Country vs Club

45 Comments

And so the IPL is finally finished. Who would have thought at the start of the tournament that Chennai Super Kings would win it. I certainly didn’t. Not when the auction rules were changed “suddenly” at the last minute with only one team owner being given notice, not when the “home” pitch for Rajasthan was changed at the last minute while playing against ahem…Chennai Super Kings. The final result was thus very surprising, something as unexpected as, let’s see, the geography teacher’s son getting highest marks in geography on the class test.

I might deny saying this later but I actually felt bad for Shahrukh Khan and his team. They did a lot of things right but when you have your star bowler painting balls on woman’s hands, the star maverick going “Brrrrr” (if Lalit Modi was in charge, it would have been “Burrr”), Sanjay Kapoor rubbing off his charisma on the team as a celebrity supporter, their dud buy for three seasons going on to become pure platinum and a Trojan horse in the team, there is not much you can do. That they got to the fourth position was creditable. Though what many have forgotten is that this time they won just one more match from what they did last disaster season. Food for thought.

But this post is not about the IPL. It is about this so-called club versus country battle that is raging on in the media space, now that some of our great stars have discovered the worth of spending time with the family or came to know of the brittle condition of their body-parts just after IPL. Not that this is the first time this has happened, our loaded superstars frequently find the need for down-time after the IPL showing the middle-finger to the so-called “official” engagements that follow.

First of all let us couch the problem properly. It is not a question of club versus country. It is club versus club. Yes BCCI is a club, a private registered society. To be honest, it is as representative of the “country” as a franchise with the name of a city is representative of the city. Yes we associate patriotism, pride and honor in playing for the “country” (i.e. for BCCI) but that association is something we are encouraged to make, thanks to the “Hoo Haah India” advertising bubble that is created precisely for that reason—-to make an emotional connect between us, the viewers, and the BCCI club. The players are not obligated to buy into this spin and should have every moral right to choose the tangible corporeal delights of IPL over the intangibles of “glory” in the same way that people choose the increased pecuniary benefits of industry over the supposed prestige of academia.

Sunil Gavaskar has said that while the players are free to choose club over “country” (let us use apostrophes here for country), the “country” should also have the freedom not to select them should they opt out of an ICC-event after playing the IPL. Very true, they have the right not to. But the thing is the BCCI actually does want their main stars to play the IPL because the BCCI head-honchos are personally invested in the tournament and are making money off the big-ticket players. The international fixtures (Test and One Days) are principally the ICC’s concern and the BCCI is absolutely fine if the West Indies board or the ICC loses money on a West Indies vs, what if effectively now, India A series.

With the proliferation of new leagues like IPL, Big Bash, the one that Sri Lanka has got going, there will be a few players who will become guns-for-hire like the Gayles and the Pollards and the Tens. These players will typically belong to countries with financially not-so-well-off boards. But most of the big Indian superstars will still stick to the “national” club because I doubt there will be people bleeding green in order to make them endorse colas, mobile phones and motor oils if they do not play for the “country”, since the emotional catchment area of city-based franchises is still too small to justify signing the heavy-hitters on. The BCCI might make some noise in public, because it does not want to be perceived as being “unpatriotic”,  but as long as the Indian players play IPL and generate revenue for their franchises, they really could not care less if they drop out of the odd ICC event or two. Sure the ICC loses, the other board loses, the guys who bought TV rights loses but the BCCI officials do not.

And that my friends is cricket.

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45 thoughts on “Country vs Club

  1. I think Ganguly and Dravid should give up and retire gracefully. It’s proven again, Ganguly is negative influence on any team he plays for. Looks like KKR did better.

  2. Arnab, was just wondering, if you couch this as a club vs club issue, then how would you define the country in a cricketing context. Who plays for their country as opposed to playing for the ECB or the ACB or so on. Also, what about other sports- does Rooney play for man-u and England or man-u and the FA? Is there any meaning then to national sports?

  3. Sancho, In India, cricket is not run by the Department of Sports, which is a government entity. It is run by a club.That may explain, partially of course, why cricket is in such a good position financially as compared to other sports.

