HYPE IN CRICKET IS BECAUSE OF KERRY PACKER, NOT ICC: ZAHEER
"I should argue for as high remuneration for the cricketers as one could pay them. But greed is not tolerable. You play for the country and yes you have the right to earn money as well but through professional ways."
BY ASHRAF KHAN
July 04 - 10, 2005
After invigorating cricket in early nineteenth century, the gentlemen of English cricket were aghast to discover the threat from its erstwhile colonies. It had never been in the minds of those who were the bastions of cricket, that colonial teams would be capable of impressing the gentry of English society in the times to come.
Rising commercialism in cricket has just tuned its glamour to an unprecedented peak when Kerry Pecker, an acclaimed cricket celebrity from Australia, is said to be the pioneer of brining monetary values in cricket, though the game was offering lucrative opportunities to exceptional cricketers, who were picked by the English counties to play from their side.
Growing commercialization also brought in tempting greed in players and the world of cricket witnessed sagas of corruption. International Cricket Council (ICC) claims that corruption has been suppressed to an irreducible minimum' level. Today, every international cricketer receives education, advice and guidance about the pitfalls, dangers and penalties of being associated with corruption.
Even so, there can be no room for complacency in the future. The worldwide market in illegal gaming has continued to grow as cricket's popularity has risen. More wagers, more money and more bookmakers add up to greater pressure on the game and those who play it. Turf wars between rival bookmakers have resulted in gangland killings. The continued potential for corruption and malpractice is startlingly clear.
Pakistan emerged as one of the powerful cricket playing country after independence and engraved indelible history. Zaheer Abbas is a name, whose stunning and mesmerizing batting style will never let the world cricket fans forget his name in all times to come. Because of his ability to steal the show whenever he took over the crease.
Zaheer played at a juncture of the cricket history, when it was shaping change towards an era of high commercial value from its traditional and conventional feature.
In an exclusive interview with PAGE, the Asian Bradman frankly shared his views on the new look of the game.
PAGE: How the Packer series influenced cricket.
ZAHEER: If it (Packer series) would not have come into the game the way it did, the game of cricket would not have been so glamorous as it is today. It has become colourful cricket and ICC as well is trying to change the game as people could enjoy it more. Now boredom is over with the advent of technology and the fans are enjoying every moment of cricket.
PAGE: What was your experience of seeing commercialism setting in the game?
ZAHEER: It was my ambition to play county cricket. Pakistan used to play two or three Test matches in two or three years. Test cricket was at its minimal level. After the World Cup, they had started changing. In county cricket I used to be the highest paid and in 1971 I used to earn 11,500 sterling pounds which used to be very big money. It was not a joke at that time to earn that much money and you could have a big villa with that money at that time.
PAGE: Commercialism made you a better cricketer or a bad one?
ZAHEER: It made me a better cricketer instead of becoming more commercial. I used to play every day in the county cricket. You know the history and my records at the county cricket level.
Commercialism is good for players...obviously for cricket. If you have more money you will pay more money to the players, although the standard is not so high as it used to be in our times.
PAGE: Has the standard deteriorated with the rising commercialism?
ZAHEER: The standards of cricket have definitely gone down. I am not saying that I played the best cricket but more so it was because of the inclusion of new Test teams like Zimbabwe, Kenya and Bangladesh. Had these team played in our times we would simply have swept them away. We have seen very tough standards.
Commercial forces are trying to maintain the standard but its quite an uphill task for them. In our times hitting two-hundred was something extremely significant. But centuries flow every day nowadays. Scoring even a hundred was a big achievement in our times.
We were the pioneers of playing with white ball and what not. I would have made 25, 000 runs if I were playing in present times.
PAGE: How was your experience of playing cricket for the Packer series.
ZAHEER: They used to pay very much at the very outset. When something new comes people generally raise objections. (But) that was an honour for me to play with the top players of the world and I am one among those. I felt lucky.
Now, whatever changes, modernization and innovations, the spectators and cricket fans are witnessing is because of Kerry Packer and not because of ICC. Now ICC is trying to adjust itself with the revolutionary changes Packer introduced.
Because of Kerry Packer salaries of the players were raised. We used to play for the Packer team and return home with bags full of money.
PAGE: Did it not introduce widespread betting in the game as well?
ZAHEER: Gambling is not new. It was there as well before but not so widespread and we were not even aware as it was confined to only 'high class'.
(It is bad as) our players are getting greedier. I should argue for as high remuneration for the cricketers as one could pay them. But greed is not tolerable. You play for the country and yes you have the right to earn money as well but through professional ways.
At last only the monetary status provides protection to the players after retirement. We have witnessed that after retirement no body cares for the person in our country. Its only a showoff if we declare reward for a player over his exceptional performance in a particular match. This is all meaningless unless the Board does something very effectively for the welfare of the cricketers. The Board is the supreme authority.
However, different departments have played very positive role in strengthening financial status of a cricketer by providing them jobs.