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Don’t push players into making hard choices

Chris Gayle, the man with a whopping 14,000 runs in international cricket, made up of no less than 33 colossal centuries may soon cease to be a West Indian batsman, writes Aakash Chopra.

cricket Updated: Apr 24, 2011 00:59 IST
Aakash Chopra

Chris Gayle, the man with a whopping 14,000 runs in international cricket, made up of no less than 33 colossal centuries may soon cease to be a West Indian batsman. That's a terrible thing to happen to any batsman, for representing the country is by far the biggest honour.

It's a feeling unparalleled, and a dream that every sportsperson strives to fulfil. Gayle, I am sure, is no less patriotic than anyone of us. So, why on earth did he choose a club, far less in standing over a far more honoured national duty? Do we see a dangerous trend building up, one that is forcing cricketers from countries with not-so-rich boards to settle for the moneyed IPL?

Andrew Symonds was perhaps the first cricketer to quit international cricket in the peak of his form, his decision though had more to do with him being at loggerheads with the administration than the lure of the more lucrative T20 leagues.

Simultaneously, both the ICL and the IPL created a worthwhile window for cricketers at the twilight of their careers.

Both Gilchrist and Hayden could have continued to play at the highest level for a few more years, but chose to not linger on. And since their country could afford to let go off them, perhaps it didn't pinch them enough. Suddenly though, that decision of choosing club over country doesn't seem to be ethically and morally acceptable.

Trendsetter POLLARD
When Ponting, Clark and Mitchell Johnson chose not to play in the IPL, it was convenient to believe that others will follow suit too. Twist in the tale came when Keiron Pollard and Dwyane Bravo made their preferences clear and the WICB had no option but to throw in the towel, lest they run the danger of losing them.

The WICB, in order to conceal their vulnerability, said that they preferred Pollard and Bravo to hone their T20 skills in the IPL and weren't in fact required to play for the country against Pakistan.

The issue here though does not concern one Pollard, Bravo or even Gayle, but the fact that such moves may eventually prove to be detrimental for the game.

While it's convenient to give this argument a patriotic tinge, one must look at it from the cricketer's point of view too.

Does playing for another team, other than one's national side really amount to 'betrayal'? All a played did was choose a lucrative option.

It may not be a politically correct thing to do, but it is certainly not illegal or immoral. While you don't play only for money, but to think that money doesn't matter is also impractical. When the boards are getting richer, then why make martyrs out of cricketers?

Before you get me wrong, let me make it clear, I'm not advocating choosing club over country. All I'm saying is don't judge players who make the choice of walking out on their national side. And, more importantly, please find ways to ensure that they don't face such hard choices.