  4. Poor U.. Your team lost.. Cry Baby finding fault. THE best team won. Even if they retained most of the squad why didn’t the others choose a better team? And FYI all the matches were played in stadiums with everybody watching and not in class room with only the invigilator watching!!!

  5. SB,

    Poor you. You guys have to call your man in another team to give 21 runs to get in. Aww poor baby all snotty now that papa Srinivisan has given them the rattle. In a class room, the other students also watch and the geography teacher may have given the student the hints before, genius.

  6. The thing is that the IPL was based on format of European football where they have football matches between clubs. The national players just like IPL play for the clubs as well as the country. However the difference between IPL and EPL is that there are few football matches between countries where events like Euro cup and World Cup happening once in 4 years. Also these foot ball playing countries do not tour other football countries like India tour west indies.

    Thus foot ball players can easily devote time for clubs and their countries. But in IPL, the players are exhausted by playing cricket all year and then they have to play IPL. Hence a conflict is created for club v/s country.

  7. I would have loved to see your take on IPL4 if KKR had won it. But they did not.
    As far as Club V country debate, this is bound to happen. People like Gayle will continue looking for greener pastures which give them secured future. Don’t most of us do the same?
    So what if our Big guns are not touring West Indies? Look at the silver lining, it will give us a chance to test our bench strenght.

  8. most advertisers would be proud if they really were the reason Indians love the “Indian” team (sorry, i dont see it as a club team) … you probably think advertisers are super duper whiz kids who can do anything … where did you get this notion from ? you sure buy Tide detergents coz one swipe of it can make your clothes super white !

    indeed, why were the advertisers not able to create a city based fan following for the city-tagged teams ? till the 4th edition of IPL, there are hardly any permanent city fans … most people switch loyalty on their whims .. to hell with the damn city tag … for instance, i am yet to find a loyal hyderabadi fan of deccan chargers. most hyderabadis cheer CSK or MI. if advertisers were so powerful, all the team franchises would have had die-hard loyal fans ready to murder.

    just the notion that indians cheer for their team because they are persuaded by SRK’s hooo haah India is too preposterous … please allow some intelligence on viewers too … in fact, by suggesting such a thing, you are not giving a shining advertisement for your own intelligence

    and as an aside, there is a stink of jealousy in your article. what makes you bear grudges against players (or even BCCI) if they choose not to play in some tour ? you may say that, it is not your intention, however a smoking gun is not an evidence for roses coming out of the barrel.

  9. moreover would you call it a national team only if the snail paced Govt of India owned and ran it ? WTF ?

    a privately owned team is not Indian ? apparently the only entity which is Indian is the govt of India according to you … am yet to find a bigger jerk

  10. CSK won because of N Srinivasan? Is it? Jaggu dada, where art thou? Please Come back and lift the trophy for KKR.

  11. Some good points above from Sancho.

    GB — Soccer in England is also not run by the Govt of the UK (Note: England does not have a separate government). Soccer in England is run by different bodies. The FA is in charge of “England”, the Premier League is run by the Premier League http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premier_league#Corporate_structure

    @harshal parte

    IPL is actually not based on European Football. In European football, clubs grew organically within cities and specific neighbourhoods in cities, which is why you see such a fanatical support for clubs.

    The IPL is actually based on the NFL and NBA where you have “franchises” and not clubs, franchises which can move from city to city (cf Baltimore Ravens in NFL and Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA).

    and as for the exhaustion question — I think the soccer players would take umbrage if you say that their profession is any less exhausting. While they may play lesser number of days (maybe only around 50 competitive games in a season on average) they still have to train the remaining days. You continuously hear of club managers cribbing about the number of games (especially when it comes to international friendlies).

    @Niraj

    Since there is such fanatical support for clubs in soccer (as a function of their roots in the neighbourhood), club games attain as much importance if not more than most international soccer matches.

    As for the club vs country question, this question is alive and kicking in soccer too, albeit in a different form. There the question is basically to what extent should the club in a national league support the national soccer team. This is most often raised in the context of Arsenal which have for the last 6-7 years depended mostly on foreign players (Wilshere being a recent inductee into the first team). In England atleast clubs are very jealous of their players playing internationals (albeit of the useless, “friendly” varieties). Also players are paid primarily by the clubs (I do not know how much players are paid for representing the “national” side).

