Tales from the Boundary
I don't like central contracts. Well, I suppose I might do if I had one but I question whether they are good for cricket.
Back in the 1950s and 60s footballers' wages were capped at £20 per week; they have since spiralled to inordinate sums. Actually, £20 per week was not a bad wage back then; I aspired to earn that much but found that my first wage in 1973 was £1,250 per year! I was probably getting as much money selling advertising for the East Anglian Daily Times as many county cricketers were getting but I was turning up for work 12 months a year rather than six and would happily have swapped.
To be fair, however, cricketers in the 1970s were playing practically seven days a week, travelling many miles per year, frequently setting off straight after end of play, arriving at their digs at silly o'clock and required to perform day in/day out, particularly hard if a long day fielding or batting was followed by another long day doing the same. Before the Sunday League came in cricketers had a day of respite, though they slogged through six days of championship games, with many bowlers getting near to or passing a thousand overs per year and in the days before motorways their journey times were even longer.
Professional sport, like any businesses, must be financially viable. Essentially it must observe the laws of supply and demand. While any summer day without cricket seems a waste, the supply of professional cricket should match, not exceed, demand. Fewer people can watch weekday cricket (excepting us 'old 'uns') so weekend and evening cricket must have greater demand. However, is pursuit of the folding stuff good for cricket, business or life in general?
Central Contracts, I feel, coincided with a period when England happened to have good cricketers and the successes of the early parts of this century were more attributable to the quality of the cricketers than the quantity of their remuneration. Having elites is exclusive not inclusive. It used to be said that it was harder to be left out of the Australian Test side than to get in it. I wonder whether that applies to England today.
How much of the money from TV etc. filters down to nourish and nurture the game's roots? Cricket just requires a bat and ball or maybe a cut down broom stick and some rolled up socks. The game needs to be fostered at school, village and club level, as well as county levels, to give a solid base.
End of philosophical/political rant. Hopefully play will start at Old Trafford soon!