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April 1, 2000


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Money for everything

Armchair Expert

In the recent months there's been some talk about introducing a variable pay scale for cricketers. The sooner it is confined to the dustbin the better. Money is not everything you know. Idealist? Maybe. But, most of all, a lover of Indian cricket. And most upset at the state it is in today. (Especially with the people who seem to be taking all the decisions.)

While it's all very fine to introduce elements of professionalism in the game, some things ought not to be changed. Like patriotism. In my view, the last thing Indian cricket needs is an incentive for more individual performances. (Like we don't have enough examples to prove it.) Most of us know what a variable pay scale is. And for those who don't, it means the more you make, the more you make! (Sorry to make it sound like that but am sure you get the drift.) Unfortunately, it's not as simple as that. We seem to have forgotten that cricket is a team game. (Come to think of it, the way our players perform, have performed, tend to perform, I doubt we've ever internalised that.)

The whole world knows this non-performing Indian team boasts of some of the best batsmen in world cricket. (Though, on evidence of their performances in the recent past, most would be inclined to wonder 'where?') A few of us also believe that this very same non-performing team also has, perhaps, two of the top six bowlers in world cricket. (Though, again, on evidence of their performances in the recent past, one would be inclined to wonder 'where?') In fact, some of the experts even think we might have a potential Kapil in Ajit Agarkar! Yet, we hardly win anything worthwhile outside this India. And rarely perform as a team. So how do the 'powers-that-be' choose to try and solve this problem? By introducing variable pay scales. What a load of crock! (And a dangerous load of crock at that.)

By the way, how many series did India win riding on the broad shoulders of Paaji? Right. Just goes to show how even a great man like Paaji couldn't do it all. Because we need more. A lot more. (Read, a team of performers.)

The bane of Indian cricket has been, is, our dependence on individuals. (Besides, of course, our dependence on home pitches. But we've already discussed that to death.) It doesn't need an Einstein to tell you that cricket is a team game. And yet, we have people in power who don't fully believe that. (Maybe the people who gave us this latest brain-wave need an Einstein to tell them that.) People who make it a point to nurture only stars. People who still think cricket is more about individual talent than little contributions. And hardly ever talk about the 'team-men'. Oh my dear cretins, don't you realise it's not the stars that need nurturing, it's the percentage men that need to be encouraged. But then, I guess you don't. After all, it's only non-cricketers and people with little power who feel this way. So who cares? Fortunately, we have a captain who does. Who seems to expect a lot more from his team by way of little contributions from everyone. (The operative words here being 'team' and 'little contributions'.) And is not afraid to say so. Thank God. (Stay that way Saurav. Please.)

The top teams in world cricket are teams. Period. They're not chock-a-block with individual talent. They believe in little contributions. And they are intelligent enough to make all the right noises about it. You don't need a P'hd in mathematics to realise that 10 little contributions add up to a lot more than just Sachin or Saurav scoring a hundred. (We've been seeing that for, like, forever now.) Most people will tell you that the winning captains are the ones that can get the majority of the men in the team to perform. Teams with guys who believe any contribution is worth making. As long as there is a contribution.

You only have to look at the top teams in the world to figure out which are the ones at the top of the ladder and why. Does South Africa have the best batsmen in world cricket? Does Sri Lanka have the most potent pace attack in the world? Does New Zealand have anything that's the best in the world? Does Zimbabwe have even one player in the top ten of the many/any cricket ratings that we keep seeing? (I mentioned Zimbabwe because even they beat us the last time we played them. In Tests and one-dayers.) Who was the man of series the last time we toured Down Under? Who was the winning captain? Who is happier? Who will be remembered for all the right reasons? Still, we have all this talk of performance based pay. What is it about our board that makes them consider such hair-brained ideas? Strangely enough, it's only the teams at the bottom of the rung making all these noises about pay. (Yet another example of a knee-jerk reaction to a much larger problem?)

What India needs is more Robin Singhs. More team men. More guys who don't care about how much money each run they make is going to make them. How much a catch in hand is worth in the bank. How many VCD players a 5-wicket haul will bring them. And variable pay is not the way to find such cricketers.

Quite simply, it is a recipe for disaster. All it will do is encourage more prima donnas and more players going for personal glory. It's bad enough having a team that doesn't pull together as a team. Imagine giving the players yet another reason to play for themselves. (Few things in the world are more individualistic than a fat bank balance.) Believe me, money can do strange things to people. (It's not just a cliché. It's true.) The presumption that players will perform better for more money is inherently. Sure, there may be a few merits in the proposal. But they still will never outweigh the advantages of engendering qualities like pride in playing for your country.

Forget variable pay scales. Let's talk about things like valuing the India cap. (And making it a point to tell the whole world that you do.) Pulling together as a team. Keeping the vermin out of the dressing room. Sticking by team members who are going through a rough time. Applauding 200 per cent efforts on the field. Understanding what each player needs. (Money is the most obvious and the most dangerous short-cut.) We need to do more to help guys like Harbhajan, Kumaran and so many others to take the next step. (It's atrocious how many careers our board, coaches, captains and managers have ruined.) We need to see more gestures like calling out the whole team to share the magic moments. (God knows Indian cricket hasn't had too many.) And…and, we don't need variable pay scales.

But, maybe I'm wrong. What do you think guys? Is money a greater motivator? Should money be made a greater motivator?

Armchair Expert

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