Ricky Ponting says
there’s too much cricket
in the schedule without enough time for players to
recover, and given that jetlag nearly won the first Test in Dhaka last week, he appears to
have a point.

Around the cricket world, big names are
starting to drop out: Michael Vaughn is considering quitting one-day cricket to prolong his Test career; Pakistan’s star
all-rounder Shahid Afridi is quitting Test cricket to prolong his one-day career, and the only thing that has kept
Shane Warne from returning to the coloured trousers is the suggestion, placed
in his ear by tactical genius Richie Benaud, that if he sticks to a Test-only
diet he’ll play until he’s 40.

The argument, championed locally by
Australian Cricketers’ Association head Paul Marsh
and globally by Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations chief Tim
May
, is that
money-hungry governing bodies (read: the ICC) are squeezing more and more out
of their players by scheduling an increasing number of often meaningless
matches. After a point, threatens May, players may have to “take it into their
own hands”, which is to say follow Vaughn and Afridi en masse to the benches.

You will get an argument from ICC’s Cricket
Committee Chair Sunil Gavaskar,
just not a coherent one. “It’s an honour to represent your country,” Gavaskar
rants. “I would be willing to sweat 365 days in a year for India.”
Luckily for him, he won’t have to.

The arguments multiply on both sides, but
what has become apparent is that a storm is brewing between players and
administrators over money and a sense of exploitation. The last time this
happened in Australia was the mid-seventies, when Ian Chappell’s side demanded of
Bradman’s Australian Cricket Board a greater share of the game’s profits. Kerry
Packer stepped in and despite Bradman the game exploded in a new and
revolutionary direction – limited overs cricket and the professionalisation of
the sport.

Australia is about to begin a six-month holiday from Test cricket, but the
heat will continue, especially in England
and the sub-continent. Watch this space.

Peter Fray

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