Money or Pride: The Difficult Decision Faced by Modern Day Professional Cricketers

An analysis of the proliferation of Franchise-based Cricket and the fall in the passion for representing one’s nation…

If you asked a child of the late nineties as to what was their ultimate childhood cricketing goal, it would have been to represent their nation in athletics. The sense of fulfillment and pride in sporting your national cap and stepping out onto the field was unparalleled. Winning a game for your fellow countrymen was deemed as being the greatest honor and accomplishment in cricket. There was no substitute for the pride received by victory. However, as the potential financial gains in franchise-based cricket increased, many cricketers were lured away from the wholesome desire to represent their home and those that represent. Thus, this article will focus on cricket and its failure to bridge the gap between the individual ‘financial needs’ of international sportsmen, and their desire, or need to represent their nation.

Representing one’s nation in sports requires sheer hard work and dedication. It’s a decade or two of blood, sweat, and tears (quite literally). A constant cycle of call-ups and exclusions from the team that either coerces you into being a better player or makes you crumble and fade away. For the pre-millennial cricket enthusiasts, this was the only route to converting their passion into a profession. It has to be said that cricket, at first, did not have significant financial rewards at stake. There were no shortcuts to success or to achieving personal gratification in the sport. This narration took an unexpected twist when the cricketing world welcomed the phenomenon of franchise-based cricket.

Photo [Wikimedia Commons]
Yes, it all seemed merry and bright at the onset. Seeing the likes of Sachin Tendulkar partnering with Sanath Jayasuriya to open for the Mumbai Indians was a dream come true for many cricket fanatics. Having greats from all parts of the world training and playing with local youngsters was deemed a huge breakthrough and benefit for society. It seemed that an annual two-month cricketing carnival, being the IPL, brought even greater enthusiasm and inspiration for future generations who hope to play the game.  Therefore, the concept that popular social events would bring about catastrophic consequences for international cricket and diminish nationalistic motives was unimaginable.

However, once the perks of the IPL were recognized by other boards around the world, this annual extravaganza was multiplied. Suddenly, most cricketing nations had leagues attracting foreign players who were lured by financial gains on the line. It was basic rational thinking under economics; why would you turn down a contract that simply requires a player to participate in a few twenty over matches within a month and a half, for double or even triple earnings in comparison to what one might receive in international cricket. It was, at this point, when the passion for nationalistic representation in cricket began to diminish.

Photo [Wikipedia Commons]
The window of franchise-based cricket in the calendar year expanded greatly, leaving cricketers with no choice at times but to choose between representing their nation or their franchise. A cricketing purist at heart would state there should be no doubt in that representing one’s nation is the priority of all players, but unfortunately, most of our modern day cricketers are not purists. Such conversations in cricket stem from the fact that cricketers are not being paid adequately by their respective boards, enticing them to accept offers from franchises in order to meet their financial requirements. These offers seem tempting as it requires less effort and commitment – in the context of not having to play for five straight days in a test match, whilst also giving them guaranteed pay irrespective of their performance.

As a result, through the need to have greater financial gains, it was not only offered from franchises that players were accepting. Many began to overstep the line and went against the spirit of the sport in accepting offers from bookies aiming to fix matches or fix a certain session in the game. These illegal approaches have not only culminated in the destruction of the players’ careers and reputations but have brought great shame upon the sport as a whole.

Photo [Flickr]
It’s bewildering that the modern day cricketer prioritizes financial gains above the pride at stake for representing their nation, but in a sporting world where football transfers are valued in their millions and benchwarmers in other sports are being paid more than first XI international cricketers, you do begin to sympathize with their demands.

There needs to be a revival of the passion of playing for your nation. We, as cricketing devotees, can no longer tolerate the fact that our best players are injured due to playing for too many franchises and hence, cannot be on international duty. The ICC along with the boards of its members should trim the window for franchise-based cricket, seek to improve pay for cricketers when representing their nations, and rekindle the true spirit of our beautiful game. The clock is ticking…

Sports and Politics: Why We Should Care.

Dive into the history of politics in international sporting competitions and how it has affected our world today.

Many around the world enjoy watching a wide array of sports, but then there is the rest of us — the sports fanatics who elevate our passion for the game into a way of life. Yet no matter the bracket, we engage with sports for its purity of competition and to witness the on-field battle of supremacy between world-renowned names. But with international popularity in sports comes another thing: Politics. I intend on making St Andrews students aware of this venomous intersection within the world of sports and analyse the driving factors behind such a movement.

Ideally, politics and sports would be two distinct, separate concepts uninfluenced by one another. In the past, we recognized sports as a unifying symbol during political tension. For example, in1998, Iran and USA participated in arguably the most politically charged game to date at the FIFA World Cup. The game took place during peak political tensions between the two countries, continuing even after a terrorist organisation had protested against FIFA for allowing the match. In light of the fact that the true spirit of sport is independent of the political climate, the two sides embraced the occasion and showed how unifying sports can be by playing the game in compliance with the spirit of competition, and taking a joint photo of the two teams prior to kick off, each Iranian player wearing a white flower to symbolize peace.

