Sunday, 17 August 2014

Professionals Beaten By Amateurs Line Unfair

Amusing as it is to see the ECB hoist by their own petard, after pushing the "we're all pros now" line so vigorously over the past few months, the angle taken by most of the press this morning on India's win is unfair on the players - this was not a case of 'Pros Beaten By Ams' but more like 'Semi-Pros Beaten by Semi-Ams'.

Most of the England players are not 'full time professionals' in the sense we would generally understand it.

For starters, one of them (Sonia Odedra) is not a pro at all - she is not centrally contracted, and has a proper job.

The rest are centrally contracted, but many of them continue to work two days a week for Chance To Shine. This means that either they haven't had a weekend off for the past 4 months, or they are not training professionally 'full time' - which by any normal definition means '5 days a week'.

Overall, my understanding is that of the players who took the field on Saturday, just two are genuinely 'full time professionals' - able to fully and independently support themselves over the medium-to-long-term playing cricket; and not dependent upon shared housing, secondary sources of income or 'The Bank of Mum and Dad'. (Though to be fair, a couple of others are quite close and will be genuine full-time pros this time next year most likely.)

But what about India? Are they really 'amateurs'? Well, they are certainly not 'full time professionals' but most of them aren't quite amateurs either. For example, those who work for Indian Railways are employed partly as cricketers, not the "full-time ticket collectors" depicted by the press. In reality, Indian Railways is effectively acting as a sponsor of women's cricket, in the same way Chance To Shine did in England up until four months ago. It isn't an ideal situation, and many think the BCCI (which isn't exactly short of a few bob) should be doing this job; but genuine 'full time amateurs' the players are not.

So it isn't like England were beaten by a team of girls who hadn't picked up a ball for six months, because they'd been picking up tickets instead! They were beaten by a team of players who train several times a week, in decent facilities, with proper (albeit not 'full time') coaching/ medical support and so on - basically, the same situation that England were in not too long ago.

I guess none of this really matters - the press need An Angle and they found one. (As someone once said, the press always seen to write with accuracy and authority... except when they write about something I know about!) And one little post on one little blog probably isn't going to set the record straight, especially as it slightly contradicts the 'party line' from the ECB. But I do feel sorry for the players on this one - it is almost like the press are saying that they were expected to win this Test just because they are 'full time pros' and India are 'amateurs' - which would be unfair, even if they actually all were.


  1. Great post, as ever.

    Did the press EXPECT England to win the Test? Yes we did. (My Cordon piece is embarrassing in retrospect.) Was that an unfair level of expectation? I don't think so. If England now played the England team from 10 years ago (ie before semi-professionalism) it's pretty clear who would come out on top - isn't it? I also thought that the Indians would struggle with a format which so many of them had not encountered before - that factor seemed to me to be more important than the pro / amateur issue.

    I do think that you're right about the "amateur" status of the Indians being exaggerated - and many of the press not being aware of the real situation. But...there is an important difference between the company you work for sponsoring you to play cricket, and your national board paying you to play. One of the key differences being that England are able to come together as a national squad and train far more than India are. I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a "team" they really looked out there on the pitch.

    It just goes to show you should never make predictions! Fortunately the one about me "eating my hat" if India won the Test didn't go out into the public domain...oh wait...oops.

    1. In reply to Syd : The Indian players definitely not the types who haven't picked up a bat in the last 6 months cos they were collecting tickets, some of them were picking up a bat after 8 hours of picking up tickets!

      Indian railways have 7 zones that employ women cricketers. Not all these zones provide players time off to train. Shubhlakshmi Sharma for example, who works for eastern railway, eagerly waits for the few India camps and state camps, cos then she gets official leave from work. Otherwise she often works 8 hour days. And "PickS up her bat" after that. the time off system is performance based. Eastern railway didnt perform as a team in the inter railways, so tgeir players time off is revoked. Having central contracts would solve this problem. Shubh could just apply for unpaid leave from work and train full time.

      Yes I agree we indian players are not amateurs. Mostly the Railways is doing the BCCI S job, but most of the girls are very pro in their approach to theor training. So I did find the whole pro vs amateur thing a little amusing, and was hoping something like this would happen.

      As Raf said, england have got more opportunities to train together more often. India probably not as much, so most of the success they had is due to their individual professionalism more than a pro setup. Eg: jhulan took leave from her job to train with a famous coach in bangalore to prepare for this series.

  2. Whether pro or not, India's performances in recent world cups, their lack of matches, their lack of Test experience and playing in totally alien conditions would have meant England were odds-on to win the Test.The fact they didn't is really down to a fantastic performance from India (granted England's batting was, well, crap).
    England's pro status is a bit misleading because its only been like that for a few months and that's not going to make a fat lot of difference to players' technique, especially the 'long in the tooth' ones. It might even initially work the other way - the mental challenge of coping with being seen as pros and the pressure that brings.


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