mates and only had positive things to say.
“I briefed players quickly about my experience in Lahore during the PSL final. It’s important… I get to play in front of my fans in St Lucia and see how passionate they are. (For Pakistan fans) to get that opportunity after so long, very happy to be part of that process.
“The time we went to the PSL final, I heard soon after about the World XI. I would have been very disappointed if I was not part of that team,” the two-time World T20 winning captain added.
While it is being seen as a some sort of a goodwill tour, these are still international matches and Sammy said it was important for players to keep their focus on being competitive.
“I know this is for a bigger cause but cricket is the most important thing. As professional, you take pride in what you do. And that in itself brings out the competitive edge. And this goes on your stats as well. Andy (Flower) and captain Faf will ensure we are competitive. Because that’s what fans are paying their money for.”
Their opponents Pakistan are on a high having clinched the 50-overs Champions Trophy following a crushing win over India in the final. Sammy believes while the format is different, Pakistan will take confidence from the manner in which things are falling into place as far as limited overs cricket is concerned.
“This is a different format. They won the Champions Trophy in England. It shows PSL has done a lot in unearthing talent. If you look at their current stars like Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman… these are all guys who got a chance to play in the PSL and share the dressing room with international players.”
The IPL is always loud and big. Nothing about the league slips under the radar and the TV rights auction, therefore, was always going to generate a din. Big numbers emerged from the sale of IPL media rights, with Star India lapping it all up with a combined bid of $2.55bn (Dh9.7b) for global TV and online rights over the next five years. The TV deal works out to around $8.4m (Dh30m) per game, which is more than what Star India pays to the India board for an international home match – $6.7m (Dh24m).
Both rights are now owned by the same broadcaster. With the difference in valuation, it can be safely deduced that TV bigwigs believe an IPL match is the most valuable product out there.
The India international TV rights will be up for sale again after the current deal with Star India runs out this season. There is speculation that the broadcaster may give up on the India team rights. Even if they don’t, the likelihood is that per match valuation will remain the same or even witness a dip. In the two scenarios, IPL looks set to remain the most coveted commodity. Let’s not forget, the IPL title rights went for $341m (Dh1.2bn) earlier in the year, pushing the value of IPL deals this year close to $3bn (Dh11bn).
The new deal is great for the BCCI and also the franchises. Franchises are expected to be profitable from next season as their annual share of the TV deal and title sponsorship deal – at least Rs 1.5bn (Dh85m) – will be more than the running cost of the team – around Rs 1.2bn (Dh68m) as of now on average. The BCCI earned a profit of Rs 2bn (Dh114m) in 2015-16 from the IPL. With the new media rights deal, that is expected to jump too.
But what about the players? As of now, Indian players only receive the amount franchises bid for them during the auction. In fact, Indian cricketers don’t get a share of any IPL surplus.
The highest paid Indian in IPL is Virat Kohli with a salary of $2.26m (Dh8m). Franchises are bound to spend no more than Rs660m (Dh 37m) on salaries. Sometimes, they pay players less than the amount deducted from their kitty, as is the case with Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir. When you look at the numbers Indian cricket continues to pull in, how long before players start to demand a share of the IPL revenue pie?
2.5 Billion dollar IPL TV deal..6.57m per match..higher than what an Indian game is valued at.. Cricket times are officially changing !!— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) September 5, 2017
Australian cricket doesn’t generate nearly as much revenue as IPL and Indian cricket but that didn’t stop Aussie players from locking horns with the board to ensure the continuation of a revenue sharing model, a dispute that only ended last month with the players securing 27.5 per cent of all the revenue Cricket Australia generates over the next five years.
While Indian cricketers are well compensated compared to the cost of living in the country, it is difficult to overlook that their services generate a gargantuan sum of money unmatched in cricket.
This is not to say Indian cricketers too should go on strike. However, it won’t be surprising if they demand more money for all players. Earlier this year, it was reported Indian players were not entirely happy even after their national Grade A contract was doubled to $300,000 (Dh1m). Australia captain Steven Smith’s annual retainer is $1.2m (Dh4.4m).
