For over 100 years, tears have been shed, blood spilled, bones broken and cold wars raged.
All for the game — a national sport.
Playing cricket for your country was the epitome of your career. The proudest moment in your life was to wear a baggy green cap if you were an Aussie cricketer or winning the Ashes if you were English or beating P.
Apartheid in South Africa kept them away from the sport for 20 years. Now the same sport brings the West Indians to play together as one country despite their regional conflicts in other sports.
Personal rivalries and nation domination was the highlight of cricket for decades. Friendship could endure would happen only after a player retired, and in many cases, the hatred for the opposition would never die for fans.
But six years back, with the start of the IPL, it all changed.
National pride took a back seat. Opposition players became team mates and 'worse' — even friends. The game of cricket had changed forever.
No longer was playing for your country the biggest achievement of your life. Rivals and enemies suddenly became people you tolerated, trained with, stayed with and helped them get better at the sport before celebrating their success on the field.
The power of money can change loyalties. Anything and everything can be bought for a price. The important questions are — for how much and when?
In short, playing in the IPL is nothing but playing for money.
It is where you forget everything that you have thought, forget every emotion you experienced, forget every memory. There is space for only one thing where the IPL is concerned - money.
While it’s a great experience to play in the IPL, let’s be honest. Nobody does it for the love of the game. If it's cricket you want, you could play in Test matches, domestic tournaments, county cricket etc. Why play for a monopolistic, cricket controlling board, under an owner you probably never knew existed and with a bunch of players you hated for being from a different country.
Some of the biggest controversies over the last six years of the IPL have also been the result of money - Lalit Modi, Shashi Tharoor and the removal of franchisees.
Wasn’t Modi sacked supposedly due to money issues? Wasn't it about the misappropriation of funds, source of funds or the sweat equity controversy? Tharoor also had to give up his post in the government over the same issue.
The England Cricket Board (ECB) attempted their own version of the IPL by roping in Allen Stanford. The power of big money leads to a big ego clashe between the BCCI and ECB — and after the botched and abandoned attempt by the ECB we still don’t see enough English players in the IPL.
Here are some more controversies in the IPL related to money.
Ravindra Jadeja: Banned in 2010 for attempting to negotiate another contract with a franchisee for a higher fee. Yes, the same player who today has a $2 million dollar contract and is humourlessly called Sir Ravindra Jadeja these days.
Symonds and Harbhajan: Isn’t it money that made Andrew Symonds play with Harbhajhan Singh in IPL in 2012 despite having made racial accusations against him a few years back?
Kapil Dev: I have tremendous respect for the man and his achievements for Indian cricket, but one cannot help but feel that his acceptance of the BCCI’s offer of amnesty was the need for money, a job and keeping his future prospects in mind. After all, the ICL is defunct and Dev now appears as a pundit for the IPL.
Ponting and Harbhajan: Isn’t it money that makes Ricky Ponting play along side Harbhajan Singh and Sachin Tendulkar despite the Monkeygate scandal?
Gambhir and Kohli: Last week we witnessed a big spat and a near physical confrontation between Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli. Why would Gautam be loyal to Kolkata and Kohli to Bangalore if it wasn’t for money? Next year when the fresh auctions happen they may not be part of the same city-based team or owners so one can hardly count loyalty as a factor.
There are many more such situations of players putting money before everything else and suppressing their history and national pride all for the love of more moolah.
More than T20 the format, it's money that is killing the sport.
(Do read on before you label me as an IPL hater. Make no mistake I love and support the IPL completely. I watch almost every match, cancel other plans for it, blog and tweet about it and rejoice in the cricket that’s being played and fact is, that this potpourri of players is a joy to watch.)