    In Cricket on the other hand at the top level players are paid primarily by the “national” board and hence their primary loyalty belongs to that entity. (The great thing about the IPL is that more players can now make a decent living from the game and thus the IPL is weakening the allegiance to the “national” board e.g. Gayle).

    The question comes down to how does this situation evolve? Club cricket of the IPL variety can overtake “national” cricket but under what conditions? The increased amount of money is not, imo, the only condition; after all the players raking the big bucks are the international players which means that international cricket still is the barometer of success. One condition would also be that the standard of domestic league cricket has to approach the level of international cricket. This is true in soccer. Man U vs Arsenal vs Chelsea v Real Madrid v Barcelona is as good if not better than international soccer. On the other hand CSK v MI still does not raise passions as much as say Ind v Aus (Ind v Pak is another matter, though there are similar rivalries in soccer such as Celtic v Rangers). The reason is that the number of high quality soccer players wrt to clubs is much much higher than the analogous situation in Cricket. Can that number increase in cricket? The fact that Cricket is essentially played in only a handful of countries a barrier? These are questions for another day.

    As for me, I come down on the side of club cricket (two cheers). Only in club cricket can you have any combination of great players (which makes the time spent on all those All-Time XIs useful).I want more time for IPL-like tournaments and less time with meaningless ODI series with internationals being mostly restricted to the 20 and 50 over World Cups. The only reason I do not give a third cheer is because I am not sure what the future of Test Cricket would be in world dominated by clubs. Would club owners want to play 4 and 5 day cricket (which historically have raised less money than ODIs and T20s)? Test cricket is still a fascinating game and I hope some way can be found to keep it alive.

  12. The IPL is not a recent phenomenon. It has been 4 years now. Big players will want to play for country, as if ya go out of international spotlight, your IPL value diminishes. And as we have seen, newbie Wriddhi Saha to billionaire Sachin…. no wants to miss out on IPL riches. Let us take Gautam’s case. He got 2 million for 4 weeks. That is like half a million a week. Even if you asked Bill Gates to show up at a cricket field, that sum is enough to make him to consider it.

    IPL also gives us an opportunity to see reserve talent like Rahul Sharma. If these players shine in IPL, they will get the eyeballs that domestic cricket could never get them. So now the man on the street will say, “Rahul Sharma ko team mein lo yaar. Accha bowler hain.” The fact is if he did not play in the IPL, he would have never got that attention. Majority would have not known how he is as a bowler.

    The fact that the BCCI organizes the IPL means that there will never be a India tour -IPL conflict. England and West Indian players will always face an odd situation due to the overlap of their domestic season with the IPL. The thing with England is that their media with the colonial mindset will make some noises and farts about how IPL is a circus etc. Similarly, some Indian English paper writers would deride the IPL- the kind who would not have seen anything wrong with the tourney had it been hosted by England and named EPL Cricket. That’s the colonial mindset again. Then there are the self-flagellating types who love the racism on British airways but badmouth Air India. These are the kind of guys who have their closets full of Bareclona, Arsenal jerseys but who cannot tell you who won the 1990 World Cup.

    The thing with West Indies and Chris Gayle is that there is no guarantee that Gayle would have played like that for West Indies if there was no IPL. If he had the guts of Yuvraj Singh, he would have played like him in the Quarter Finals in the World Cup. Clearly, green notes with “In God We trust” have an effect on him. So there will be foolish people who will say, “IPL destroyed West Indies cricket”, as if West Indies had that 70s teams till just before IPL1 and are now in their present situation. Hehhh.

    As far as our cricketers are concerned, they played their hearts out in the World Cups and therefore nothing can be held against them. Now in international cricket, they will still perform as cricket is a game for club/ country/ team on one hand, and a selfish individual game of records and stats on the other. There is no empirical evidence to suggest that they will be less motivated when donning national colors. On the contrary, the financial bounty of the IPL + the lucrative BCCI contracts will help them play with a free mind.

