England sums don't add up in Twenty20 world
Apr 1 2008 By Pat Murphy
Judging by the hawkish tones of English cricket’s new boss, the threat posed by the Indian Premier League can easily be swatted away.
Giles Clarke, chairman of the England & Wales Cricket Board, is very dismissive of the notion that some of England’s top players can be seduced into signing up for the biggest threat to international cricket since Kerry Packer 30 years ago.
Clarke states baldly that the ECB is not interested in the Indian Premier League, that the sums bandied around are fanciful and that the likes of Andrew Flintoff can earn just as much money by staying with their central contracts and picking up some handsome earners on the side.
He obviously hasn’t done the sums. When someone like Mahendra Singh Dhoni can pick up £773,000 a year for the next three years — and that’s just the bare playing contract, with no prize money attached — what does Clarke think Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood will be offered, for just six weeks' work, playing Twenty20 matches every four days?
And Freddie and Co are hugely popular in India. They will make enough dosh from television endorsements to compensate for missing out on earners which are tied to the ECB contracts, that compare unfavourably with the basic salary offered by the IPL.
Brett Lee, the Australian fast bowler, is a case in point. For the past few years, he has made a fortune as a personality in India by dint of learning a smattering of Hindi and singing in a band. You can’t ignore Lee’s smiling face in Indian adverts.
The fabulous sums of money for such a short time away will certainly appeal to Steve Harmison, whose homesickness will swiftly dissipate when an IPL contract is dangled in front of him.
And Flintoff will also ponder the wisdom of bowling his socks off on long winter tours, wondering when his ankle’s going to give out on him again. In his low moments, missing his family, he’ll consider whether he actually wants to be tied into a central contract that might limit any involvement with the IPL.
I wouldn’t be surprised if top England cricketers might soon refuse the offer of a central contract — worth £250,000 a year, basic — and decide to go freelance.
How could Clarke prevent Pietersen from opting out of a tour because he wants to make a fortune out of a short stint in India, when he’s not under contract to the ECB? And if they threaten any player with non-selection for England when he’s not contracted, there’s always recourse to the law courts and an action for restraint of trade.
Clarke, a highly successful businessman, got the ECB job because he told the counties who voted for him that he’d keep them financially solvent by dint of his commercial acumen.
He can bluster as much as he likes, but the IPL and its ramifications will not go away. The ECB will have to negotiate.
I’m sure Clarke is familiar with the phrase: ‘Every man has his price’ ...