R800 000 for three weeks’ work

That might sound like a lot of money – and it is – but if it was earned over the course of ten years it wouldn’t sound like quite as much.

But that’s how much the likes of Jacques Kallis, Andrew Flintoff, Brian Lara, Muttiah Muralitheran and Shaun Pollock will earn in Australia in the next three weeks should they prevail over Australia in both the one-day series and the six-day Super test playing for the ICC World XI.

Patricia, who has been a colossus of book-keeping and paperwork strength and reliability in my office for almost as long as the above-mentioned men have been playing professional cricket (for an almost invisible fraction of their money), was moved to say that R800 000 seemed to be rather a lot for three weeks work when I told her.

It is also, of course, what some English Premier League players are paid every week. Every week. And the minimum contract for an American Football player in the NFL is in the region of $2 million per season. That’s the minimum contract. My calculations are mere estimates, but I think that works out to about R500,000 per week. And remember, that’s for the bench-fillers, replacements and first-year graduates.

The Johnnie Walker Super Series is an opportunity for cricket to laud its finest players, to showcase them and invite the world to watch the best the game has to offer. That’s quite a responsibility for the players involved and they deserve to be rewarded. As Patricia knew, of course, it didn’t take them three weeks to become the best in the world and that is why the prize and appearance money is the best in the game.

I am extremely excited about being in Melbourne next week for the three one-dayers and Sydney the following week for the Super test – the idea of the ‘Best versus the Rest’ is an age-old concept in so many sports, at both national and international level, and for cricket to introduce their own version is the logical way to attract interest from around the cricket playing world. And by that I mean the whole cricket-playing world, all 90 ICC members, not just the 10 test-playing nations.

Just six days before departure for Australia I was invited to the year-ending dinner of the Eastern Province Academy. The occasion represented the opposite end of the professional scale where cutbacks, retrenchments and most other cost-cutting schemes are underway. The provincial executive had just finished a day long meeting at which budgets were discussed, and discussed and discussed. “Unsolvable problems,” muttered the wistful president, Raymond Uren.

But I couldn’t help the overwhelming feeling that the Academy dinner represented the more joyous occasion, albeit not the most glamorous. The 16 students, in camp for a year together, organised the dinner themselves and gave speeches and reviews of their year – both on and off the field. If it was a glimpse into the future, it was a glimpse into friendship, trust and togetherness.

It was a mark of their development as a group that their racial split never occurred to me. There were white, black and coloured – normally, as a journalist grown accustomed to having to analyse these things, I would have done a head count. But it never occurred to me.

Perhaps the Super Series will become a new ‘ultimate’ in cricket. If you’ve been selected for the World XI then perhaps, like becoming an American ‘All-Star’, it will add millions to your commercial value.

But the reasons you start playing the game, the camaraderie it engenders and the life lessons it teaches will always be the same.

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