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Sunil Narine and the great rift in cricket

Sunil Narine © IANS
Sunil Narine has chosen to play for Kolkata Knight Riders © IANS

Sunil Narine has chosen to prefer the Indian Premier League (IPL) final and a Test. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the choice of the kind that contemporary cricketers have to make.

Case One

Chris Gayle had expressed his intention to play franchise-based cricket; the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) had decided to drop him; while Gayle dominated Twenty20 leagues around the world — IPL included — the West Indians had continued to play international cricket without him. In the end truce was called and Gayle made a comeback.

Case Two

Lasith Malinga has announced his retirement from Test cricket to concentrate on other formats of the sport. He has not looked back ever since, and while he has led Sri Lanka to the ICC World T20 title, the Sri Lankan attack with the red ball has looked a lot poorer without him.

Case Three

The current Sri Lankan team has been hit by payment issues even after winning the ICC World T20 earlier this year. Their financial demands have not been met. Despite that they did not make themselves available for the IPL (or rather, they made no statement whatsoever voicing that they would prefer the tournament over international cricket despite the substantial difference in money), where they would have become hot property after ICC World T20. They chose to play for their country.

Case Four

Sunil Narine, main strike bowler of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), has been stuck in a dilemma of sorts: if he was willing to participating in the IPL final on June 1, 2014 he will have to miss out on the deadline for the preparatory camp for the Sabina Park Test against New Zealand. In the end, he chose the former.

These are only four of the situations that have arisen due to the spawning of franchise-based Twenty20 cricket around the world. Gayle had clearly chosen to stay dedicated to the format (though his current IPL form may change that); being at the receiving end of a choice, Malinga had chosen to cut down on the stress of five-day formats; his teammates, on the other hand, chose their country, honour, and fans’ hearts over moolah.

Narine took a similar major decision. Perhaps the most crucial cog in the KKR franchise, he opted for the final, instead of trying to make his way back to Test cricket as West Indies’ frontline spinner (one must also remember that Narine averages 24.33 against New Zealand and 137.67 against other nations, and the fact that Shane Shillingford is out of contention for some time).

Kerry Packer had divided the world of cricket into Test cricketers and mercenaries: however, Packer never wanted a permanent drift in the world of cricket; once the deal between the Board and Channel 9 was sealed the world of cricket was happy to see West Indians take over the rein and submit to them one by one.

It is not the same anymore. The rift has been created, and for good. As more such leagues will grow all over the world in the coming days, cricketers will be faced with such dilemma more and more often. Will he choose easy money by bowling four-over spells over a two-month span? Or will he choose Test caps, the honour of playing for his country, and etching his name in the annals of history of the sport?

The chasm had already been created. It is widening with every passing day.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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