Money calling shots in gentleman's game

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Players shoulder to shoulder with erstwhile rivals in clubs and leagues, is slated to be the norm from now on.

Updated: February 21, 2008 09:41 IST
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Playing and celebrating together is a common sight as far as the Indian cricket scene is concerned and is considered a matter of national pride.

But the future looks like a whole new ball game.

Players shoulder to shoulder with erstwhile rivals in clubs and leagues, is slated to be the norm from now on. Here wearing national colours might seem like the second best thing to do.

As Aussie player Andrew Symonds wrote in his newspaper column on Wednesday, ''loyalty versus money always makes for an interesting debate. Who wouldn't be tempted to take a job offering more money for less work?

"Right now you'd have to be nervous if you're a cricket administrator of any of the big cricket-playing countries, I'm talking the likes of Australia, South Africa and England. The bottom line is the money on offer in India is not going away and it may even get more and more tempting.''

Like a lot of Aussie cricketers, Symonds has had a tense few months with the Australian Cricket Board. Signing up for IPL, he and his mates wanted their cricket board to release them from national duty.

''At the end of the day if better perks emerging from a six week honeymoon tour of India, then why not? A point that a lot of us here in India don't recognize is that players internationally are not that well off.

"There is a clear incentive for players to come to India. Players like Symonds and Ricky Ponting had issued a threat to the cricket board saying that if you don't allow us to sign contracts, we might rebel. They can say this is my worth, and I don't want to play official cricket for my country. I am worried about the other cricketing boards as they will not be able to pay that amount that India can play,'' said Sanjay Jha.

So is this the first step towards world cricket becoming like the way football is run with big clubs not national sides dictating the fortunes of the game?

Will epic encounters like the India-Australia series or the thrill of India-Pakistan one-dayers be a thing of the past? Not quite say some. Playing for the flag still takes precedence for most serious cricketers.

"No cricketer will forsake a place on the national team for this he knows the only way he is worth something for even the IPL is because what he has achieved playing for the national team,'' said Ayaz Memon, Member, Editorial Board, DNA.

Most cricket fans would agree that a three-hour slugfest just couldn't be compared with the drama and the epic scale of an India-Australia encounter.

But perhaps the IPL is a sign of the times. And cricket boards will have to realize that players would still want to wear their national colours, if the boards become more accommodating and shell out more money.

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