The Cricket Paper - - OPINION - DEREK PRINGLE

We knew to­day’s in­ter­na­tional crick­eters were coin­ing it, but how many knew that some were get­ting U$20,000 (£15,100) for a Test match fee? It isn’t Eng­land’s play­ers ei­ther, they come in just shy of that mark though they do earn the most for play­ing T20 in­ter­na­tion­als, some U$5,284 (£4,000) for three hours of their time ac­cord­ing to fig­ures un­earthed by Cricinfo.

Framed this way, it looks like money for old rope – an ex­pres­sion Dale Steyn sort of used when he first played in the In­dian Pre­mier League. “Just four overs a match and it doesn’t mat­ter if you get slogged around the park. It’s the eas­i­est money you’ll ever make,” is what he said.

It was a re­fresh­ing if trite com­ment and one he quickly back-ped­alled on. The best play­ers only reach this rar­efied point due to their tal­ent and the years of hard work and sac­ri­fice that have gone into re­fin­ing it. They also have shorter ca­reers than most in the com­mer­cial world, so need to earn big while they can, though that ar­gu­ment could change as Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence and ro­bot­ics threaten to con­sign more of the wider work­force to pas­ture at an early age.

The con­cept of sac­ri­fice is key here. Why would Ben Stokes, for ex­am­ple, who takes the equiv­a­lent of U$31,500 (£24,000) ev­ery time he plays a sin­gle Test, one-day in­ter­na­tional and T20 match for Eng­land (and like Joe Root he plays all three for­mats), place that in jeop­ardy, along with his U$995,000 (£756,000) cen­tral con­tract and the U$1.5 mil­lion (£1,140,000) he made in this year’s IPL, by be­ing reck­less on a night out in Bris­tol?

Wouldn’t a log­i­cal and prag­matic mind think, ‘stay fit for five years by avoid­ing late nights, stay away from trou­ble and binge-drink­ing, and I prob­a­bly won’t need to work again?’.

When I first played for Eng­land in 1982, there were no cen­tral con­tracts, just county ones, which weren’t gen­er­ous, and then match fees for in­ter­na­tional cricket – a ba­sic £1,500 for a Test and £350 for a one-day in­ter­na­tional. Still, it is in­ter­est­ing to see that those sums, tak­ing into ac­count in­fla­tion over the 35 years, would be worth just over dou­ble to­day, which is a quar­ter of what the cur­rent Eng­land play­ers are get­ting per game.

Satel­lite TV had yet to en­rich the sport­ing land­scape with their multi-mil­lion pound broad­cast­ing deals and many crick­eters, while ac­knowl­edg­ing some re­spon­si­bil­ity to self and team, were hardly paragons of pro­fes­sion­al­ism. Ian Botham, the crick­eter Stokes most re­sem­bles from

My own view was that the money on of­fer, even play­ing for Eng­land, was not life-chang­ing so I wasn’t pre­pared to make great life­style changes

that era, rarely went to bed be­fore 1am dur­ing Test matches even it meant drink­ing in his ho­tel room. In­deed, team mates would of­ten take turns to keep him com­pany, an act that was part friend­ship and part duty, given he was our most likely match-win­ner and needed to be kept happy.

My own view was that the money on of­fer, even from play­ing reg­u­larly for Eng­land, was not life-chang­ing so I wasn’t pre­pared to make great life­style sac­ri­fices, an ap­proach not un­usual among pro­fes­sional crick­eters of the time.

Don’t get me wrong. We didn’t have self-de­struc­tive streaks or the wil­ful de­sire to sab­o­tage our­selves on a daily ba­sis. But if some­thing in­ter­est­ing came up, such as the chance to go to El­ton John’s party at his house in Wind­sor, we’d take it, even if it was dur­ing the mid­dle of a Test match, which it was. I re­mem­ber once, Doug In­sole, Es­sex’s chair­man and a stal­wart of the club, ques­tion­ing my “ca­sual” ap­proach when I was hav­ing treat­ment for a strained ham­string. “Why don’t you,” he asked, and this in the days be­fore the Premier­ship, “want to be as fit as a first di­vi­sion footballer?”

“Well,” I said, “you pay me as well as a first di­vi­sion footballer and I’ll be as fit as one.” And I prob­a­bly would have been.

These days, the large amounts of money be­ing earned by play­ers does, in the eyes of many of their pay­mas­ters, pre­clude them from hav­ing a life of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion.

In­deed, their day-to-day sched­ule is largely mapped out for them and heav­ily pre­scrip­tive in its ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. Yet part of An­drew Strauss’ phi­los­o­phy is to get away from the nan­ny­ing. In­deed, get­ting play­ers to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for them­selves is some­thing he started when Eng­land cap­tain.

It is a creed also favoured by Trevor Bayliss, Eng­land’s Aus­tralian coach, who, hav­ing struck up a great rap­port with Stokes, will feel par­tic­u­larly let down by events in Bris­tol.

But then some peo­ple, and Stokes was wild well be­fore he was wealthy, won’t change their stripes ir­re­spec­tive of how much money is at stake – an at­ti­tude to be ad­mired were it not for the vi­o­lence.

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Cash­ing in: Ben Stokes plays all three for­mats for Eng­land, and is paid hand­somely to do so

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