Photo [Wikimedia]
However, the remainder of this article shall examine political tampering uncovered within sports over recent years.

Let’s begin with two neighbouring countries heightened by political tension, who grab the world’s attention in competition. Yes, I’m delving into the Indi-Pakistani rivalry. If you were to ask a true cricket fan as to what match they enjoy most, the India vs. Pakistan rivalry will always be mentioned. It is the dream of cricketing devotees to see a bilateral test series between the two nations. However, it is a shame the match is now a political matter neither side is willing to engage upon. If they take a lesson out of the sporting books of yesteryear, they would realise the game is a unifying force that could foster a sense of peace between them. For example, at the recent Winter Olympics, following the formation of a unified Korean team, relations between communist North Korea and democratic South saw unprecedented improvement, thereby supporting my point of how sport can break any political barrier in its path. Moreover, the influence of politics in sport has led to heightening discrimination.

Photo [Wikimedia Commons]
Discrimination in sport is seen across the world. Back home in Sri Lanka, many players are sidelined from selection because of politicians, and few are included irrespective of performance due to political connections. This leads to a weakened team, inevitably causing poor results, growing anger, and a sense of betrayal fostered among fans. Recently, a growing number of sporting greats have hung up their boots, taking to politics as a means of continuing their livelihood. By launching a career in politics, athletes use their name and fame to progress further with a large following accumulated on the field. This connection between sports fans and politics connects voters’ love for the sport to the retired athletes running for public office. The influence this specific group of individuals exert is no longer that of an ex-sports personality, as is the case with those who take up coaching, commentary etc, but is rather a political influence known simply through their political post.

We adore sport for what it truly represents: camaraderie, fair-play, and the appreciation for those who deliver world-renowned performances upon request. Sport, devoid of political influence, is a true levelled playing field, and we crave for a revival of this landscape.

“It’s coming Home” – A review of 2018’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Find out what and who you missed this weekend at the annual tournament held on the Old Course in St Andrews.

During the summer, an entire nation was aboard the “It’s coming home” World Cup bandwagon – including many of us in and around St Andrews – however now, instead of football being the topic of discussion in our small town, it is golf.

There is no systematic way to introduce this unique, prestigious event that strays away from our notion of a typical golf tournament. Golfers, united with other greats in the world of sports, are paired with celebrities, politicians and youngsters alike, to test their golfing skills and endure Scottish weather at Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and on the Old Course, the “Home of Golf”. The pros, vying for another piece of silverware, are always eager to shoot low numbers in line with the notion there isn’t a point in colonising other courses if you haven’t done so at the sport’s origin. But for the rest, paparazzi coverage and good-old banter with fellow icons tick their boxes for the weekend. St Andrews welcomed the likes of Piers Morgan, Hugh Grant, Shane Warne, Bill Murray, and Kevin Pietersen, amongst many others this year. Although they arrived with a wealth of experience in journalism and punditry, acting and producing, and cricket respectively, the game of golf is a levelled playing field where accolades exogenous to the game had an impact this weekend – well in exception of the fact their mere presence drew dozens of starry-eyed admirers, many being students, to follow the proceedings.

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The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is the single annual major professional tour event to be played on the hallowed turf of the Old Course. The concept of having both an individual tournament for the pros and a simultaneous Pro-Am, adds a different dimension to the event. This weekend played testament to the fact that golf is a game for the ages; proven by the participation of many retired sporting legends along with celebrities and personalities who have approached the twilight of their careers.

Prior to the tournament, many downplayed the potential of Dunhill due to the so-called “ hang-over” effect of the previous weekend’s Ryder Cup and soon closing of the 2018 golf season. However, these concerns and myths were dispelled from Thursday’s onset, with a stalwart in Padraig Harrington asserting a strong statement early on shooting 3 under Par (-3) at Kingsbarns, only to be bettered by Marcus Fraser and Matt Wallace who both shot an impressive 4 under (-4) at Carnoustie. Those who were drawn to commence their challenge at the Old Course found it a tad difficult early on.

Photo [Taken by Eleni Zervos]
As the weekend approached, those best suited to Links golf surged ahead. Tyrell Hatton, victorious at this event in 2016 and 2017, recorded rounds of 66 on Friday and Saturday, playing a commendable and steady brand of golf to take the lead going into the final round on Sunday. The history books beckoned Hatton, and a win on Sunday would enrol him in an elite club comprising of just two other players, Colin Montgomerie and fellow Englishman Sir Nick Faldo, to have won a tour event for three consecutive years. It seemed inevitable that Hatton, a recent Ryder Cup victor as well, would coast his way to victory as his demeanour on the course was unfaltering and unflawed.

