Do you remember when the saying “it’s just not cricket” meant something admirable? 

Regrettably, unworthy decisions right across the world of cricket have followed some of the least desirable societal trends of today.

The soul of the game has been sold to the highest bidder, consigned to vested interests whose self-interest has demeaned the face of cricket. The impotence demonstrated by those appointed to govern and administer cricket, have also been motivated to surrender crucial decisions to a few senior contracted players for fear of losing them.

Having abandoned the ethical health and well-being of the game to others, administrations have demonstrated the mentality of ‘cheerleaders’. These fans have managed to partially retain the availability of most of the players but at a regrettable cost.  

There are 20 players with 12-month contracts with NZC and yet they still have a license to sign playing contracts with others scot-free. Furthermore, it has become normalised for players to take time off for rest periods, holidays and injury rehabilitation during their national teams' playing programme.

These decisions have surely reached the point that pseudo annual player contracts either need to become legitimate or replaced by match payments.  

Having been effectively given the keys to 26.5% of the organisation’s coffers, it should be no surprise that a small group of the influential players would extract the lion’s share of the money, leaving their fellow compatriots to pick up the dregs at A team and provincial level.

It begs the question, is the NZ Cricket Players' Association (NZCPA) only concerned about the interests of the top players at the expense of treating the remainder as nobodies?  

Half-hearted muddled attempt

There seems to be no stopping cheerleading administrations from allowing their national playing programme to be butchered to accommodate the most lucrative twenty-over league, the Indian Premier League (IPL). Incomprehensibly, they have promoted a primitive version of the game to dominate, one that is about as interesting and significant as backyard cricket. An obvious example of money making the game, not the game making the money.

On August 1, 2019, the International Cricket Council (ICC) introduced the ICC World Test Championship, presumably with the intention of salvaging the status of Test cricket from the funeral pyre.

It has been a half-hearted muddled attempt when considering the rules of the competition to find the finalists. Each of the nine countries was programmed to play six series (three at home and three away), with no requirement for each series to have a given number of games. Additionally, the same number of points were awarded for a two-match series as for a four-match series.

The pandemic did play its part in further reducing the credibility of the competition by substantially varying the number of series played by teams, as well as the matches each played.  

The final was to be played at Lord's on June 12, 2021, but has since been transferred to Southampton for, allegedly, covid reasons. This decision begs the question, why doesn’t covid intervene when a Test match between NZ and England has been approved to be played at Lord’s 10 days before the transferred final at Southampton?   

This will have fuelled speculation, that if England had been in the final, the transfer of venue would not have happened. It should be remembered these decisions were made well in advance of the serious wave of covid developing in India in April.

Looking ahead, the credibility of the final was looking likely to be compromised by leading players from the NZ team being given an extended leave of absence by their national body to continue in the IPL playoffs. 

This could have meant captain Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Mitchell Santner would be unavailable for the two-test series against England leading into the World Test Championship final. 

This type of decision forfeits the ideal preparation when considering the alternative of six weeks playing seriously abbreviated hit and giggle games in India. It doesn’t look like the Indian players will have any better preparation either.

With the remaining games in the IPL being postponed, all of the players selected to play in the tests against England may become available, but only because of the IPL move.

Kane Williamson was quoted as saying 'missing the test matches against England in early June due to completing the IPL' is not his preferred option but that it's another case of the ideal scenario rarely playing out in the current climate. 

It's certainly not the preferred thing, Williamson said of the potential clash. 

A surge in covid

I know when plans were put in place that wasn't the idea then, but as we've seen, you can make plans in this day and age, and very rarely do they go to plan.

All this surely leaves no one in any doubts about where priorities lie and for whom. Just another example of how bogus annual contracts can play out. 

It was interesting to read golfer Rory McIlroy’s response to the proposed new Saudi 'Super League', labelling it a 'money grab'.  

He went on to say that he is more interested in creating his place in history than chasing Saudi-backed money in a proposed super league. 

“People can see it for what is, which is a money grab, which is fine if that's what you're playing golf for is to make as much money as possible. 

“Totally fine. Then go and do that if that's what makes you happy. I'm playing this game to try to cement my place in history and my legacy, and to win major championships and to win the biggest tournaments in the world.

“I'm very much against it. I don't see why anyone would be for it.” 

He also thinks most of the leading players feel the same. 

Notably, the PGA Tour threatens bans. A stark contrast to cricket authorities’ and players responses to the IPL and other twenty over leagues.

Another twist for cricket could be on the way with the possibility of extended UK border closures to incoming flights from India, due to the seriousness of their April-May surge in covid.   

It may be of interest to give the short history of when and why the lolly scramble reached the stage that it has today. 

The IPL hatched in 2008, shortly followed by the other T20 Leagues around the world.

Soon after, a cry came out from the NZCPA that it would be unfair for the players to have to choose between playing for NZ or taking up other contracts. It was then that NZCPA were persuaded to allow their contracted players to be given the flexibility referred to earlier.  

The rationale was that the players in the big three wealthy countries of England, Australia and India were receiving much more money and the New Zealanders needed more opportunities to close the gap.

But, alas, this year, England, Indian and Australian players have recently been given some contract flexibility which wasn’t initially the case. 

The England players in this year’s IPL are also not required to return in time for the two tests against NZ leading into the ICC World Test Championship of Test Cricket.

Is anyone surprised that there will never be enough money, or that the value of where you live is factored into the equation of being satisfied?      

Socrates is famously quoted as saying, “the unexamined is not worth living”. 

If he was around today and a follower of cricket, he might have commented that the unexamined game is not worth playing, or following.