A fat paycheque is no doubt a big motivation, but the decision to become a cricket mercenary becomes more comfortable when you know your international cricket board is anyhow going to desert you when you need it the most.
Have you ever looked up reviews of a prospective employer before joining it? If Cricket Australia's review were available on the internet, it would be full of negative comments from past employees like Andrew Symonds and Ricky Ponting who were left high and dry during the ‘Monkeygate’ scandal even as they were following instructions given to them by their bosses.
Recalling the incident in an interview, Ponting reckoned he did everything right. "I followed the instructions to the letter. I did everything I was expected to do. I know there are a lot of administrators in Cricket Australia who can't say the same thing," he said.
Ponting could live with the scars of the incident and continue to play at the highest level. Ponting's teammate Symonds wasn't so lucky. "And that was the start of the end for Andrew Symonds. His career spiralled downhill after that because I know for a fact that he didn't feel like he could trust the people he needed to trust," Ponting said.
If Steve Smith were writing a review of Cricket Australia today (anonymously on Glassdoor, I would presume to avoid the ignominy), he would strongly recommend looking for other options instead of joining a company that brutally suspends its employees for a minor indiscretion. Nipping office stationery is a crime, but surely it warrants only a warning, not severe punishment and public disgrace. When guidelines for a penalty are laid out by the highest regulator in the business, why would your employer go out of its way to make it hundred times more severe? Is PR so valuable that your top performing employees aren't worth sticking up for, even when they have erred slightly?
Of course, it isn't just about Australia. The Cricket Board industry hasn't been setting high standards of employee-friendliness off late. Back home, the Board of Control for Cricket in India didn't waste any time in suspending Mohammed Shami's contract after allegations were made against him by his wife. Granted, the nature of those allegations was severe, but mere allegations aren't reason enough to distance yourself from a diligent and sincere employee. They made it clear that the contract is merely suspended and not cancelled, and as promised, it was duly restored later after an inquiry, but the whole matter played out in the public eye and added to the agony of the already disgraced cricketer.
In times of trouble, we take massive solace in at least having a job. A public show of confidence from Shami would have meant the world for him. An inquiry could have been done silently by the board without suspending Shami's contract, and if they had any misgivings after the due process was followed, they could have still suspended Shami's contract. You want to treat your employees as completely innocent until proven guilty rather than mildly suspicious whenever a charge is laid.
The cricket board with the lowest acceptance ratings from its employers for the last several years is the West Indian Cricket Board. When cricketers sit in a bar to discuss how hopeless their cricket board is, a West Indian cricketer often gets up and says, "Hold my beer!"
The West Indies cricket board is perennially stuck with contract issues, player revolts and yet more pressing matters like making players delete their tweets. Here is what Cricket West Indies chief executive Dave Cameron had to say about Darren Bravo, the batsman who was once rated as the next Brian Lara, “Let me make it very clear: what Darren Bravo has to do first and foremost is take down the tweet. Every day that tweet stays up, it is an infraction. Secondly, he needs to accept that he’s done something wrong and then we can move forward from there." You would be forgiven to believe that this is part of a WWE script where an evil boss is hell-bent on destroying the career of a young and promising rookie, but that's how West Indian cricket rolls at the moment. It's no surprise then that West Indian cricketers are more prominent in T20 leagues around the world than in international cricket.
Cricket is a competitive job market now. International cricket boards no longer have a monopoly over a player. Kevin Pietersen could extend his playing careers by five years even after he was stood down by his teammates and his board. With so many T20 leagues around the world, cricketers have the option of earning their livelihood anywhere in the world by taking the so called "club over country" route.
A fat paycheque is no doubt a big motivation, but the decision to become a cricket mercenary becomes more comfortable when you know your international cricket board is anyhow going to desert you when you need it the most. If cricket boards around the world don't look after their players who are their prime assets, we may soon see most of the top cricketers in the world making international cricket their second choice.
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