The venerable Long Room at Lord’s can’t have seen many occasions quite like adidas’s launch of the new England kit. Lights, music and catwalks blended in with priceless portraits of the ancient greats of the game, as the players paraded in their new Test, ODI and Twenty20 strips. It was a timely reminder also of the changing face of the modern game. A new international season is just around the corner, but right at this moment there’s only one topic of conversation, and it’s not something that involves England’s slick new ClimaCoolTM technology.
“It’s going to be a spectacle and I’ll definitely be watching,” said Kevin Pietersen, the most outspoken advocate of English participation in the Indian Premier League, which gets underway in Bangalore tomorrow. “Hopefully it will be a massive success, and I think it’s going to be, because you have so much money being pumped into it, and you have the best players in the world, so there’s no reason why it won’t be. This could be the way cricket goes - everyone wants to see a result in three hours.”
“I don’t see anything wrong with any of us getting that kind of money,” said Pietersen. “Just have a look at how Twenty20 has taken over all over the world. India said they weren’t going to play it, then they went to the World Cup [ICC World Twenty20] and won it, and now it’s humungous. I just hope for the sake of the players, administrators and spectators that it’s something fresh, new and exciting. I think we might even see guys starting to play a few shots in Test matches too, which will be great.”
Pietersen is not the only Englishman who’s excited at the opportunities on offer. This past week has been awash with big-name dissenters, as one by one the stars of the side have lined up to demand their slice of the pie. One significant figure who hadn’t yet had his say was England’s limited-overs captain, Paul Collingwood, who has been away on holiday in Cape Town, getting to know his newborn daughter, Keira. But, unsurprisingly, his opinion was no different to the rest.
“I think it’ll be a world-class tournament, if people are getting the sort of money being put in the newspapers,” said Collingwood. “If you had an opportunity to earn four times the money over six weeks, would you take it? Of course you’d be tempted. Whether the players are at the back-end of their careers or on the outskirts of the team, they’ll have to make a decision when it comes to the crunch. I only hope it doesn’t come down to that and, in the future, we can play in the IPL, or something similar.”
Something similar might just have reared its head in the past 48 hours. On Tuesday, the ECB set about organising a not-insubstantial sweetener, courtesy of Allan Stanford, the Texan billionaire who has set about transforming the game in the Caribbean. He met Clarke at Lord’s to discuss a potential £10 million winner-takes-all fixture against an All-Star Caribbean XI, and emerged from the meeting saying that the match was “very likely” to take place.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Stanford said that his offer had been made to provide a counterpoint to the all-powerful Indian board, whom he likened to a “a 900lb gorilla”. “It’s dangerous because in business or anywhere else, you need to have checks and balances,” Stanford told the paper. “Naturally you’re never going to have a totally level playing field - that’s not the way the world works - but there shouldn’t be such an imbalance that everybody is riding on one party’s coat-tails.”
Whatever the political reasons behind the offer, Pietersen was understandably excited about its implications, and brushed aside the inevitable queries about his priorities in the game. “Money like that has never been talked about in cricket before,” he said. “People can nail us and abuse us but, at the end of the day, they are not going to pay my child’s school fees in 15 years. I’m not going to be playing cricket when I’m 50, 60, so to be offered something like that, it’s like winning the lottery, isn’t it? If it happens there will be some nervous blokes. There certainly won’t be any drinking before that fixture. ”
Sources close to the deal have suggested that the Stanford fixture could take place in November this year, to coincide with Antigua’s Independence Day, and Collingwood - with his captaincy hat on - admitted that selection could be a bit of a headache with so much at stake. “The IPL is open to all, but with a game like that, would we share the winnings with only the 11 on the park? That would be a bit unfair,” he said. “But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Twenty20 could be massive and this amount of money is new to everyone. We’ve got to react to it, but it’s hard to say what kind of impact it’ll make.”
There is so much going on in the game at present that England’s first Test, against New Zealand at Lord’s in a month’s time, barely merited a mention. But Collingwood was adamant that Test cricket remained a priority for the England players, and believed that - in time, when all the dust and fuss has settled - the new and old could work very harmoniously alongside each other.
“Test cricket is still a massive part of our tradition,” said Collingwood, “and it’s still the ultimate form of the game, to be tested technically and mentally over a five-day period. But there’s two ways to look at it, because when you’re playing against the best players in the world in that kind of competition, is it as good as doing your pre-season training in England? There are plenty of skills at that level to sharpen yourself up.” Either way, of the three new strips that the players unveiled at Lord’s today, there’s only one that’ll be capturing the headlines tomorrow.
Source:Cricket NewsMore on:england, IPL, Kevin Pietersen
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Friday, April 18th, 2008 and is filed under General, Cricket.
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