Now is the time for every young, aspiring cricketer in the country to start thinking very differently about the sport to the way every previous generation has ever thought about it.
For every wealthy, successful cricketer the sport has produced in the last 50 years, there have been a thousand or more struggling ones, young men living ‘the dream’ well into their 20s and even early 30s before finally accepting that there isn’t enough money to go around, or that they are not good enough.
Now, however, we are on the verge of the inaugural Champions League, a competition which involves real teams of real cricketers unlike the hastily constituted IPL Franchises containing a hotch-potch selection of pampered stars and confused teenagers.
The Titans and the Dolphins will line up in three weeks time against the Western Australian Warriors, Victoria Bushrangers, Rajasthan Royals, Chennai SuperKings, Sialkot Stallions and Middlesex. The total prize fund for the first year is $6million with a first prize of $3million. The runners-up will receive $1.2 million, losing semi-finalists $500,000 and the remaining four teams $200,000 just for turning up.
The Federation of International Cricketers Associations (FICA), led by former Australian off-spinner Tim May, has secured unprecedented player terms which include 50% share of the prize money for the players. Unprecedented because, hitherto, cricket administrators have treated players like kitchen staff at a grand banquet, hard workers but not worthy of a decent meal themselves let alone a seat at the top table.
The South African Cricketers Association (SACA), has played a leading role in determining how that money should be divided amongst the 15-man squads and the formula, devised by SACA chief executive Tony Irish, is all-inclusive and far-sighted.
It even includes players who won’t be in India for either Franchise – Doug Watson and HD Ackerman, for instance, will both receive a share, one for having helped the Dolphins qualify (before being sacked) and the other for having joined the Franchise after qualification.
Over and above the prize money, there will also be a tour fee of $16,000 paid to each member of the 15-man squads. So, the worst financial scenario for each Dolphin and each Titan, even if their teams finish stone last, is that they will receive approximately R240,000 each. If they win the tournament, and the current dollar/rand exchange rate remains as it is, the players will receive just a few cents short of R1 million. Each.
The T20 Champions League is not a gimmick or a ‘one-off’. It is owned by the BCCI (50%), Cricket Australia (30%) and Cricket South Africa (20%) and the rights were sold to ESPN, for 10 years, for $900 million. The tournament can only get bigger. Never again, perhaps, will parents be heard telling little Jonny to “get a proper job.”
But this isn’t just about individual players – there is a far more important aspect which concerns the strength of cricket across the country.
CSA also expects to make a profit of approximately R40 million from year one, of which 17% will be paid into SACA’s player payment pool. “It will allow us to supplement players salaries to the tune of R50,000 or R60,000 and, hopefully, make it far less tempting to pursue alternative avenues like Kolpak contracts or the ICL,” says Irish. “We need to make it financially worthwhile for our best players to stay in the country and for the game to get stronger.”
I was almost certainly not good enough to play cricket professionally but I would never know because I had too many friends working part-time jobs and struggling to pay the rent while chasing a sporting career and I didn’t want to be like them. There will be fewer cricketers who die wondering from 2008 onwards.
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