At the end of last year, after a gruelling and brutal season, my fellow Deadball contributors and I found ourselves competing in the semi-final of our local YMCA basketball league. We were confident having played our opponent earlier in the season , dominating them in unspeakable ways. Unfortunately we lost the semi-final. Fine, we folded like the All Blacks playing France (except we didn’t have Graham Henry to blame and then forgive a month later). We take responsibility. The thing that bothered me, apart from a complete disintegration of our dignity, was that the team we played had used ring-ins for the semi-final. In other words, the team they fielded in the semi-final was not the one we had played earlier in the season. Surely any self-respecting competition wouldn’t allow such a miscarriage of justice to occur. I mean, this is the YMCA we’re talking about, not some crack-pot international cricket competition run by the ICC.
Chris Rattue of the New Zealand Herald said this much better than I can, and without the self-indulgent sob story, but why is it OK for the ICC to allow a central tennet of sports competition to be broken? Why are they allowing ring-ins? I’ve played in pickup games where it hasn’t been cool for a player to switch teams. Surely if it’s not OK for your local YMCA it’s just not cricket.
Bizarrely, Symonds has emerged as the wise jester in all this insanity. Apparently it takes copious amounts of alcohol to grasp how ridiculous it is that Brendon Mccullum is allowed to play for New South Wales in the final of the Australian Twenty20 competition.
Ironically, for all the controversy he sparked, McCullum’s effect on the actual final was about as influential as the hairy-backed ring-in in our semi-final. He scored ten runs, hardly placing a fingerprint on the game (again, we lost through our own failures, not because of the ring-ins). Whatever, he symbolises so much more.
I’m not sure that it is corruption per se, but the ICC seems to believe that the ‘professional’ era allows for money to rule the day. Of course this isn’t actually professionalism, it’s the Wild West; there are no rules and everyone is out for a piece of gold.
The head of the New Zealand Cricket Players’ Association, Heath Mills, illustrated this opinion perfectly in an earlier quote to the Herald:
“I’m obviously disappointed in (Symonds) comments. They clearly show a lack of understanding in the evolving nature of world cricket. These situations are going to become more common as major associations and franchises worldwide look to maximise their chances of making the lucrative Champions League.”
Yep, there’s gold in them there hills, rules be damned. Things are getting crazy, and McCullum seems to illustrate the free-for-all of cricket’s new free market , Deadwood philosphy. He plays for three teams, casually cashing in checks like he’s robbing trains for a living.
They need to rein this in quick-smart. It is precisely because so much money is at stake that the rules need to be crystal clear. Lest we let the lawyers figure them out for us at a later date. It’s a fairly simple process. Create a rule that says no player can be bought in from another team after a certain deadline in the season. Oh, and unless it is for national competition, no individual can play for more than one team at a time. Surely, this is stipulated in most player’s contracts anyway. If we are truly professional, contracts should rule the day.
This would stop fans having to watch a stranger play for, or against, their team in a final. Sure, we all want to see the team we support win, but this essentially hits at the heart of what we are actually supporting as fans. Would you be happy to see your favorite team replace 50% of its original lineup with ring-ins if it guaranteed victory? In most cases I would say no. I’d take my chances with the guys I knew, just for loyalty’s sake. Oddly, in the case of the All Blacks i’m not sure. I just want those bastards to win that damn World Cup.
This maybe an old fashioned idea, but I think fans identify with the individuals within the team as much as the team itself, loyalty is built up over a season, players earn our trust or fall from favour. But ultimately we know what we’re getting. We might like it or hate it, but it is ours. Who wants that changing in a final?