However, golf is a game of uncertainties and one which requires you to be at your best at all times. No lead is inextinguishable, and if a player allows pressure to wear them down on the course, they could descend from riches to rags in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately for Hatton, the Golfing Gods threw him a curveball on Sunday and one that will not be forgotten soon. Holding onto a five-shot lead as he made his way to the 10th tee, the two-time defending champion looked set to clinch a hat-trick of triumphs, but the Hatton we had seen and admired till this stage was on another paradigm in comparison to the man who made careless and very costly errors on the back 9. With the trophy in sight, he was losing his grip at an alarming rate, dropping shots at a canter in similar style to those we’ve seen on memorable Sundays by the leader, like Adam Scott’s steep descent at the Open in 2012, Hatton’s collapse resulted in him being toppled by Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, who scripted a great round of 67 in difficult, murky conditions.

Photo [Google]
The Old Course took us all by surprise on Sunday. On a day when easy scoring opportunities were expected, it seemed as though it would be tough for the rest of the field to bridge the gap Hatton created. However, the Old Course prides itself on being the unprecedented “ Home of Golf” at the helm at all time. It taught Tyrell Hatton and the eager followers a lesson we would never forget- it is never over till the last putt is sunk.

Tiger Woods – A Tale of Two Halves

St Andrean golfers, take notes!

When you think of someone who personifies golf, when you ask someone to name a golfer they know, when you ask his fellow professionals as to who they fear (or should I say feared) most on the course, there’s only one name spoken by all – Tiger Woods.

It could be said this golfing icon has had “a tale of two careers,” and a Charles Dickens of this era could capitalise on Woods by publishing a novel with the aforementioned title. The reputation of a once break-out athlete is now split in the middle by controversy, family issues, injuries and the Hollywood-like crashing of his Escalade.

Source: (Wikipedia)

The first half of Woods’ career was the most triumphant journey any sportsman could have dreamt of undertaking. With 79 PGA Tour event victories and 14 majors under his belt, this golfing great took the world by storm. Tiger was on a rampant hunt and he mercilessly shred his opponents to bits each week. It was a common mindset of his co-golfers to head into a tournament vying the Runners-Up spot, simply because Tiger was on another paradigm altogether. Everyone drove for show and putted for dough but each aspect of Tiger’s game, be it his driving, iron play, chipping or putting, was a grand event that left us all star-stricken.

Whether he was playing in Augusta, the Memorial or on the hallowed turf of our very own Old Course here in St. Andrews, nothing really changed for him. His game was at the peak of possible consistency and no competitor could even dream of giving him a contest. The holes they were desperately trying to make pars in were birdied with ease by Tiger and as these accumulated, so did the distance between the golfers and the great himself. Overall, the first half of his career brought such unprecedented success that he was already a man the world of golf revered.

Source: (Flickr)

However, due to a streak of unfortunate events, there began the steep descent and downhill spiral that brought this great crashing down to Earth. All it takes is one bad day one uncharacteristic decision and amidst all the hype and media attention that followed him, Tiger was in the news for all the wrong reasons. It was not for his triumphant wins this time around but for allegations of drunk-driving, family unrest and accidents. This led to a halt in his hunt for more silverware and a pit stop that has lasted longer than was expected.

Following these events, his reputation, once deemed as world class, was now being tarnished. Parents who had told their children to view him as a role model quickly withdrew their words of praise for him, fellow sportsmen who looked up to him for inspiration were quick to belittle him and sought other sources. It seemed as though there was nothing left for Tiger and that he was stripped of everything he had achieved – and so he began his attempt to redeem himself and to relive the good old days.

Source: (Wikipedia)

However, it has not been a cruise for him this time around and he has not taken any events by storm. Missing cuts for Tiger Woods at tournaments was unheard of in the past but it suddenly became a harsh and frequent reality. Golfers who once lived in Tiger’s shadow were now outshining his finesse. The world of golf suddenly became a level playing field. Exacerbating his ordeal, the injury-free Tiger of yesteryear was now injury prone – with setbacks leaving him out of the Tour for a good few months each season. It seemed that this was the end of what was an illustrious career, but Tiger was not willing to give up so easily- he has never done so.

Tiger is back and seems to be rekindling the style and flair he once had. He made an impressive charge at the Open in Carnoustie this summer, holding the outright lead at one stage on the back nine on Sunday before a couple of costly errors ended his challenge. There were shots that were paralleled to the exquisite strokes of the Tiger of old, and well-renowned Tiger celebrations were seen on the greens again. Fans and critics alike followed him every step of the way, admiring and scrutinizing his every move. Following the Open, he said he feels close to the levels of consistency he once had in his games. Could this bring a sense of foreboding for those competing with him? Could we see the return of a triumphant Tiger each week? Or is this just yet another false charge by Tiger Woods, a golfer desperately vying to be the great he once was.  A “ tale of two halves” indeed….