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By Bharat Sharma
New Delhi: March 31, 2013
The advent of Twenty20 professional cricket leagues around the world has fuelled the rise of a new breed of gypsies with England’s Dimitri Mascarenhas being one of those who goes around calling himself a “Freelance cricketer”.
Though he says the concept of ‘freelance players’ is gaining popularity obviously for financial reasons, the younger generation of cricketers must focus more on playing for their country.
The world Freelancer was first coined by Freddie Flintoff and it is slowly but surely gaining currency as quite a few international cricketers are toying with the idea of chucking their international careers, while someone like West Indian Chris Gayle and some Sri Lankans have smartly bargained with their respective country’s boards to balance between the different leagues and international cricket to have the best of both worlds.
“If you look at the trend, which may appear strange, it is mainly the older players who are playing T20 around the world. The likes of myself, Azhar [Mahmood] and Adam [Gilchrist],” Mascarenhas, who will represent Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League (IPL), told IANS from Chandigarh.
“The younger lot should aim for playing as much international cricket as possible before jumping into the shortest form of the game whole hog. I would like to believe youngsters are still looking at a successful international career as they can think of playing in these multiple T20 leagues at a later stage,” says the quintessential freelancer.
Mascarenhas, 35, is a sought after Twenty20 specialist in Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh, besides IPL.
He rates his five years in IPL much higher than the other foreign leagues he has featured in.
“Money and experience-wise, the IPL stands out. You get to play against the best and share the dressing room with them. It is an enriching experience. Of course, playing in India is always fun,” said Mascarenhas, who first played for Rajasthan Royals under Shane Warne, his captain at English county Hampshire, before moving to Punjab.
Mascarenhas doesn’t see a separate IPL window in the near future but he sees more English players tilting towards the cash-rich event. Unfortunately for the English players, IPL clashes with their domestic season, leaving the centrally-contracted players, unlike Mascarenhas, in a spot.
“Look, there is so much cricket happening everywhere, it is very difficult to see the ICC creating a separate window for IPL. But I see more and more international players coming to India, including the English. It is only a matter of time.”
Born to Sri Lankan parents, he is sad about Sri Lankan players being banned from playing in Chennai.
“I don’t know what exactly has happened, but it is extremely sad the Sri Lankans will not be allowed to play in Chennai. It is a shame they will be seen everywhere but one part of the country,” said Masceranhas, who played his early cricket in Perth, Western Australia, before moving to England.
Mascarenhas last played for England in 2009 and the highlight of his short international career was hitting Yuvraj Singh for five sixes in a 2007 ODI at The Oval.
“People, especially in India, remember me for that. I don’t know if I could do that again, he is a much better bowler now,” he quipped.
On his team’s chances in IPL 6, the all-rounder says, “I do believe the team led by Adam [Gilchrist] has the capability of going all the way. We narrowly missed the top-four spot last season. Any team on a roll in T20 cricket can spring a surprise. We need to start well.”
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