I have just noticed the latest ad for the IPL says it runs from April 7 to May 27. The reader will, no doubt, recall that the IPL was the first and for a while the only cricket league to offer cricketers the kind of money that American professional athletes earn. This is the kind of money that if made by a thoughtful young man or one who had good financial advice would enable him at retirement to pursue advanced education if he had the inclination, or start a business or something of that nature. Just think for a moment, if when cricket administrators first learned of this phenomenon, their attitude was to ask themselves how they could contribute to this wonderful development and help their players exploit the possibilities. Let us use West Indian administrators as an example. They would have noted the following:
The region is one of the most attractive places to foreigners during the period from about January to March.
These administrators would then have got out their computers, and worked diligently to schedule all international matches in a manner that would have allowed serious money-making matches to co-exist with ‘white clothes’ matches. If new countries decided to go the IPL way, further adjustments would be made so that unnecessary conflicts could be avoided.
Instead of thinking along those lines these administrators perceived the situation this way:
These young cricketers are too greedy. The great West Indian cricketers of yesteryear were patriots, also very politically and racially conscious and would never have been attracted by something so mundane as huge sums of US dollars. Twenty over cricket is “rubbish” (this is the language of an otherwise extremely reasonable, influential man). If these young men become rich they would become even more insufferable. The way to deal with them is to make them choose between love of country and love of the almighty dollar. The patriotic ones (actually those who do not get offers to make huge sums abroad) will play for their country and the mercenaries (actually those who get the offers) will sell their souls.
The result was that for about a decade no attempt was made to synchronise cricket schedules. Ignorance prevailed. The West Indies administrators were the least flexible, so West Indian teams suffered most. Although West Indian cricket was somewhat on the decline during the relevant period it became impossible to select the best cricketers to represent the region. The saddest aspect of the situation was that a large chunk of the fan base supported the administrators.
Every talented West Indian cricketer was seen as a mercenary. It was indeed a lost era.