DURBAN - These are tricky waters that Cricket South Africa (CSA) finds itself in. On top of the latest twist in the T20GL saga, yesterday’s announcement that David Miller is unavailable for first-class cricket is a portent of what may yet come.
This is how the dissolution of West Indies cricket started. A trickle became a leak, and that leak became a flood. One star followed the example of another, and then it just became the norm.
The West Indians were once the barometer of brilliance and cricketing braggadocio; a thoroughly intoxicating mix of raw talent and emotion. They lived for Test cricket, and the five-day opportunity to remind the world that convention goes out the window when instinct takes over. For a period, they were the barometer of brilliance.
South Africa have been there, too. On the field, they always found a way to stay competitive, blending patriotism and a hankering to be the best. South Africa had a strong nucleus, a burgeoning youth and the eternal pride in being a proud travelling team. Now, however, things are changing.
The sudden, surprising retirement of the peerless AB de Villiers was the warning shot, as ear-piercingly sudden as it was. Those who ignored it might look back on that day in May as a May Day of far more ominous proportions.
Now, David Miller has prioritised white-ball opportunities ahead of domestic bliss. For a long time, a Test cap was Miller’s biggest ambition. It mattered more than the millions that his power had earned him in T20 cricket.
For sure, he has thought long and hard about his decision. It wouldn’t have been easy, but the latest T20 attraction, in the UAE, turned his head. It’s astonishing money. Footballer money. To put it in perspective, other Icon Players, which Miller is, are earning over £250 000 for three weeks of toil.
Looking forward to yet another great addition to the cricket calendar. What an honor to be an Icon player for the @UAET20X and really looking forward to be joining @russell12A for such a great tournament! Bring it on! pic.twitter.com/o4TeFBERYw
That is R5-million. In three weeks. That is more than double a full CSA contract for a full year’s worth of commitment. What would you do, given the choice and the current climate?
That is what other teammates of Miller may well be asking themselves. Miller is 29, so could conceivably play for another six or seven years full-time. Flexi-time, however, you could stretch that to 10 years of IPL, the UAE gig, the CPL and some domestic fare. As the West Indian playboys have done.
It is a stark reality staring CSA and its playing employees in the face. And It is not going away. The uncertainty of the T20GL has made players look elsewhere for job security. Most of us expected the 2019 World Cup to be South African cricket’s watershed moment.
Then again, we also anticipated that the 2017 T20 Global League would be the saviour of domestic cricket. Miller was supposedly an icon player there, too. The cold, hard truth now emerging is that bills, cricketing and otherwise, are paid in cold hard cash.
Miller might have once fancied Test cricket, as uncertain as that dream may have been. Now, the certainty of millions has made his mind up, and you could hardly blame him for securing his life beyond the game. The uncomfortable future of our cricket is here, sooner than we might have feared. Brace yourselves.