Who wags the dogs tail?

There are many words which have irreversibly changed meaning over the years from their innocent original. ‘Gay’ is amongst the most obvious and ‘bitch’ is another. No longer do they mean ‘female dog’ and ‘innocently happy’ – at least, not to those under retirement age.

There are many such words in the English language but they are better explored as an after-dinner party game in the privacy of your own home rather than anywhere in public. Although I must say, as an amateur but extremely enthusiastic linguist I am forever exploring the origin of words and their changing meaning. How about ‘coffee’ for example. A bean which, when crushed and boiled, produces a stimulating drink. Of course, But how about ‘the person upon whom one accidentally coughs’ – while travelling on public transport, for example.

In American prisons, it is said that long-serving criminals have ‘bitches’ (fellow prisoners) who run errands for them, amongst other services. It is not a pleasant use of the word and an even less pleasant image.

South African cricket and all who work within it have every reason to be extremely proud of the fact that more foreign players in the IPL come from these shores than from anywhere else, even Australia – and even after Shane Warne has handed out contracts to all his old mates from Victoria.

No less than 19 cricketers have been signed up by the eight IPL franchises – it is an extraordinary number given that Protea T20 or ODI squads rarely number more than 15. Of those 19, no less than 10 are fully fledged, genuine all rounders. No doubt Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn will take umbrage at the insult they are counted merely as bowlers. They bat, too, though.

The only slight concern, and it is a minor one, is the fact that not a single player even remotely questioned whether they would finish the South African domestic season before leaving for India. To be fair, you can’t blame them. It’s not just a question of earning more during a couple of IPL games than they do in most of a domestic season, but the glamour and the ‘honour’ of playing in the IPL understandably held sway.

But none of their employers or administrators asked the question, either. It doesn’t say much for the level of esteem in which South Africa’s first-class competition is held – by everybody – that 19 of the country’s best cricketers left for India with two games still to go and before the title had been decided. Champions elect, the Cobras, cheerfully waved goodbye to their skipper, Justin Kemp, who won’t return until well after the trophy is gathering dust in the cabinet at Newlands. If they win it.

There’s no great problem. Yet. The IPL has quickly become the ultimate career goal for the world’s professional cricketers and the money makes that inevitable. But the game’s governors in other parts of the world might be well advised to monitor the subservience of their relationship with the IPL just in case they lose control altogether.

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