Eye on India: IPL raises club v country debate
Club or country, cricket's new dilemma?
The news of former West Indies skipper Chris Gayle choosing the Indian Premier League (IPL) over country — not to speak of Lasith Malinga's somewhat mysterious pullout from the Test series against England — has only stoked the fire of an old sporting debate.
The Sri Lanka Cricket Board had called for the return of their players from the IPL, although the prospect of a further showdown seemed to have been averted by yesterday's announcement that the deadline would in all probability be extended.
The club versus country debate, normally the domain of European football where top clubs often openly accuse national team management of ‘causing' injuries to players, is a new phenomenon in cricket. The cash-rich IPL, which promises unheard amounts in dollars for the sake of 14-15 Twenty-20 matches per season, has changed the landscape for the professional cricketer.
Suddenly, the contract system with the country's board is not the only source of income for any cricketer with a decent international stature. While the younger players may still find the dilemma too overpowering about which side to take, the option is a little easier for stars like Gayle who have already, to use the phrase, been there, done that.
It was, after all, an uneasy truce between the maverick Caribbean blaster and the board (remember his jibes about Test cricket when he arrived late from IPL for some national commitment?) and they are better off to see the back of him.
It was Andrew Flintoff who first showed the way by declaring himself a ‘freelancer' a couple of seasons back. Even the flamboyant England batsman Kevin Pietersen has always made known his love for the IPL and admitted to feeling gutted at missing this year's tournament due to an injury. After all, he lost out on a pay cheque of $650,000 (Dh2.39 million) — the amount Deccan Chargers paid for him.
Falling in line
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan players will no doubt welcome the decision by their board to relent on the deadline.
Malinga had already provided a twist in the tale as he cited a knee injury as his reason for pulling out of the three-Test series against England beginning on May 26.
It was a fair enough reason — although you would have wondered how the board would have handled the yorker should he have continued playing for the Mumbai Indians with the problem.
Perhaps the real solution to these kind of issues, lies in the International Cricket Council exploring the possibility of a window for the IPL to prevent future face-offs. Until such time, cricket will have to grapple with the club versus country dilemma