The Disinterested IPL Mercenaries

So far, the biggest stars in the IPL have been the foreign stars. Most of them were bid for far less money than the Indian stars but have outperformed them by quite a margin. In spite of being great value for money, there is every reason to question the motivation and the intensity of the overseas stars.

The IPL puts a restriction of four foreign players per playing eleven. But teams have accumulated more than twice that number as most overseas players will not be available for the full tournament and also to adjust to different match conditions. As a result, players of the calibre of Muthiah Muralitharan, Makhaya Ntini and Herschelle Gibbs end up being left out of the playing eleven – a situation they would not have encountered at any stage in their cricketing careers. And then, they see second or third rung Indian domestic players running around and hogging the limelight. How motivated does that leave an established international player?

Not too much, I am afraid. They will still egg themselves on and stay enthused for a while but sooner than later, just lose interest. Their plight is similar to an IT professional on the bench during the recession years. The bench guys surf the free internet, drink the free coffee and wait to collect their pay-check at the end of the month. The benched cricketer will travel the country in luxury, eye the women in the stadium and packet the moolah when it is time to leave for International duty.

And what is the impact of a foreigner’s performance in the IPL, on his international career? Absolutely nothing! Not even on his international Twenty-20 career. Do you think Cricket Australia will drop Ponting for getting a pair of ducks for the Knight Riders? You have got to be kidding. Even the contract money is guaranteed and there is no performance based incentive. Therefore, an international player has absolutely nothing to lose if he performs miserable or ends up spending the entire tournament on the bench. Well, how is that for motivation.

However, there is still the question of losing out on an IPL berth in the future. There is no such risk for someone who spends most of his time on the bench. He will continue to get selected as there is no evidence of any poor performance. Even the guys who play badly need not bother. There will again be a mad rush to sign the biggest international stars. Indian selectors are still blinded by star power and will select purely on international form. Even in the unlikely situation that a player misses the IPL bus, there will be other leagues (in England and Pakistan) to vie for his services. The pool of international players is limited and their availability for the IPL and the other leagues gets reduced further by the busy international calendar. A player will have to do a Harbhajan-esque mistake to miss out on the Twenty-20 bounty. And that is ruled out as nobody is as dumb as the master slapper.

The software engineers in the recession years ran the risk of getting reject letters at the last minute. And the guys who were doing real work needed to perform at extremely high-levels to keep their jobs. The International cricketer in the IPL or any other League has no such worries. He will go out and swing hard when given a chance. But, he is under no pressure to perform and not overly bothered about how things turn out. They are here to enjoy the Indian summer of 2008.

Avnish Anand

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