Restriction on players over participation in T20 leagues will lead to unprecedented chaos

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As the world was gearing up for the dawn of franchise-based T20 leagues in 2008 – thanks to the Indian Premier League – the belief was that it would at best be a side hustle to supplement the monthly expenses of the cricketing household.

But just a couple of years into the IPL, and following the even more impressive and organic growth of the Big Bash League, it became clear that the T20 beast was going to take over the entire house and set its own rules.

And soon, it was T20 feeding frenzy. The year now starts with the Big Bash League in Australia, followed by the the Pakistan Super League in February-March. The IPL clears out the international calendar in April-May.

From July to September you have the T20 Blast in England and the Caribbean Premier League. From November to December, we have the Bangladesh Premier League and the start of the Big Bash League.

In between all of this, there is the proposed South African T20 league in October-December, plus Afghanistan’s T20 league in the UAE along with the UAE’s very own T20 league. The T10 League is up and running and last month we saw the inaugural season of the Global T20 Canada tournament.

There is some sort of a recognised T20 league with international names being held in some part of the world round the year. No wonder cricket boards are worried. Because star players are looking at the low intensity life of a T20 journeyman as a viable career option instead of putting themselves through the grind of international cricket.

West Indies has seen some of its finest cricketers like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Andre Russell forego national duty over the years in favour of a more stable and lucrative T20 career. New Zealand pacer Mitchell McClenaghan gave up a national contract last year to become a full-time T20 journeyman.

The Bangladesh and Pakistan boards have decided to restrict their centrally contracted players to just two T20 leagues per year. And according to a report by ESPNcricinfo, ICC’s full members are collectively contemplating restricting player participation to three T20 leagues a year.

Many international cricketers play up to four T20 leagues per year. That number is bound to increase once the South Africa leagues kicks off and we get the ‘Hundred’ in England. Asking players to forego all that money is like playing with fire.

As of now, only the cricket boards of India, England and Australia are in a position to make any sort of demand to their players with conviction. All three boards have enough money to compensate its star players for any perceived loss of income.

The BCCI flat out refuses to allow any Indian player permission to feature in any league apart from the IPL. The Australian board, after a prolonged battle with the players’ association, agreed on a contract system that made the Australians some of the highest paid athletes in the country.

But for everyone else, it’s a desperate situation. The West Indies board came out with a discussion paper on how T20 leagues could wipe out international cricket, at least in places like the Caribbean. And it’s a legitimate fear.

Cricket boards that don’t have enough money to adequately compensate players for their efforts run the risk of foregoing quality international matches as most of their star players are busy hopping from one league to the other. So on paper, you can understand why the boards are thinking on these lines.

WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY?

However, cricket is cricket because of the players. And they only have 10 or so years, on an average, to earn enough money to last a lifetime. We are not talking about the Virat Kohlis and Ben Stokes here.

Everyday cricketers at the international stage have a very tough decision to make if they don’t have fat IPL contracts in their back pocket. They need to decide if ts better to play three to four leagues per year for as long as the knees hold up or push the body at the international level for not a lot of money.

The international players association is unlikely to take the reported restrictions very kindly. Already, a bunch of South African cricketers led by Kyle Abbott gave up their South African international careers to take up county contracts in England.

Star England players Alex Hales and Adil Rashid have also passed up red-ball domestic contracts to concentrate on their white ball career.

So if boards feel they can control their star players through such restrictions, they are mistaken because cricketers can always give up central contracts.

More importantly, it will be tantamount to restraining trade. When boards who themselves don’t have enough money to give decent salaries ask players with a million or so dollars at stake to scale down, it will result in utter chaos.

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Last chance for South Africa pace ace Dale Steyn to prove he's still got it

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South Africa pace ace Dale Steyn is back. The 35-year-old fast bowler’s career seemed as good as over following yet another lengthy stint on the sidelines.

He injured his heel earlier in the year during the Newlands Test against India. This after making a comeback after more than a year away due to serious shoulder and hamstring injury.

It seemed Steyn’s body, which a few years back rarely broke down completely, was now refusing to budge. South Africa themselves have moved on from the Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel era. It’s now the time of Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi. But Steyn’s not done yet.

In an interview to ESPNCricinfo, Steyn said he wants to play 100 Tests and take 500 wickets. He is on 419 wickets from 86 matches. He will get a chance to add to that tally during the two-Test series in Sri Lanka which begins on July 12.

Steyn should get to play the first Test as he has shown great durability over the last month. Playing for Hampshire in England, Steyn played two first-class matches and three List A games in June alone. That’s a lot of overs even if he is not bowling at 90mph.

He also dismissed India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara for a duck on successive occasions.

Overs in his legs and shoulders put Steyn in the ideal position to demand a place in the South African Test team. However, the management will be wary of expecting too much from him and that too in the heat of Sri Lanka as Steyn has broken down on more than occasion in the last two seasons.

It is up to Steyn to show the recovery work he has undertaken allows him undertake the rigours of Test cricket. Because if it doesn’t work out this time, there might not be another chance.

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Catch the latest happenings in the world of cricket.

Hello, Ashish Peter and the rest of the Sport360 team are in place to provide you with the latest news, comment and analysis on all things cricket.

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