So as the mega IPL deal threatens to become a bigger entity than Indian cricket itself, players have the right to look at their own interests and demand more. It is the cricketers who bring in the crowds and eyeballs.
Not every player has a clear-cut role in the team. At least not always.
You have your top order batsmen, wicketkeeper, fast bowlers and frontline spinners. All-rounders play a fluid role, scoring runs and picking up wickets. But all of that happens only when everything falls into place and there are enough players in the squad to do the primary job of scoring runs and picking up wickets consistently.
Sometimes, you get players who offer a bit more than what it says on the cover. And in the eagerness to maximise that bonus, the team misses the bigger picture.
Let’s start with Peter Handscomb. In the Australian camp, Handscomb’s wicketkeeping skills are suddenly in focus. Regular gloveman Matthew Wade is having a horrendous time in the subcontinent, averaging 22 with the bat in eight Tests in Asia.
His twin failures – five and four – in the first Test against Bangladesh have forced the Aussies to think about Handscomb as a wicketkeeper. The Victorian has kept wickets, but mainly in limited overs matches. Keeping in Test matches is a highly specialised job and hardly ever done by ‘part timers’. AB de Villiers kept wickets for South Africa in 24 Tests but the workload proved too much for him. That was an exception that proved the rule.
There are many batsmen who take up the wicketkeeping job in limited overs cricket, but hardly at all in Tests because there is no place to hide in the five-day format. You get five days to ponder over mistakes, which is not great if you are doing a short-term job.
If Handscomb ends up as a Test wicketkeeper and also does a decent job, there is a high probability of it taking his energies away from the primary task.
It’s a fate that befell Irfan Pathan. The Indian left-armer started off as a pace bowler who could bat a bit. But as his career wore on, it emerged Pathan was a quality batsman.
He was tried out as a Test opener against Sri Lanka in 2005, against England in 2006 – both at home – and in Australia in 2008. By that time, his bowling had lost its sting while his batting remained reliable. But the Indian team couldn’t continue with the new-look Pathan, which was its own creation, and Pathan fell out of favour.
And not to forget Kedar Jadhav. The India lower order batsman is in the team as a power hitter. Then Virat Kohli and India discovered his menacingly slow off spin which proved difficult to negotiate and almost always produced a wicket or two. That’s very good but it has taken the focus away from his main role – that of a batsman.
Of late, his batting has veered of track, with his fifty yesterday against Sri Lanka coming after seven attempts. A lack of application with the bat and in the field became too obvious to ignore and he was benched in the fourth ODI.
He was back for the final match but in place of KL Rahul, who only had three ODI failures to his name after a spectacular run in Tests. Which means Jadhav’s awkward off-spin kept out a proper batsman and a good fielder from the XI.
Handling such ‘bonus’ talents can prove to be very tricky. Such stop-gap arrangements almost never turn into long-term solutions. All they end up doing is stop the team management from trying out a ‘proper’ option.
Handscomb should not be burdened with wicketkeeping in Tests. Jadhav should be assessed as a lower order batsman first. But chances are, teams will continue to be enamoured by what ‘else’ they offer and, possibly, unsettle the team balance.
India are the latest team to put clear targets in place as far as fitness is concerned for international players. Those who don’t meet them are simply not welcome.
With the focus of almost all teams on a basic level of fitness, one wonders whether some of the finest players of their era would have fit into the current set-up.
Inzamam ul Haq was famous for his robust physique. The burly Pakistan batsman lost 18kgs ahead of the 2003 World Cup. He scored 19 runs in the entire tournament and decided to never go down that route again. Arjuna Ranatunga and David Boon were other legends who carried extra baggage. Jesse Ryder is another maverick talent who struggled with his weight.
Samit Patel had a stellar finals day at the T20 Blast for Nottinghamshire. The all-rounder revealed the pain of being overlooked by England despite playing some of his best limited overs cricket at the age of 32. His weight is undoubtedly still an issue. It seems the days of Inzys and Boons are well behind us.