    Economically, lots of players like Wriddhi Saha etc are earning 1000’s of USDollars and I like that. I mean these are the guys who did not cram for exams or solve 50 varieties of the same problems and then did engineering to join TCS and come to US to earn a few thousand dollars. So barring IPL, how could they have earned some money? Domestic cricket pays a pittance. Then there is high cost of living and burgeoning inflation. So some TV is funneled thru BCCI and IPl thru to these guys. And we see these on TV for free. So what’s wrong? Why are we seeing a dark side? The dark side of course could be if people like Srinivasan fixed the tournament as then it reduces to a farce. It is in the BCCI’s interest to keep the IPL corruption free. IPL does not need fixing. The volatility of a 2020 game provides enough casino excitement for people to keep their eyes on TV. Lots of money, no need for fixing. This is a tournament which is an auto-pilot. Players will give it their very best and play despite injury. But once the spectators have a whiff of fixing, interest will dwindle, ads wont pay and TV wont pay and the tournament lustre will diminish.

    Honestly, ICC’s country v country is an all year round event and therefore not too much should be made of some players opting out of one tournament. The West Indies currently deserve to play an India A team. Sometimes we lament about bench not being tested due to no vacancies. And of players who never got a chance to showcase their talents on the international stage. So if some players opt out from time to time, don’t worrrrrrrry, many others are there to take their places and strive for bigger contracts from BCCI and future IPL’s. So therein lies the incentive. IPL may play a small role in reducing eve teasing and making women more westernized. The more boobs and cheerleader asses you see, the more sex is decriminalized and trivialized. The society can only grow less puritanical. Also, instead of objectifying women, cheerleaders have made Indian women bolder. Recently, on the sets of a Shakti Kapoor movie, a naked girl chased another female co-star seeking lesbian sex. These are unprecedented. The IPL among other things, have had a effect in this relaxed attitudes to sexuality sweeping India. India has come a long way since TB6, dial up porn downloads (refer to Chapters 3 and 4 on GB’s MIHAP. Aside: Watch out for GB’s “The Mine”. Indian literature has never seen anything like this.), cricket on Doordarshan to sex tapes, secret cams and IPL.

    2 things- the 4 foreign players should not be tampered with. It is a constraint which actually shows that the BCCI, even though private and greedy, has some interests in the country’s cricket structure. It is true that some players are found below par, but how will they pull themselves up if not by playing with the best? So as the host country, this much leeway is perfectly ok. Also, would you like to see a KKR composed of 11 players from only Pakistan and Bangladesh only. Well a few may! 🙂 Plus the youngsters, and they mostly are in their 20s will learn a lot from the training and work ethics of the foreign players. They will also grow personally and culturally thru such diversity, as do students on an US University campus.
    Secondly, it might sound bigoted, but Pakistani players should not be invited in the IPL. We have nothing against them specifically, but the recent ISI connection spills should at least convince the biggest Paki sympathizer that there was direct Paki govt involvement in terror attacks in our country. We do not have any state agenda against Pakistan. They do. So, given this unique situation, we cannot keep a normal relationship with them. We will lose the excitement of the India Pakistan bilateral series, but when you crave for such cricket, please do remember the face of dead soldiers in Kashmir, the much maligned policeman in Srinagar and the dead in the Taj Hotel. Taking a ‘chalta hain ‘ approach will not change that state policy. Just that we will adopt certain racist attitudes towards players of countries who have tried to harm us every time. Just like South Africa were kept isolated in the apartheid era. The policy was not directed against any individual SA players too then. Simple as that!

    Finally the IPL provides masala reality show for cricket lovers. Srini unfortunately cannot match Lalit Modi’s charisma and naughtiness, and some blond cheerleaders may end up sleeping alone on some nights with Warnie bidding adieu, but we do love the taste of the IPL kabab. As GB famously said, cricket is to IPL what story is to porn. But the catch is, cricket also makes this a rather unique kind of porn. So far, so good. Long live this porn. It is not either-or. That is cricket or IPL. It is cricket and IPL. Eventually the two will blend like people in a big city like New York while retaining their own distinct identity.

  13. Just wondering what your reaction would be had Chris Gayle came in this time as a substitute for an injured player in CSK. For 3 years Gayle didn’t perform when he was in KKR and he turns up a super star with RCB. Does that give you any guarantee that he will perform again next season? Srinivasan can, with all his might, lead his horses to water but he cannot make them drink. It’s the players who will need to perform on the field and team’s management is the key. KKR should introspect why Gayle was a failure with them but nearly won the cup for RCB.

