Contracts, county converts and the credit crunch, it’s just not cricket!Peter McGlashan |
Life as a professional sportsman has its ups and downs. Sure there are the trips abroad and flash hotels but there is also the uncertainty and lack of job security to contend with, not to mention injuries and illness.
Playing domestic cricket in New Zealand offers a six-month contract running from October to April. The rest of the year we are essentially unemployed. Many players choose to head to the northern hemisphere to play to make ends meet but this becomes more difficult as you get older, enter serious relationships and start families.
It is difficult to secure a well paying job for the winter months because you, and on most occasions your employer, know that you will need to quit in five months time when summer returns.
To be promoted to a national contract means 12 months of job security. For most workers such a short period of certainty would be daunting but for a professional cricketer in New Zealand, 12 months is a luxury.
Every player has a limited shelf life. While the contracting system we fought so hard for has delayed players premature retirements, it has a long way to go before it offers the peace of mind many other codes enjoy through multi-year deals. It must be asked whether such a system creates an environment for peak performance from our players. Can players really go out and express themselves and perform at their best knowing they may be out of a job if they fail?
The uncertainty and constant change was one of the reasons Hamish Marshall left New Zealand to play county cricket in England. The ability to negotiate a three-year deal with his county provided the stability unable to be found as a fringe international player or elite domestic player. It meant he could buy a house and settle down, two things most people take for granted or strive to attain. This security allowed him to go to work each day and play at his best, safe in the knowledge he had a roof over his head and a regular income in the near future.
Most bank managers would look at you with raised eyebrows if you asked for a loan or mortgage with only a six month contract as security. With the current economic climate the way it is, job security is invaluable and financial worries generate tremendous stress for individuals and families.
This is why many players will try and make as much as they can in the time they are fit, as you never know when your career will end. Your career can be cut short by injury or an over-zealous selector out to discover the next big thing.
Surely all things considered then, players can be forgiven for the current standoff between them and New Zealand Cricket over scheduling. For many of the players involved in the IPL it provides four times the annual income they receive from New Zealand Cricket. It seems reasonable that they would then consider such a financially important event when finalising the conditions of their national contracts.
Domestic associations are placing just as much importance on the T20 format. The calibre of overseas player being signed is proof of that. My team, Northern Districts, have signed the exciting and innovative Tillakaratne Dilshan from Sri Lanka for the expanded T20 campaign this year. As one of the leading players of the IPL and T20 World Cup, he is a real match winner in this format and hopefully will provide a wealth of knowledge for our players to tap into.
A place at the lucrative Champions League is the incentive for such expenditure. The Indian competition will provide an opportunity for domestic franchises and players alike to impress IPL scouts and push for places in next year’s tournament.
In a few weeks I will be heading to India for the first time to play for NZ ‘A’ which will be a fantastic trip for so many reasons. It is a country where cricket is a religion and such fanaticism will be an experience in itself.
Eventually, when the schedule is confirmed, I will be able to begin planning for the trip. It is always difficult for New Zealand sides to tour during the winter due to the significant climate difference between home and the destination as well as the need to train indoors before departure.
It is another exciting few months ahead. After thinking I had fought my way into the spot as the reserve limited overs Keeper, the selectors made the interesting decision to have a different reserve keeper for each format of the game. With the tour to Sri Lanka followed by the Champions Trophy in South Africa we are all on trial again and that sense of feeling comfortable with your place in the team goes out the window.
It will be a case, I guess, of whoever takes their opportunity takes the spoils.
Like most things in cricket though, nothing is certain.