Shame on cricketers who have chosen to play for money instead of their country

How important is money in one’s life? Is it more important than one’s honour and that of the country? No, never.

No doubt money is important because without it the survival becomes extremely difficult. But after one’s basic needs have been met, there are other things which are more important. One’s personal honour and the honour of the country must take precedence over money matters. It is only a very selfish individual who can sacrifice the cause of one’s country because there is money waiting to be made elsewhere.

But that is exactly what some South African cricketers have done. They have chosen to play in the lucrative IPL tournament in India instead of representing their country against Bangladesh in the ongoing Test series. Former West Indies superstar Brian Lara expressed his anguish in an interview to a leading sports magazine.

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“Playing for the country should come first. It is disappointing to see young cricketers leaving Test cricket. The ICC should come up with a rule stating that a player must play a certain number of games for his country before he can play for T20 leagues. Something needs to be done,” said Lara.

Recently South Africa’s Test captain Dean Elgar admitted that South Africa’s IPL contracted players were put in a difficult situation of having to choose between playing in the IPL or playing for their country against Bangladesh in the Test series. It may seem difficult to money minded players but to others there should be no hesitation in this matter. The country should come first and foremost. The honour of playing under the country’s flag is far more glorious than donning the multicoloured jersey of an IPL team.

Now we are seeing a ludicrous sight of top level players who would have been part of the Test squad but who have opted to join up with the IPL franchises. Under the circumstances, the South African selectors had no other option but to select their second best team. Skipper Dean Elgar had previously called it a test of loyalty and he was right. The concerned players have utterly failed this test.

Dean Elgar said: “I think they were put in a situation that was unavoidable, bearing in mind that quite a few of the guys have never had IPL experience before. I don’t think they wanted to hurt their opportunity going forward in the competition.”

Going by the captain’s words that means that the players were unwilling to hurt their future prospects in the IPL, but were ready to sacrifice their duty to their country. What a shame. Do such players deserve to be called sportsmen? Are they worthy of being heroes?

The players for whom their country means nothing are Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Marco Jansen, Aiden Markram, and Rassie van der Dussen. These are players who are by no means facing any financial hardships. Apart from the IPL they also play in other T20 leagues across the world and make even more money in those events.

Why is the South African cricket board watching this disgraceful display like a helpless spectator? Why doesn’t it take action against players and place them under suspension? Akash Chopra, former player who is now a commentator has an answer to this question. According to him, the IPL may be bullying cum bribing other boards into keeping quiet.

In a video, Chopra raised the question: “Is a club bigger than the country? The debate has caught fire again. Is the IPL bullying the other boards? When the South African board gave the No Objection Certificate (to those players who chose IPL), the board got a payment of ten percent from the players’ salary. That is how the market of international cricket works,” Chopra revealed.

So now it is up to the players to make a choice. How much money do they need? How much money can satisfy their hunger? Jamaican singer Bob Marley once said: “Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to make you happy, then your search for happiness will never end.”

It is high time that sportsmen who are idolised by the youth throughout the world learn that they should show commitment and loyalty to their country before their own financial greed.

The great cricketers of the past such as Sir Gary Sobers, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Everton Weekes and even Sir Donald Bradman did not earn huge amounts of money. But they are honoured, respected and remembered because of their commitment to the game and their national team. No one gets remembered and respected for playing in club games of the T20 leagues. None of the present bunch of money chasers are worthy of that respect and will be forgotten even before their careers end.

Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.

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