    On balaji being a trojan: reminds me of Hanlon’s razor – “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”. If we are going to call foul play when a player puts his ‘real’ home team to advantage, then it’s sad to foresee the future of the likes of Robin Uthappa, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, Ajit Agarkar, and many Delhi players in the IPL.

    >> “We have forgotten is that this time they won just one more match from what they did last disaster season.”

    Did you see that this time KKR won their matches with absolute confidence unlike in the past? That is a real progress!

  14. Simple case of jealousy regarding the CSK win :P. By the way, the pitch against Rajasthan Royals was changed after SRT commented on it, after losing poorly over there(which I don’t think was justified since both teams played on it) and well, CSK had to win many matches consistently to win the finals and face it, no other team was quite as good overall. Have been a big fan of your blog till now, but your remarks/tweets against CSK seem quite biased. KKR played better this time around, but have themselves to blame for losing it in the qualifiers from winning position.

  15. Niraj, advertisers are not attacking on your intelligence. this is your sub-consciousness. and all this process takes some time. i am sure if they continue IPL for next 10+ year with this format attaching city name to a team. there will be city based fans ready to die for like they have EPL club fans.

  16. Somebody/SB, you guys commentded “Srinivasan can, with all his might, lead his horses to water but he cannot make them drink”.
    “FYI all the matches were played in stadiums with everybody watching ”

    your argument does not hold….

    those horses are sill in advantage as they do not have to find their way to water. other horses will have to put 90% (just putting higher figure, but even with 10% it is disadvantage) of their effort to find water.

    our film industry (and politicics and business) are also good examples to contradict your argument. in films/business/politics also person has to perform and everybody is watching.. but why actors/policicians/business mans children are more successful. you may give an example of “kumar gaurav/rohan gaveskar” but they are exceptions. for 1000’s of normal stragglers there are very very few (may be only one or even worse no one) who will make name in these industries. but on other hand there will be one (or even more) who will get some name in these industries.

  17. correction

    but on other hand there will be one (or even more) who will get some name in these industries.

    replace it with

    but on other hand there will be one (or even more) out of “only 10” who will get good name in these industries.

  18. “We have forgotten is that this time they won just one more match from what they did last disaster season.”

    india won more matches in 2003 worldcup than this time, yet we won the world cup. But by your logic, team in 2003 was better?

    as far as pitch controversy and horses and stuff argument goes – both teams played on the same pitch. how much a cricket pitch can change in 40 overs? RR lost badly to CSK in that match and it was just a league match. CSK needed to win several other matches also to lift the trophy. But yeah, if CSK is led by a some MSD, it won because of srnivasan, pitch changed and stuff…food for thought???

  19. Are you trying to play down KKRs performance by reminding they won just one match more? There is all round consensus around they being one of the better teams this year. They deserved a top 4 finish and with tad bit of luck,may be couple of positions higher as well. I think KKR did really well this season, thier quality of play was way better than the previous editions.

    I dont understand the debate around country Vs club debate, there a lot of earnings at stake in the IPL. When most people migrate/work overseas in search of better prospects viz. money, I dont think we complain, do we? I, somehow think its a case of pot calling the kettle black.

  20. @Nilesh: “why actors/policicians/business mans children are more successful”

    Yes, their children are in limelight quite early but is this what success really is? Whoever may be his parent, if the actor is quite ordinary, he can forget ringing the box-office registers or receiving awards. There’s not going to be any special jury award under ‘Actor-with-Non-VIP-parent’ category that makes him stand next to the one awarded the Best Actor. For all the support KKR has through Shahrukh Khan fans, it’s the playing 11 that needs to win the match, not SRK.

    CSK has been consistently successful in all the seasons so far and unless you can prove CSK is otherwise, your arguments really don’t impress.

  21. PLEASE NOTE THE TIME DIFFERENCE!!! MATCHES PLAYED IN THE WEST INDIES HAVE WAY LESS VIEWERSHIP…HENCE THE “BIG BOYS” DON’T WANT OT PLAY!!!.. Apologies for screaming..

