When you pay cricketers peanuts, you get monkeys
According to a recent study Pakistani players are the lowest paid in their league of teams. Sri Lanka pays their boys 3.5 times of what our average Category A player takes home
So the Pakistani cricket team finally returned home last this week. I for one was a tad surprised not to see an angry mob armed with anday tamatar, to say the least. Cricket, as we all know, is the second most popular religion in Pakistan – we watch it, we talk about it, and until reality hits by age 16 – half our population dreams of becoming a pro in it.
If you think about it, it’s extremely understandable – the public reaction – the shock and hurt over the latest match fixing allegations and the irritation over Ijaz Butt’s public appearances. I mean there we were enjoying an English summer’s worth of cricket on our television screens and then this scandal had to hit us like a bitter autumn gust.
The economics of a cricket team
But one has to look a bit deeper into this – why is it that our boys are willing to stake their professional reputation, national honour and frankly the chance of picking up a bat again for a few thousands in foreign currency.
One rarely hears about the Aussies or even the neighbor’s next doors trading a game for a few bucks. There are many factors attributing to this – starting with stupid fiscal management by the Pakistan Cricket Board and illustrating my ranting is the example below:
Geoff Lawson was sacked by PCB because his coaching services were too costly – he cost them Rs14 million per annum. His successors came at the discounted price of Rs11 million (even though the final invoice which includes perks and fringe benefits adds up to more than 14 million) and this discounting process saw the team’s then success rate decline to 45 per cent from a reasonably decent 80 percent.
The cricket board unfortunately applies the same illogical pricing on to player salaries as well – according to a recent study Pakistani players are the lowest paid in their league of teams. Even Sri Lanka pays their boys 3.5 times of what our average Category A player gets to take home.
Playing with the big boys means paying like them too
Now any layman can understand the perils of a weak economy, a much depreciated local currency and so on. But just as we cannot walk into McDonalds USA and ask for a discount just because their one currency unit is worth approximately 86 of ours – if we are to participate in global cricket we cannot pay our team much less than what everyone else is paying theirs. Cost cutting is very well in theory - but whatever will PCB think of next – sending the team by ship for its tour of Australia?
Now everyone who has ever dreamed of going pro in cricket, tennis or kabadi please be honest – aside from the glory and fame, the gym being your official workplace - the prize money and the endorsement cheques are a big motivation factor. Most professional athletes globally come from middle to low income households where they have struggled for the right to practice their sport and in some cases to survive. From a poor imam’s son who became a cricketing star to Beckham being born into a plumber’s home. The psyche once hitting it big in terms of making it to the national squad is that the cash will readily follow.
Locker room competition and ethical earning
I am realistic enough to realise that the salaries will not be the same as Formula One, and that no one will trade Shoaib for $100 million. But think about it locker room politics style – Abdul Qudoos from Pakistan arrives at the T20 world cup and sees MS Dhoni with all his hair boasting of how he takes home 1 billion per annum (FYI the Indian rupee in value is almost double ours) it will be a definite ouch factor. And no matter how many times his captain preaches to him about the path of righteousness he will be tempted to use extracurricular ways to add to his earnings. After all Dhoni makes the bulk of it off the pitch via advertisements!!
There is no excuse for corruption ever, but at the end of the day – this one golden boy wearing our green blazer is probably the whole family’s ticket out of generational poverty. Perhaps thirty years ago he would have been happy with the PCB approved salary and a mid level job with PIA or the Railways but with the fiscal pressure these days to acquire multiple plots, a 50 KV generator, a four wheeler and a corner shop on Zamzama for meat or men’s trendy kurtas it is simply not enough.
Political cross border tension resulted in our players being excluded from the IPL which was a great revenue earning option, economic regression leads to fewer endorsement options – I mean there is a limit to how much we can rely on soft drinks.
The News of the World expose might translate into the county cricket days being over too. Now I am no economic genius and I really don’t have an exact answer to this problem. It would be cruel to suggest taking in babies and training (conditioning) them ala China so that they can perform for national glory. But perhaps the cricketing higher ups can look into paying the players better, of establishing proper residential training academies where youngsters can be trained both in terms of the game and sportsmen etiquette (thou shall not trade a ball for cash!) and of encouraging foreign opportunities – let them play in the IPL and all other events it will give them practice, exposure and money. Also playing at local venues will add to the marketability and earnings of PCB and its teams.
Simply put, to be a team of international standing we need to behave like others – it is time to stop being a monkey and evolve into a man.