By Peter Hayter
Those who have managed to wipe the whole sorry story from their memory are the lucky ones, but without wishing to inflict further unnecessary punishment on the rest , this year marks the tenth anniversary of the shambles known as the Stanford Super Series.
And as the 24 England qualified players up for this weekend’s auction are about to discover how much they will be earning from this season’s Indian Premier League, it is worth recalling the lengths to which those running the gaThose who have managed to wipe the whole sorry story from their memory are the lucky ones, but without wishing to inflict further unnecessary punishment on the rest, this year marks the tenth anniversary of the shambles known as the Stanford Super Series.
And as the 24 England qualified players up for this weekend’s auction are about to discover how much they will be earning from this season’s Indian Premier League, it is worth recalling the lengths to which those running the game here a decade ago were prepared to go to stop them doing so back then.
Giles Clarke, the colourful and controversial chairman of the ECB, made it perfectly clear where he and his board stood on the issue of allowing England players to take part in the inaugural IPL in 2008.
Not only would they be barred from doing so then, Clarke told us he could not conceive of a situation where they would actually want to do so in 2009 prior to a summer when the Ashes would be at stake.
Instead, to offer those players a way to earn the kind of money that could buy their loyalty, he had arranged an autumn trip to Antigua for some of them to take part in a one-off T20 match against a West Indies XI with $20m up for grabs to the winning side, all bought and paid for by the similarly colourful and controversial American businessman ‘Sir’ Allen Stanford. No matter that England were actually second choice for the gig, as Stanford had already been turned down by India, the World T20 winners declining as they did not want to take part in a ‘privately funded event’.
Nor that many of the players themselves appeared acutely embarrassed by the idea of representing England so obviously only for the dosh, while Chris Gayle and his colleagues were at least playing under the name of the Stanford Superstars, nor that those feelings were compounded when the brash Texan decided the TV cameras needed a shot or two of him bouncing the wife of one of England’s players on his knee in his seat in the boss’s box.
Stanford paid the piper and he called the tune, while Clarke and his cronies hummed along cheerfully because this wizard wheeze meant they would not have to throw in their lot with those Indian chaps.
And there would be more to come, not just from the five-year deal signed with Stanford, but also from megabuck tournaments planned in the Emirates that would make IPL money look like loose change. (Whatever happened to them, but the way?) But the misjudgment shown by Clarke & Co. of how the world was turning was breathtaking, as was their refusal to heed warnings about the financial conduct of Stanford himself.
Indeed, when their sugar daddy was charged with running a $7billion fraud scheme in February 2009, somewhat fittingly just as England were actually playing a Test series in the Caribbean, those ECB chiefs who had welcomed his helicopter to the nursery ground at Lord’s the previous summer as he arrived to announce the deal seemed among a minority of those who had had dealings with the Texan to whom such an outcome came as a surprise.
Now, ten years on from Stanford’s “Twenny-twenny for twenny”, while world cricket grapples with the best way to protect the Test format while responding to the demand from public, TV companies and sponsors for more and more of the short stuff, England’s Test captain Joe Root is being rested from their T20 tri-series in Australia and New Zealand to guard against possible burnout but will be allowed to throw in his lot with the IPL.
And Allen Stanford is busy serving his 110-year jail term at a United States Penitentiary in Coleman, Florida.
Who’d have thought it? Well, quite a few actually.
Shame they did not number among them those running English cricket.me here a decade ago were prepared to go to stop them doing so back then.