  22. guess we are taking the occasional surge of the KKR too seriously.. there were better teams than them and its good that they finished in top four.. not sure they would repeat the effort next year, there is some hypism to anything associated with SRK and inevitably it drops down to KKR..as is evident in some of their stupid commercials..

    the CSK are the deserving winners, nt jus for the MSD factor but they are like IPLs South Africa in terms of all round and 11 member team effort, with no choker tag and they are destined to be winners.. their crowd is also one of the best in the country in terms of cricketing awareness and fairness ( and i dont ve the stupid round of applause done for akram and co during 99 when i say this)

    SRT is never a great captain, so his end of the career CV may not have an IPL triumph until the governing body things otherwise..

    Similar allegations have been placed against Barcelona with respect the UEFA being biased towards Barca, but eod they are the champs and tat is all that matters..

  23. i don’t believe that players should be blamed for chhosing club over country. Every match should be given full commitment. Also BCCI can not blame indian players for choosing club over country. they encourage other countries’ players to choose ipl over internation matches. how can they ask their own players to do the opposite thing.

  24. this is GB’s worst post ever…all his frustrations spill out here.. the fact that KKR did so well despite not playing GB’s hero ( dada ), the fact that a team which won the fairplay trophy the second time in a row lifted the cup the second time in a row ( maybe he wanted Pune warriors to win, now that his dada’s gracing the reserve benches there ), the fact that Gambhir could a rejuvenate a side which was pulled down by dada and his politics and lead them to such a good show,etc,etc. I think the attack on CSK was uncalled for and unsporting. Maybe GB should stick to analysing B-Grade bollywood masala, and leave cricket analysis to commentators with a little less prejudice. just a thought, don’t kill me for this all of you GB fanboys !

  25. @vivek
    i guess everyone is allowed a quirk or two. May be GB is finding it hard to let go (a) his support for dada (b) his inability to appreciate & accept MSD’s success.
    To each his own i say.

  26. Hey all u guys ….its really stupid to bring this whole debate down to personal preferences etc…this blog id about cricketers and their finances…not about some regional stuff…grow out of this narrow minded crap

  27. Dear Arnab,

    You’re the only cool Bengali I know. So consider this an intervention from the heart.

    Parochialism out of the way, get a fun transplant done, will you? Have you run out of humor? Its worse than Robin Williams in Old Dogs.

    You have always been bigger than cheap Balaji-baiting. I see symptoms of Ravindra Jadeja-withdrawal. May I suggest a bout of Sreesanth-poking to calm the mind?

    Get well soon.

  28. 1. Do not get all the sarcastic rage at CSK winning, they did fight their way out of near-loss situations multiple times under pressure, so the deserving team won.

    2. This issue of club vs country has its first impact in European professional soccer, but it is clear that European clubs surely did more good to soccer as a game in general. I think the real issue here is cricket’s declining popularity in several other parts of the world, which surely BCCI is not responsible for. People flock where there is money, but you never look into why there is money in a certain place and not elsewhere.

    I like your blog a lot and have been reading it almost since its inception even though I rarely comment on it, but I can not help but saying off late the level of hypocrisy has been on the rise.

  29. @GB

    Accusing Balaji of cheating on his team in order to favor CSK is a very wild allegation. Having followed your blog for quite sometime, I am frankly quite shocked that you would stoop to such low levels. Accusing someone of cheating is quite a grave charge to make; three of the boundaries in that last over flew of the edge – most objective observers would have attributed it to luck. Maybe objectivity is too much to ask for when KKR is inovlved?

  30. there is certainly sour grapism in your write up what with Geo teacher and what not. well what can i say..

  31. I consider you my Guru in all political issues mainly because of your wonderful dissection of the issue and zero partiality. But this piece is perhaps your most prejudiced article ever. I agree that Srinivasan shouldn’t be allowed to hold his posts because of obvious conflict of interest. But, attributing CSK’s win to him is downright insulting. In case if you’ve been living in a cave, CSK has by far been the best team right from the first season. This was before Srinivasan took up his post as the BCCI president mind you. With the same team retained it was pretty obvious who’s gonna win.

  32. My exact thoughts on this whole issue.. I don’t know why the media blew up Gauti’s injury issue when Dhoni, Tendya, zaheer had made them unavailable even though their shoulders were just fine.

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